The Presidential Advisory Committee on the Elimination of Drugs Abuse, has urged maritime agencies and other ports stakeholders to support the Federal Government in eradicating importation of illicit drugs into the country.
The Chairman of the Committee, retired Brig.-Gen. Buba Marwa, made the appeal on Thursday in Lagos when he met with while government agencies and port stakeholders.
Marwa said that the committee was in Lagos port in order to get to the root of the problem of smuggling of illlicit drugs into the country.
According to him, the committee would also visit all states and local government areas in the country to find solutions to the problem.
”We are here to listen to the challenges you face during interceptions and how officers can be assisted to perform better in the area of blocking illicit drugs into the country.
”Most of the Tramadol comes from Indian and I had an interface with Narcotics Board of India in 2019 where they told me that half of the Tramadol traffickers were Nigerians.
”We need to find more efficient means to assist you to do your jobs.
”Also, I don’t like to hear rivalry among agencies. I quite appreciate national service because all the agencies have common objectives to promote national interest,” Marwa said.
He assured the government agencies that the committee would include their requirements in its report to President Muhammadu Buhari, in order to make their work more efficient.
Marwa said that the provision of scanners, training and other challenges would be looked into to support the agencies achieve the mission of eliminating illicit drugs in the society.
The Port Manager, Apapa Port Complex, Hajia Aisha Ali-Ibrahim, said the authority was worried about importation of unwanted drugs into the country.
Ali-Ibrahim said that NPA being the landlord, had provided the enabling environment to all the agencies to perform their jobs efficiently with good synergy.
She commended Marwa’s effort while he was the governor of Lagos State, saying that his achievements could not be wiped off from the memory of Lagosians.
Also, the Customs Area Controller of Apapa Command, Muhammed Abba-Kura, said that they thoroughly examine all pharmaceutical products before allowed it to go straight to bonded terminals.
He suggested that the government should restrict the importation of pharmaceutical products to only recognised pharmaceutical companies, not individual businessmen.
”If we have issues, we will be able to trace it directly to the pharmaceutical companies because some importers are difficult to locate as a result of false addresses.
”It is not only the regulatory agencies that can report illicit drugs, it is the responsibility of all Nigerians.
”If you see anything happening, take action and report.
”The service portal is open to enable other agencies to have access to our operations,” Abba-Kura said.
Similarly, Dera Nnadi, Deputy Comptroller of Customs in Charge of Enforcement at Tin-Can Island Command, said the command had intercepted 11 containers of tramadols and related pharmaceutical products from 2017 to date.
According to him, the country needs to take diplomatic steps to address the issue especially on why products not fit for consumption in a particular country are being exported to another country.
”In our laws we also have provisions against transporting such drugs and people that transport them.
”May be because of the level of development in the country, this aspect of the law is being ignored, which also concerns the shipping companies.
”It is mandatory to give us advanced information about the consignments in the vessels. Most of the pharmaceuticals seized were labelled as spare parts, plumbing materials and it takes painful efforts for customs to discover them.
”What we want is collaboration with shipping lines to give correct identities of these items in their manifest.
”Because tramadol is being intercepted in 2017, they are now changing the identity of the drugs from tramadol to other names that are related.
”We have seized three generic of that product which we suspected to be tramadol,” Nnadi said.
A representative of National Agency For Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Samson Adebayo, urged the committee to work with banks and ensure that all importers provide relevant information so as to apprehend those who violated the law.
”The trans-loading and transshipment of consignments have been a major challenge, but with the help of our intelligence we are tracking 31 containers and right now four of them are in Singapore where they returned them to because they realised that the game was up.
”We intercepted 24 of the containers through intelligence. We were able to apprehend eight additional containers by profiling their documents.
”We still have many more containers that need to be examined.
“It will be nice if the committee can push to ensure that other containers that are still waiting for examination are examined,” Adebayo said.
He said that importers were not bringing in the packing nature of the pharmaceutical products approved.
An Assistant Director, Department of State Security (DSS), Mr Abubakar Aminu, called for the eradication of manual examination of cargo, saying that not all the goods were being examined due to the packing.
He urged the committee to assit in providing scanners to enable them see what is inside the containers to ease the time of cargo clearance.
Mr Harry Ayuba, National Chairman, National Council of Managing Director of Customs Licensed Agents (NCMDCLA), PTML Chapter, said that agents were at the receiving end serving punishment of the defaulting importers when caught by customs.
Ayuba said that many clearing agents have been jailed as a result of that.
He however pledged that the clearing agents would work with the committee to flush out importers of illicit drugs and save Nigeria from dangers associated with consumption of illicit drugs.