Exploring alliances to tackle influx of sub-standard goods
Having reduced the influx of sub-standard goods in the country from over 85 per cent to 40 per cent as at 2014, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) as part of efforts to further reduce the anomaly is exploring alliances with other stakeholders to reduce the nation’s exposure to sub-standard goods. FEMI ADEKOYA writes.
DUMPING of goods and smuggling of harmful substandard products into the country mainly from stronger and more economically-advanced nations in Asia and Europe is the uphill challenge, which Nigeria faces in its move to develop the real sector against all odds.
Unfortunately, selfish Nigerians, who would rather amass wealth at the expense of the growth of the nation, carry out the act of moving these products that undermine the economy and its industrial sector.
According to the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), the continued influx of sub-standard goods disrupts the economy while encouraging other economies to thrive at the expense of survival of local industries.
For instance, the Standards Organisation of Nigerian (SON) in a renewed bid to check the importation of fake and sub-standard goods into the country is partnering with the National Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) as well as other stakeholders have consolidated plans to harmonise efforts to check the illicit acts.
According to SON, despite the drastic reduction in the influx of sub-standard goods in the country, especially through the ports, there is a need to intensify efforts at discouraging the act.
The Director-General of SON, Dr. Joseph Odumodu said: “Today, my mandate is about ensuring that our manufacturing sector is not just able to make products that meet standards but that we should make products that meet standards for the world. In the next three or four years, all I will focus on is how we can make Nigerian products to be good for the world.
“Nigeria is a highly import-dependent economy because almost all sectors need import. Again, one of the challenges, we have in Nigeria is that Nigerians tend to love products that are not made in Nigeria and it bothers me because there is no country in this world that has ever made success of building their economy by consuming overseas products.
“Every time you buy a product from abroad, you are indirectly paying the salaries of the foreign workers. My mandate is to see how far we can reverse the process to begin to patronise made-in-Nigeria products. We are currently on the campaign of ensuring that made in Nigeria goods meet international standards”.
Odumodu explained that efforts are underway to make processes become more seamless, especially in combating the influx of sub-standard goods, stating that SON’s operations were being integrated electronically to enable a seamless access to service adding that fees relating to SONCAP, tariffs, inspectorate charges, among others, could now be made without necessarily visiting any SON’s office.
He added that SON was working closely with the Nigeria Customs Service in ensuring that its operations were also integrated in the Nigeria Integrated Customs Information System (NICIS).
On his part, the National President of ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu commended SON for its efforts in ridding the nation of sub-standard goods, while expressing the association’s commitment towards supporting the agency in the realization of its mandate.
Shittu also urged government to explore increased collaboration with stakeholders stating that its advantages far-outweighed the demerits.
He commended Odumodu for going beyond the shores of Nigeria to liaise with other countries on the methods to be employed in tackling the hydra-headed monster of substandard products.
On the arrest of containers on the highway, Odumodu disclosed that SON’s collaboration with the Customs would help in that regard as the Customs would provide information on all containers exiting the port without NICIS certification, promising that only non-compliant containers would be apprehended.
The President of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Eugene Nweke stressed the importance of stakeholder engagement and continued collaboration for maximum output.
“We have to look at the way of countering this monster called substandard goods. We are in a strategic position to know that there are other ways to stop this without necessarily allowing it to come in through our borders. We will continue to ensure that the lives of Nigerians are preserved”, Nweke said.
He stated that NAGAFF had always enjoyed a good relationship with SON, adding that the body would continue to contribute their quota in making Nigeria a healthy nation.
With a regional strategy, which SON has tagged as the next frontier in its battle against sub standard products and international trade malpractices, now deployed, stakeholders are on the lookout, to assess what result it will turn out for SON and the entire country.
Odumodu noted that SON has over the years developed competencies in various international management standards systems including Quality, Environmental, Food Safety and others aimed at national capacity development and certification of systems for continual improvement.
The Director General said SON would intensify its efforts in the areas of seminars, workshops, consumer enlightenment activities and certification of products and systems to internationally acclaimed standards with greater emphasis on small and medium scale enterprises.
His words, “The certification process by SON is designed to assist businesses implement the requirements of relevant standards from raw material to the finished product with a view to offering quality products that offer value for money to consumers. The certification to MANCAP will also ensure that locally manufactured products are subjected to similar conformity process like the imported products undergo with SONCAP thus creating a level playing field as stated in the theme of the 2014 world standards day celebrations”.
He said SON embraces zero tolerance to substandard products with great vigour through standards elaboration, review, adoption and adaption, factory inspections, market surveys, product and system certification, human capacity development, testing and laboratory analysis, calibration of equipment and measuring instruments as well as compliance monitoring and standards enforcement.
According to experts, consumer protection is not a one-way street and requires consumers to act responsibly as no quantum of protection can secure irresponsible consumers.
Consumer Protection is a process that involves consumers, service providers, producers and the government in a blend of roles and responsibilities.
This presupposes that for consumer protections to exist, prevail, and be effective, every actor in the value exchange process must be actively informed, involved and supported.
Of critical importance is the essence of consumer and business education as a government responsibility in achieving desired objectives.