By Adelola Amihere
The Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) has debunked the allegation by Foodstuff Dealers Association of Nigeria (FSDAN) that its officers extort money from foodstuff dealers at certain quarantine posts in the country.
Responding to the claims of FSDAN in a press statement signed by Dr. Chigozie Nwodo ,Head, Media, Communications and Strategies Unit , the Agency stated that this “umpteenth ventilation” of the threadbare accusation of extortion against NAQS officers was borne out of bad faith.
It read, ‘’it is standard practice for a national agricultural quarantine authority to subject agricultural commodities being conveyed from one part of the country to another to inspection and to quarantine items that show any clinical signs of disease infection or pest infestation.’’
Dr. Nwodo noted that ’’as the single point of command for all agricultural quarantine activities in Nigerian, NAQS has a duty and responsibility to control and prevent the introduction, spread and establishment of diseases and pests of animals, plants and aquatic resources.
He stressed that NAQS is obligated by its enabling laws to police the Nigerian agricultural economy and to safeguard it from all discernible threats that could undermine its integrity.’’
He explained that the citing of a quarantine post is the exclusive prerogative of the Federal Government –as provided by the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (Establishment) Act 2018 and the Animal Disease Control Act of 1988 –and that the positioning is done with the approval of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The Control Posts are all fully captured in the Official Gazette of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. (No. 77, Vol 106).
He further clarified that NAQS established the Interstate Control Posts within the North Central Zone of the country to mitigate risks of the spread of diseases and pests all over the country. Vehicles carrying agricultural commodities from the far North pass through that axis to the South and vice versa, making it imperative for NAQS to establish Interstate Control Posts there.
He pointed out that NAQS erected an Interstate Control Post at Katsina-ala because that location fell within high traffic animal trade routes. He also mentioned that the post at Orokam was established because that is the gateway into the South-East.
Dr. Nwodo said that NAQS officers at the quarantine posts collect only User Fees, the service charge payable for the inspection and certification of agricultural products. The user fees are legal. They are provided for in the NAQS (Establishment) Act.
The User Fees on agricultural commodities were agreed upon and approved by stakeholders involved in the IGP Implementation Committee on Curtailment of Cattle Rustling in Nigeria and on Multiple Taxation.
As a matter of fact, NAQS operates under Category B of the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2008 and remits 25% of the User Fees to the consolidated revenue fund of the Federal Government.
Dr. Nwodo emphasized NAQS does not require additional payment when a truck load has a valid receipt and movement permit for a specific route on a particular trip. Upon sighting the document, all quarantine posts on that route pass the truck without further check.
He said that NAQS is pro-business in orientation and cannot levy multiple taxes on agricultural products. The Agency is one of the key drivers of the implementation of the Executive Order 001 on the Ease of Doing Business. This is particularly why NAQS is insisting that state government not station their revenue collectors on the federal highways.