Customs Sets Modalities to Fast-Track Healthcare Cargo Clearance

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The Nigeria Customs Service is set to create a technical working group, as well as a special corridor, for the clearance of medical and pharmaceutical goods.

The Comptroller General of Customs (CGC), Adewale Adeniyi, who disclosed this at a recent town hall meeting on the healthcare sector, acknowledged the importance of the healthcare sector in Nigeria, especially in strengthening national security.

According to the CGC, who was represented at the meeting by Deputy Comptroller General of Customs (Tariff & Trade), DCG C.K. Niagwan, the technical working group is meant to implement the Memorandum of Understanding of the World Customs Organisation (WCO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) on clearance of medical goods.

The special corridor, on the other hand, was initiated by the WCO and the World Trade Organisation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two global bodies had insisted that the special corridor must be set up by all member nations to expedite the clearance of healthcare cargoes so that people will no longer have to suffer the way they did during the pandemic.

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The Customs boss said, “We are here at the instance of the Healthcare Federation of Nigeria (HFN) to discuss mutual concerns – issues that have bothered the HFN regarding the problems that they encounter in the clearance of medical equipment, particularly life-saving equipment.

“One of the things we have said is that we need to implement the WCO and WHO’s Memorandum of Understanding on clearance of medical goods, which will involve creating special corridors for those goods. We are not strangers to that; we already have schemes targeted at such sectors.”

The CGC explained that the technical working group will comprise Customs, HFN and other critical stakeholders like the Ministry of Finance, the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), and the office of the National Security Adviser.

HFN President, Dr Pamela Ajayi, in her remarks, expressed satisfaction at the outcome of the meeting, appreciating the Customs Service for its quick response to issues affecting the healthcare sector.

While narrating the genesis of the meeting, Ajayi said there are many challenges in the healthcare system, including delay in healthcare cargoes coming into Nigeria, demurrage cost, additional duties being unfairly paid, and many others.

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She said: “There was a realisation that equipment needs to come into the country; vaccines need to come into the country. We all remember a time when vaccines were coming to the country but there was delay such that some of them nearly got expired because of the long process they had to take to go through Customs and other protocols.

“With all these in mind, we invited the Comptroller General of Customs to our AGM in February and presented all these challenges before him and he promised to have further meetings with us to see how we could solve the problem. That was the genesis of the round table today (14 June, 2024).”

Ajayi added: “The CG has kept to his words. We have had meetings, we were able to bring out our points and concerns and elaborate on them in more detail on some of the challenges. We have all stakeholders in the healthcare system represented that include the doctors, pharmacists, equipment dealers, therapists, radiologists, nurses. We all presented our plight under the umbrella of the HFN as a healthcare body. We push all the challenges to ensure that the challenges facing the healthcare system are addressed.

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“The custom CG has promised to set up a special corridor that was initiated by the World Customs Organisation and the World Trade Organisation against the backdrop of COVID-19.  The second thing is the setting up of a technical working committee to address issues on the process, excess quotes and other things that will be instituted in the healthcare desk, to address every problem as they arise. So we are very happy with the outcome of the meeting. We want to commend the comptroller general of Customs for his initiative and his empathy towards the issues in the healthcare system.

“It shows that Customs has a listening ear, the willingness to cooperate, to collaborate, to listen to the pains that we have as a healthcare sector”, she said.

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