Anatune: MINFOW: The Odumodu rap title
DR. Joseph Ikem Odumodu kicks off his second term of Director-Generalship and Chief Executive, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), with a national call to Nigerians in all spheres of life to lift thee; yes, up-scale their games and deliver goods and services that the world community can buy. Made-in-Nigeria for the world – MINFOW – is the springboard of his second term and is deliverable with global standards that cut across frontiers – quality education and research, improved soil and seedling, standard packaging and labeling, even governance that means to deliver global standard services. No business operating below world standards can make it or impact the world over time and space.
Odumodu took the reins of SON management on February 1, 2011 at a time Nigeria was saturated with substandard goods and buying second hand was matter of course. From mechanics to electricians, from factory floors to retail lines, Nigerians glorified the better bargain in second hand products. It was not only bad enough that 85 per cent of consumer goods were substandard; the real heartbreaker was the fact that Nigerians did not care a hoot paying hard-earned monies to buy death – sometimes expensive death!
“Poverty is not how little money one has. No. Poverty comes from little minds. Two persons can be looking at one thing and one of them sees opportunity and the other sees challenges. Two manufacturers can be producing same product but with different mindsets. One of them wants quick money and the other is passionate about quality products that the world will respect and patronize and that decides how far each will go! Boundaries are artificial. Men are limited only by our visions and values,” he declared.
His first term could be summed under the Six-Point Agenda he set on assuming office – Consumer Engagement, Media Engagement, Compliance Monitoring, Capacity Building, Global Relevance and Competitiveness of Made-in-Nigeria goods. In fora and group discussions, he likened SON to an emergency patient that a conscientious medical team must first stabilise before going into proper diagnoses of the ailment and due medications. And so the team worked with vigour, stabilised and set the proper direction and operational templates for delivering on the agency’s mandate: enumerate standards and ensure that quality products and services rule the Nigerian markets towards making the nation an active player in the international arena.
However, the long-term solution to the issue of substandard is to evolve a quality culture anchored on a robust quality infrastructure (standards, metrology, test laboratories, accreditation, technical regulation etc.) and guided by a National Quality Policy. Nigeria owes him accolades for pioneering this silent revolution.
By three years, consumer awareness was nurtured from about zero to above 60 per cent through multi media – two television documentaries one of which continues to run while the other ran a full quarter across the geopolitical zones; regular media interactions, annual and periodic chitchats with reporters, radio presentations, visits to media houses and unprecedented newspapers coverage. Under consumer engagement, SON set up consumer desks at Alaba International market and the Computer Village, Ikeja to enlighten buyers and monitor products in general. On one occasion, SON successfully helped a buyer get replacement for a faulty new vehicle.
Although the entire consumer market was awash with substandard products, SON decided to face life-threatening products. Thus the agency’s monitoring teams descended on the popular tokunbo tyre markets that ran from Ladipo, Lagos, to Onitsha in Anambra and to Calabar. And in one raid at Ladipo, SON officials carted away 50 truck-loads of used vehicle tyres that end-users knew nothing about the grave dangers; everyone eagerly patronised in diverse ways.
From Abia to Rivers and from Kaduna to Niger states, SON inspectors made surprise visits and sealed offices where substandard goods were produced or warehoused. Increasingly, importers and manufacturers started to give information that the agency used to arrest and seize several container loads of contrabands. In particular, cables and wire, electrical, electronics and bulbs were seized and destroyed.
While SON was dealing head on with the merchants of substandard goods, it was working hard in other facets that had encumbered quality assurance regime in the nation.
The law and therewith the punishment against fake and substandard products are more of encouragement than deterrent. SON, therefore, sponsored a new legislation to arm it to deliver on the mandate. The new bill, which had been passed by the House of Representatives, has also passed the second reading by the Senate and will give SON power to prosecute which it lacked and which made its efforts on arrests and seizures worthless.
By two years in office, Odumodu brought substandard products prevalence below 45 per cent. Although that could have been bettered had the agency have the capacity to destroy seized products, SON was obliged to begin taking facilities development seriously. The agency had no accredited test lab so that it lacked the capacity to certify products as such and depended entirely on foreign laboratories. Odumodu refurbished the Enugu Mechanical laboratory as also the Kaduna laboratory. More heartwarming are the two newly WHO accredited labs in Lekki, Lagos.
While presenting the WHO/ILAC certificates to Trade and Investment Minister, Dr. Olusegun Aganga, Dr. Odumodu said that with the Lekki labs, Nigeria now has capacity to test and certify and the product will be accepted anywhere worldwide. And yet, SON flagship laboratory, a four storey 20-laboratory complex at Ogba, Lagos, which is nearing completion, will deliver composite tests on several products ranges and will mark Nigeria’s emergence on the products/commodities global market.
Vitally important as global conglomerates are, the business world belongs to the SMEs because they have the fastest growth rate and labour creativity quotient. In partnership with the EU/British Council, SON certified 200 SMEs annually for two years (2012/2014) at no cost; and proposes to fast-track collaborations with the SMEs in an integral manner – from the point of soil suitability (for crops) to quality seeds. Research is another area the agency needs support to impact more fully on the SMEs. For instance, it took long research for SON to find out that cocoa farmers use motor battery lead to fight pod infections, which meant excess lead content in our cocoa that resulted in rejection. In that wise, SON is going to need the full support of research institutes which must up their games to key into the MINFOW project.
Nevertheless, one critical challenge is the interface between the Agency and the user community of the various outcomes of their works. The DG’s private sector underpinning will come handy in so doing. MINFOW does not sound melodious yet. It may never in the old tradition but the tune is bound to impact the national economy for good as a mind-blowing concept that can only come from a mind that looks far and sees opportunities long before others.
Just imagine that two years from now, your four-year old child will ask if the school she is attending is MINFOW? What is that? you retort, and she looks you straight in the eyes and asks: does my school have a vision of the world or our proprietor and teachers local players? In same vein, job seekers will be asking prospective employers if they are MINFOW compatible or just another labour camp. It does not matter the business or person, MINFOW is going to be the checklist for relationships that cut across frontiers – education, manufacturing, farming as well services. Made in Nigeria for the world, it is bound to redefine national economic fortunes for good because at the heart is the secret to the world market where only the best showcase selves and bid for market shares.
• Anatune, a brand strategist, writes from Lagos.