RMRDC, SON bicker over Lagos office premises
Two critical federal agencies are in a bitter quarrel over the ownership and occupation of the office premises in Lekki Phase 1, Lagos, thereby working at cross purposes, putting a shame to the Executive Orders and the noble objectives of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
The Raw Material, Research and Development Council (RMRDC), a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology and Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), another parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment are now at loggerheads, following moves by RMRDC to eject SON from the premises and rent the building.
The Guardian learnt that the premises located at 13/14, Victoria Arobieke Street, Off Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase 1, was developed by the RMRDC before the movement of the Federal Government seat to Abuja and the completed structure was allegedly abandoned for about 18 years.
In 2000, the office of the Head of Service of the Federation allocated the property to SON and the organization moved its headquarters from the then Federal Secretariat Complex, Ikoyi to the Lekki Phase 1 building.
Sources close to SON however claim that the agency had to carry out massive renovation of the entire structure to make it habitable and had been responsible for its overall maintenance including the provision of electricity and water to a floor occupied by RMRDC.
The premises serve, as the operational headquarters of the SON while its corporate headquarters is located in Abuja. According to the sources, SON has invested so much in constructing three additional structures accommodating its Laboratories including two that are internationally accredited for Food technology in biological and chemical testing in furtherance of the Federal Government’s economic diversification agenda.
Besides, the mycotoxin and food fortificant laboratories are located in the premises while it also accommodates one of SON three State offices in Lagos State in view of the concentration of manufacturing and seaports in the state.
Going by the mandates of these two agencies of the Federal Government, they are supposed to play key roles in the economic diversification agenda of the Government.
While the RMRDC is supposed to re-focus its research and development in the non-oil sector as part of the economic diversification agenda, SON on the other hand is key to providing requisite standards and acceptable certifications for non-oil products towards self-sufficiency, exports and increased foreign exchange earnings.
But the matter came to its head, with an alleged claim by RMRDC that the Federal Government policy thrust requiring Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to make concerted efforts to generate internal revenue.
RMRDC only occupies one of the five floors in the building housing its South West office with less than 15 staff, thus corroborating the assertion that it needed the building for the purpose of generating internal revenue.
Efforts to get the official position of SON from the Head of Public Relations was rebuffed as he said, the issues are being handled by the appropriate authorities. The RMRDC officials also refused to comment on the issue.
Under Buhari administration, Ministries, Agencies and Departments (MDA) have been driving the change agenda and initiating programmes as well as projects aimed at delivering on the President’s promises. The Presidential Executive Orders on Ease of Doing Business and the Presidential Enabling Business Committee (PEBEC) were all put in place to ensure synergy in the activities of the MDAs.
A property expert, Mr. Bamidele Lawal, told The Guardian that SON internationally accredited laboratories situated in the premises are key to the Nation’s food security and agricultural produce export in furtherance of the diversification of the economy to the non-oil sector.
It was also learnt that the internationally accredited agencies carrying out the off-shore conformity assessment programmes for imported products on behalf of the SON worldwide, are also situated in the premises along with over 400 staff of the agency.
Lawal claims that the “Ship House” in Abuja as it’s popularly called was built by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) but is today occupied by the Federal Ministry of Defense. “I do not know under what arrangement the NPA conceded it to Defense but I guess national interest prevailed.”
But a close observer of standardization activities, who is fully aware of the lingering tussle over the office accommodation, Dr. Damian Njoku stated that the menace of substandard products import, manufacture and circulation is a great threat to the security of the nation and the safety and wellbeing of its people. The laboratories in Lagos have assisted SON to elaborate list of products under its regulatory purview.
“Before now, Nigeria has been bedeviled with unpleasant rejection of her agricultural produce exports due to lack of evidence of certification by internationally accredited Laboratories. Some Nigerian exporters had to obtain certification of their exports from Ghana to ensure acceptance in Europe and America,” he said.
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