About 80 per cent of agro-products from Nigeria that are intercepted and seized by the European Union member nations are exported illegally, the Federal Government has said.
It explained that most of the products were prohibited for exports by the government, adding that people illegally moved the items out of the country without clearance by the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service.
The NAQS is a regulatory agency under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development that harmonises plants, veterinary and aquatic resources quarantine in Nigeria.
It promotes and regulates sanitary and phytosanitary measures in connection with the import and export of agricultural products with a view to minimising the risk to agricultural economy, food safety and the environment.
The Director-General, NAQS, Vincent Isegbe, explained that the interception of agricultural exports from Nigeria by EU countries was basically due to the absence of the quarantine service in most Nigerian borders.
He disclosed this during an interview with our correspondent on the sidelines of the recent NAQS 3rd Director-General Summit and Management Retreat for officials of the agency and other stakeholders.
Isegbe said, “So far, in all the records that we have, of all the (agro-products) interceptions, between 80 to 82 per cent are all prohibited items. I know your next question will be why is it happening? It is because the quarantine service is not at the specific point of checking those things.”
He added, “There are two government circulars that delineated the quarantine service from operating at those points, saying that it is only Customs that will invite the quarantine service.
“And, of course, the Customs have their own duty to perform, in fact, so much to perform. So those are some of the issues that the government is looking at to be able to review.”
Isegbe, however, noted that most reports by the EU on agro-products interceptions from Nigeria were incidental cases.
“You could have a situation where probably somebody carried a consignment for personal use and it is intercepted,” he said.
The NAQS boss added, “And, of course, you know that when that happens, that interception will be reported within the 27-member EU nations and somebody who does not know the reason for the interception will say ‘oh, so much has been intercepted.’
“Now, there are other prohibited items such as bark of woods used for local medicinal needs. That one is completely prohibited. We don’t want people to export that.”
Isegbe, however, stated that the government through the NAQS was working hard to ensure that agricultural commodities exported legally from Nigeria were not rejected or seized abroad.