...We were not sent Out of the Port, Service Insists
Barely a week after the Federal Government reiterated that only eight government agencies should be at the ports in order to ensure ease of doing business, one of the ejected agency, Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) has insisted that the executive order did not direct her to leave the port.
Speaking at a one-day sensitisation workshop on Quarantine Operations and Procedures in Lagos last week, Coordinating Director and Chief Executive Officer of NAQS, Dr Vincent Isegbe said that the Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh is already in discussion with office of the Vice President as well as Ministers of Transportation on how to return the agency to the port.
Even though Isegbe agreed that there is multiplicity of regulatory agencies at the port, he however argued that the NAQS is the only one empowered to check all agricultural, animal and plant produce all over the world.
He said that out of ignorance on the executive order, the port was already being shut against some staff of the agency, especially at the Port Harcourt port area. He assured that the agency is addressing these challenges.
According to him, "The circular on Ease of Doing Business is being misapplied, that circular did not say that we (NAQS) should not be at the port, it only says that we should be called on whenever we have consignment on ground"
"We are trying to reestablish ourselves on the Nigeria Customs Integrated Service (NICIS) platform, we were there before but the system broke down so we are working to come back on, in the next two weeks to one month, it would be done"
"If we are not there to do what we ought to do, when there are issues, even our individual salaries cannot be paid, business would not run smoothly, the fact is that we need to remain and keep serving"
"This is national plant protection for our country, anything that has to do with agricultural products lies with us, if you go and get it elsewhere, your product will be rejected abroad", he said.
Dr. Isegbe also advised exporters to always get their Phytosanitary certificates from genuine clearing and agents, saying that many of them are quacks without genuine address.
He said that NAQS would be holding a meeting with the executives of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) on how to issue authentication letters to identify the genuine members.
"Whether you are an exporter you must get a genuine clearing agent and ensure your certificate is intact, we should know about it so that if there is any discrepancy between what you told us and what the agent is telling us, we would know"
"We would still meet with the executives of the two major associations, ANLCA and NAGAFF, let them tell us who are the correct clearing agents, if anybody is going to deal with us, they should be given a clearance letter or authentication letter, because most of the agents we have had issues with, they don't have an address and you cannot even locate them", he noted.
"If there are issues and we want to get back to the address they have given to us, we cannot, so this has become an issue, when we have the meeting, we would look at it", he said.