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The federal government Friday directed the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) to fully resume its export certification duties at all ports immediately, so as to cushion the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Nigeria’s agricultural sector.

This was disclosed in a statement signed by Gozie Nwodo, head of communications and strategies, NAQS. He said the federal government had granted the agency (NAQS) authorisation to make agro-export functional again, so as to revive all functions related to agricultural export on both the public and private sectors.

NAQS is the agency under the federal ministry of agriculture and rural development with the mandate to provide an effective science-based regulatory services for the quality assurance of agricultural products.

This is done through the consistent enforcement of sanitary and phytosanitary measures for plants, animal and aquatic resources.

In his remarks, Vincent Isegbe, NAQS director-general, said, “Export of agricultural produce will soon pick up and gather pace as a result.”

He said the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) also issued directives instructing ministries, departments, agencies as well as state governments to cooperate with NAQS to enable a well “choreographed restoration” of export traffic for the benefit of all Nigerians.

This directive is coming amidst the efforts by the government to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic threatening economic activities in the country.

Mr Isegbe said following the federal government’s directive, producers and state governments are expected to grant free passage to consignments along designated corridors mapped by NAQS with best logistics-support arrangement.

He also called on all relevant entities in the agricultural export environment to play their respective roles to foster the quick return of businesses to its normal pace.

The NAQS boss further noted that agricultural export accounted for a large volume of Nigeria’s non-oil export, adding that it has become “more critical for Nigerian agricultural export to stand to its full height as one of the twin pillars of the Nigerian economy” following the drastic slump in global oil prices and spike in job losses.

In addition, he said, as a responsible public service provider, NAQS has creatively adapted to the challenge of the current context, adding that the agency will balance the consideration of professional protocols and adhere to all recommended COVID-19 safety precautions in the discharge of its statutory mandate of inspection and certification of agricultural products.

According to the statement, agencies such as the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian Aviation Handling Company PLC (NAHCO Aviance), Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO), the Nigerian Police and other security agencies are now under obligation to work in concert with NAQS and stakeholders to reinvigorate agricultural export in the country

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