Strong indications emerged that expectations that operatives of the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control NAFDAC, would return to the nation’s seaports to commence an onslaught against importation of prohibited drugs, especially codeine and Tramadol may be a ruse owing to the three-week old industrial action embarked upon by the Joint Health Sector Unions JOHESU.

Meanwhile the Federal Government has listed a total of eight regulatory and security agencies allowed to take part in cargo inspection at the various nation’s seaports, which include the Nigerian Ports Authority NPA, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NMASA, the Nigeria Customs Service and Port Health.

Director-General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, Thursday, confirmed that the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council PEBEC, headed by Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo had directed the agency to return to the ports to effectively control the importation of unregulated products, falsified and substandard drugs, unwholesome foods, narcotic drugs and hazardous chemical substances and foods, among others.

But a top official of the agency, who spoke with Business and Transport on the condition of anonymity, hinted that though members of staff of NAFDAC are aware of the directive to return to the seaports, they are not likely to comply with it for now until the current trade dispute between the Federal Government and JOHESU is resolved.

According to him, the operatives of the agency as Nigerians are aware and conscious of the indiscriminate and unlawful importation of certain banned substances into the country and the effects on the citizenry, especially drug abuse among youths, but there is a subsisting strike action by the health workers over some welfare issues, which must be addressed before the workers resume normal duties.

“We are members of JOHESU and you are aware that the union has been on strike for about three weeks and we also know that there are negotiations between the leadership of the union and representatives of the government, as soon as the issues were resolved, our national union will inform us and direct us to return to work accordingly”, the seemingly aggrieved worker said.

On the interim injunction granted by the National Industrial Court sitting in Abuja compelling the striking members of JOHESU to immediately resume duties, the source noted that they read  the order of the court in the newspapers like many other Nigerians but would wait for further directives by the national leadership of the union, which asked them to commence the strike action in the first place.

The agency had in a statement on Thursday said: “NAFDAC in collaboration with relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies and with the active support of the Office of the National Security Adviser, the PEBEC, and the Ministry of Transport, has been returned to the seaports and borders to effectively control importation of unregulated products, falsified and substandard drugs, unwholesome foods, narcotic drugs and hazardous chemical substances and foods”

The statement signed by the DG also reads in part: “NAFDAC received the notice on May 16, 2018, in a letter dated March 29, 2018, from the office of the Vice-President, as part of the PEBEC reforms.”

The DG noted that several Nigerians had died as a result of falsified and substandard medicines, adding that many more were ill, most likely due to unwholesome foods, drugs and abuse of narcotics and controlled substances, such as codeine, tramadol and pentazocine, which she attributed partly to the exclusion of the agency from the nation’s seaports since 2011.

It was in line with efforts to forestall influx of prohibited food and drugs as improve efficiency in port operations, that the PEBEC, under the chairmanship of the Vice President directed the NPA to ensure that the only eight federal government agencies including NAFDAC were allowed to operate and have physical representation at all port locations in the country.

Other agencies listed in a statement issued by the General Manager of NPA in charge of Corporate and Strategic Communications, Abdullahi Goje include the Nigeria Police, Department of State Security DSS and the Nigeria Immigration Service NIS.

NPA, which solicited the support and cooperation of all agencies and stakeholders in the nation’s maritime industry towards actualising its dream of making Nigeria the preferred hub for West and Central African sub-region, however warned agencies not listed to stay away from the port environment.