Saturday, February 29, 2020 6:20 pm
Strong institutions are not built on emotions but courage, patriotism and the firmness for the common good of the people. Standards Organization of Nigeria appears to offer hope even in a challenging operating environment
By Bamidele Philips
It happened so fast. A car pulled up close to the gate of a popular faith-based primary school in Jabi, Abuja a few weeks back. A middle aged man, apparently a parent, alighted from the car, opened the back door to allow the children he brought to school that harmattan morning out of the car.
Three young children between the ages of two and five, disembarked. He bent down and adjusted the uniform of the youngest among them, a boy, lifted him and hurried towards the entrance, just like other children and parents that were around that morning. Just then, without any warning, boom! There was a loud noise from his car. In panic, the man, his children and every other person scampered to different directions.
The explosion flung the bonnet of his car open and the impact smashed the windscreen while heavy smoke billowed from the car as it caught fire. When the fire was eventually extinguished, it was discovered that it was the car battery that exploded. It was suspected to be a cloned substandard battery.
According to the man, he only bought the battery a few days earlier as he intended to embark on a journey outside Abuja. He disclosed that the former one, which he used for barely few months was inexplicably drained. He did not only fail to get value for his money, his car sadly was damaged. He and his family, thankfully escaped unimaginable tragedy by whiskers.
That’s the kind of danger many families face daily as a result of the unscrupulous activities of product counterfeiters, leaving many to ask; “What would our world look like without standards?” This obviously, is a million dollar question. Certainly, there would be no trust and confidence in worldwide supply chain of goods and services without standards. This is so because standards bring innovation; ensure safety; engender competition and make our world a better place.
This is why every 14th of October, the world celebrates World Standards Day in recognition and appreciation of the importance of standards.
It is on this ground that the federal government has been coming down hard on producers and manufacturers of substandard products. Early this month Standards Organizations of Nigeria, SON, the body charged with standardization, destroyed substandard mobile phone accessories worth over N480 million in Lagos.
The Director, Inspectorate and Compliance Directorate, SON, Obiora Manafa, made the disclosure.
“It is a continuous exercise; we will continue to create that awareness on the importance of importing goods that meet the minimum requirement of the standards,” he said.
Beyond destruction, he said there are sanctions and punishments for importers of such products as many of these importers have been prosecuted. “We have so many cases in court, and our Act empowers us to prosecute them”, he added.
Spokesman of the agency, Bola Fashina collaborated this approach when he revealed in a recent statement that SON is currently prosecuting several offenders across the nation for different standards infractions.
Sometime last year Federal High Court in Lagos ordered the remand of four men charged with producing adulterated engine oil. Within the same period, SON confiscated fake and substandard products worth N300 billion, at some point, across the nation. These are few instances of the efforts by the organisation to bring sanity in the manufacturing sector.
Over the years, SON has recorded commendable marks in delivering its core mandate to the people of Nigeria, despite odds. It has, in fact, been an unrelenting war against fake and substandard products under the current management of the agency.
In spearheading the new dimension to the fight, industry watchers are agreed that the Director-General of the agency, Osita Aboloma, inspired a new regulating regime with the zero tolerance for counterfeit products in all spheres. This visionary leadership has added to the organization’s renewed vigour at executing the powers of seizure, confiscation and destruction of poor quality products both in the factories and points of sale. This firmness of purpose would not have taken place without stepping on powerful toes.
But strong institutions are built on courage, patriotism and the strong will to make bold moves that will lead to the common good of the people. For a country to live her dreams and aspirations, public officers saddled with the responsibility of standards must not only be patriotic, single-minded and dedicated but should also be courageous and ready for the usual criticisms that come with positive change.
Despite this arduous task of taking frontally on these criminal elements that care less about society and the fellow citizens, SON has consciously remained on the side of the law in the discharge of its duties. The amended SON Act No14 of 2015 which overrides all other previous enactments provides unquestionable legitimacy to the regulatory organization’s activities.
The organization is also providing latest information and current trends on global standardization so that goods manufactured in Nigeria can compete favourably at home and outside. To achieve its objectives, SON in addition to other laudable efforts is deploying technology and other mechanisms to mitigate the menace of fake products in Nigeria.
Some of the regulation tools include the SON Conformity Assessment Programme (SONCAP) for importers to ensure that whatever they import is in conformity with the nation’s standards from the country of origin and the MANCAP scheme, a detailed guideline for local manufacturers to ensure quality and standard in the production process.
It is in this regard that SON has made huge exploits in the interception of substandard household items, assorted building materials, cables, electronic gadgets, gas cylinders and different other fake products. Even with these feats, there is the consensus in the industry that the organisation needs access to the nation’s points of entry as a way of permanently addressing the threat posed by substandard products.
It is gratifying to note that the war against this national challenge is already yielding fruits as the achievements are evident across the country.
However, for this organization to live its full potentials and continue with its fight against counterfeit products, certain things must change. Senator Sam Egwu, who until very recently chaired the Senate Committee on Industry, had expressed concerns over the continued absence of SON officials at some strategic places like the sea ports where they are not operating optimally.
According to the former governor of Ebonyi State, “Nigeria is import dependent, with porous borders and for them not to be at the port to inspect these goods first hand is not good enough. They should be allowed to be at the ports to see these products before they enter into the market. We cannot overemphasis the issue of standardization, because it is the core for every manufacturing output. We have observed that some products come into the country from countries that do not have standards, but clone SON logo. This is certainly not good for the Nigerian economy.”
The suggestion is that all hands should be on the deck in supporting the organisation in its fight against manufacturers and importers of substandard products to reduce the rate of road accidents and avoidable deaths on account of fake Tyres, prevent domestic fire outbreaks due to fake electric wire and cooking gas cylinders and lessen the incidents of building collapse because of poor and substandard building materials. In this regard, SON requires useful intelligence from well-meaning Nigerians for optimal performance. This is the only way to ensure that SON and its patriotic activities endure.
– Philips is a consumer rights advocate