NAQS urges FG to grant its return to airports to curb import of unsafe agric produce
The Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) has appealed to the Federal Government to allow it return to the country’s airports so as to curb the importation of unwholesome agricultural products.
Dr Vincent Isegbe, Coordinating Director of NAQS, told newsmen in Abuja on Monday that the withdrawal of NAQS officers from airports would enable unscrupulous persons to import unsafe products that could engender the spread of diseases and pests.
He said the certification of agricultural products would save for the country billions of naira which would have been used for disease-control measures.
Recall that the Federal Government on May 18 ordered that NAQS, NDLEA and Nigerian Immigration Services, among others, should cease to function at the airports.
The government said that the aim of the new policy was to quicken the ease of doing business and that all necessary checks should be done in designated areas.
Isegbe said that barely 12 hours after dislodging NAQS from the airports, several Saudi Arabia- bound luggage containing kolanuts were intercepted at Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja.
“Kolanut is a banned commodity in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia but the luggage had already been cleared at the departure point of the airport because NAQS was not there.
“The luggage was intercepted by chance by NAQS officers at the back end of the departure hall.
“This would have been a national embarrassment had those items reached Saudi Arabia, apart from heralding a possible cycle of rejections and ban for Nigerian agricultural products.
“Several cases like this abound even more at the arrival terminals of airports.
“That is why unscrupulous business persons and those, who are deliberately seeking to destroy the nation, can cash in on this lacuna to wreak havoc on the nation’s agro economy,” he said.
According to him, the quarantine officers are as important as the personnel of other Federal Government agencies at the airports.
Besides, Isegbe said that the service recently intercepted some items such as seeds and dry pepper, being brought into the country.
He said that the NAQS list of “unwholesome’’ agricultural produce varied because the operations of the agency were based on pest alerts from neighbouring African countries and Europe.