By Prince Osuagwu
THE computer village market Ikeja Lagos, is to Nigeria, what the Silicon Valey represents to the United States of America. Both, house the largest array of computer accessories and allied technology products for their economies.
But while the Silicon Valley has become a pilgrimage ground of some sort for technology enthusiasts across the globe, the computer village has been bogged down by consistent allegations of being a safe haven for fake products. This toga has not done the integrity of the market any good both nationally and internationally.
However, the Standard Organisation of Nigeria, SON, an agency of Nigerian government, responsible for checking and approving standardization of products in the country, made a move recently, to check the standards of goods in the market with a view to weeding out substandard ones.
The move resulted in a fiasco, which intrigues still resonate. It has also produced several allegations and counter allegations between the leadership of SON and that of the market. While SON claims that its intent is to sanitize the market, leadership of the market under the aegis of Computer and Allied Product Dealers Association of Nigeria, CAPDAN alleges that SON’s moves are tantamount to destroying the market.
In the melee, Nigerians, who are major consumers of products in the market are left confused. They are finding it difficult, who to believe.
80% of computer market, fake?
Recently at an Anti-counterfeit Africa Conference organised by Hewlett Packard, HP, in Abuja, Director General of SON, Dr Joseph Odumodu, berated activities of counterfeiters in the country lamenting that it has helped increase Nigeria’s already bloated labour market.
Odumodu said the scourge has also seen to the closure of many legitimate companies with their workforce thrown into the labour market, leaving untold hardships that put undue pressure on families and the Nigerian economy in general. Odumodu said that the mere realization of the untold hardship Nigerians go through as a result of the effects of consuming counterfeit products was why his Organisation was bent on sanitizing the Computer village market, Ikeja.
He regretted that the computer market in Ikeja, known around the world as the largest IT market in Africa sells more of counterfeit products than original.
For him, the perception of the market from outside the world suggests a genuine market environment which elevates the country among markets in world economy, but he regretted that, “unfortunately,80 percent of their activities are illicit”
Again, he lamented that, “over one million Nigerians working in the textile industries lost their jobs since 2000 due to counterfeiting, leading to accelerated closure of many manufacturing firms, while the surviving ones are in the state of comatose”
Besides the loss of jobs, Odumodu noted that health and environmental effects of these counterfeit activities are also heavy on the economy. “Even as their activities put consumers lives under threat, the effect of counterfeiting on the Nigerian economy might endanger the new position Nigeria has assumed as a new economic frontier.”
He added that “for certain types of infringing goods, the health and safety of consumers may be put at a significant risk and when you factor in corruption, it reduces the effectiveness of public institutions,”
He also averred that counterfeiting causes environmental damage through the significant waste produced through destroying infringing items.
Corroborating him, the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko Inde, admitted that “counterfeiting and Piracy affects the wellbeing of any economy in a variety of ways. For example they promote criminality as successful counterfeiters are often also the promoters of social negativities in view of their possession of enormous illegal wealth. Government is deprived of much needed revenue since counterfeiters evade payment of necessary taxes and duties. Health development agenda of government is also compromised and innocent public is exposed to dangers through subscription to cheaper but dangerous items of food and medicament”
Dikko said that from available statistics, over the past decade illegal trade in counterfeiting and piracy has expanded to include virtually every product sector including equipment, chemicals, mobile phone batteries, spare parts and toys which is estimated that by 2015 the value for global illicit trade on counterfeit and pirated goods could reach $1.7 tr
Meanwhile earlier in his welcome address, District Manager, English Africa, Printing and Personal Systems, HP, Jean Paul Pinto said though new style of IT is emerging in mobility; cloud; social and big data, counterfeiting has remained a major threat.
Pinto, who said Africa is important to HP not only because of the money, but to impact lives with technology, disclosed that the Nigerian market accounts for over 20 per cent of HP’s sales globally.
He claimed that two PCs and one printer are sold by HP every minute in Africa, with major sales coming from Nigeria, adducing that as reason HP believes that if it succeeds in tackling counterfeits in Nigeria, it can equally succeed in other parts of the continent.
But almost immediately, in Lagos, leadership of the Ikeja computer market, dismissed Odumodu, describing his claims as outrageous..
Public Relations Officer of Computer and Allied Products Dealers Association of Nigeria, CAPDAN, Mr Godwin Enemoh said that the claim by SON DG was not only a lie but outrageous, unguarded and deceitful.
According to him, “ I was shocked to read the outrageous claim of the SON DG. How can a top government official make such statement which he cannot substantiate?
In the first place he has not come into the market since he became the DG and has not met with the leadership of the market. As a matter of fact his only presence in the market was a couple of weeks ago, in Gestapo manner, to disrupt activities in the market. So, claiming that 80 percent of products in the market are fake, was unbecoming of a government official” he added.
For him, “ a good DG should regulate the market not to destroy it. You have not come to the market to take a study, so you can’t know what goes on. You have not even met the leaders. That is what a proactive leader should do. But you are not doing that. Regulating the market from pages of newspapers is not the right procedure”.
Enemoh however agreed that there were fake products in the market but not to the level Odumodu claimed. In his opinion, counterfeit in the computer market was not beyond 30 percent. “The market cannot have more than 30 percent of fake products. Even at that, most of the people dealing on fake products, we have made to register their products and have trademarks. So we have even made it is easy to quickly identify who is fake.
He said that the best way to solve the counterfeit problem in the market was for “SON to understand the market, call us and have a meeting so that we dialogue and find a common solution. Otherwise, Odumodu’s statement may discourage those who may want to invest in the market from within or outside the country and may also discourage those who would want to find jobs in the market”