Aniebonam blames rise in Tramadol import on negligence of duty by NAFDAC, improper handling

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The founder, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Boniface Aniebonam has blamed the rising incidences of Tramadol import into Nigeria on the negligence of duty by the government agency saddled with the responsibility to control influx of drugs and dangerous products into the country.

Aniebonam who took this position in an interview with Primetime Reporters in Lagos on Friday was surprised that the agent of government which had the schedule of duty had not done much to educate and enlighten people particularly the critical stakeholders like the freight forwarders who he argued were not conversant with drugs, in this case Tramadol adding that somebody needed to do a diligent work to educate them.

He recalled that during the days of the late Prof. Dora Akunyili at the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), she spent most of her time in education and enlightenment alongside the likes of Mrs. Ukaegbu, Mrs. Elizabeth Awagu and the rest of them in NAFDAC then to organize seminars and to send out small groups among them to go and talk to people.

” So, where are we now? As I am talking to you, who is the Director-General of NAFDAC? Have you seen her? Where do you normally see her? You see her on television, particularly Channels Television where most time you see her accusing the customs for not adding value or for not assisting them. Is that what she is supposed to be doing? What she is supposed to do is to engage the stakeholders in their colony educate them, enlighten them. If the Comptroller General of Customs, of course, you were here (NAGAFF headquarters) when he visited, you were there when he visited ANLCA to state his mission statement and since then, the level of cooperation has increased and that can be justified from the level of revenue customs has been able to garner because the issue is compliance, the extent we can comply to import and export regulations and by doing so, issues of revenue is being addressed, issue of security is being addressed. That is how it should be; Public Private Partnership.

“The other side of this matter, tramadol, again, I will remind you the issue of Cocaine, when Bartholomew Owoh was killed, a retroactive action, you remember, not up to one percent of Nigerians know what is hard drug, not even up to zero percent until they killed that young man and people started asking questions and in asking questions, they begin to look for that product because of the amount of money that is involved and they begin to take risk to make money in a capitalist country.

“All I am saying is that the way we handle tramadol is the way we handled cocaine and people are now asking questions more and more and now it is a problem, you can see the desperation wherein an Ambulance belonging to APMT, I was told had to be used. Will you ever imagine that the management of APMT can be involved in that? The answer is no, they can never. Ordinary driver, who you may be paying two hundred thousand naira a month, let us assume and now somebody is offering him five or ten million as the case may be, he is bound to take the risk”, he said.

He therefore called on the federal government to take a second look on how it handle issues of this nature noting that the more it is blown open to an extent of creating awareness, the more it becomes dangerous.

On what role the freight forwarders should play in curtailing the menace of psychotropic substances and hard drugs, Aniebonam who is also the National Chairman of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) said,” How do you get involved in what you don’t know about? Our job is to clear goods out of customs control as we may have made declarations for customs purposes. Even the customs officers themselves, they are not experts in this hard drug you are talking about. That is why NDLEA is in the port and if you do not trigger any alert, then, the customs will go ahead and do their job on the basis that there is no issue because they are online with the NICIS. And remember the job of the freight forwarder is to move goods out of customs control to the owners’ warehouse but that collaboration is not there on the part of NAFDAC. NDLEA is picking up continuously. So it is a collective responsibility and high level of patriotism on the part of all of us to help and interdict some of these dangerous products that are coming into our country”.

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