By Franklin Alli
The more efforts put in by the government officials to stamp out importation of fake and sub-standard products into the country may have been well checkmated given the rising incidence of fake and substandard products all around the country, Franklin Alli reports
â€œChinese remains the elephant in the room. Unless we successfully engage China, then everything else we do is a mere side-show. Counterfeiting also comes from Malaysia, India and other Asian countries,â€ said Engr. Shamm Kolo.
â€œWe are no longer just talking about poor quality fake tee-shirts or foot wears. We are talking about almost the whole of electrical/electronics goods on sale in our markets today. From fake toasters, ovens, radios to substandard electrical cables and bulbs of major known brands, fittings, switches, panels, fake Tvs sets, DVDS, airconditioners, generator sets, fake computers mobile phones fake toys, etc.
â€œI invite you to reflect for a moment on the serious risk coupled with economic waste both to the consumers and to the nation as a whole. All these are dangerous to our system and cost the consumer and the nation a great fortune,â€ he said.
He quoted a statistic recently published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which estimated that global trade in fake goods is worth around $200 billion (about N30 trillion) per annum- higher than the gross domestic product (GDP) of more than 150 countries. This figure is rising, and doesnâ€™t even include goods that are produced and consumed domestically.
In the same vein, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has said that 75 Electrical/Electronic products imported into the country are fake.
â€œNinety percent of electrical/electronic products in the country are foreign and 75 percent are counterfeits,â€ said SONâ€™s spokesperson, Engr. Richard Adewunmi.
â€œApart from the fact that any counterfeiting activity is essentially theft from genuine manufacturers, the use of counterfeit electrical goods which are commonly made from inferior materials and are almost never tested for safety can cause damage to person or property,â€ he said.
He, therefore, urged consumers to purchase genuine brand products directly from the manufacturers whose trademark is on the product, or from authorised distributors rather than choosing lesser known products from cheaper, less familiar sources.
â€œLook for suspicious signs that indicate the product is not genuine: product not accompanied by instructions, warnings or warranty,â€ he stated.
He advised manufacturers to adopt a zero tolerance policy, enforce intellectual property rights and support law enforcement agents in the fight to rid the country of counterfeit products.
If you are a manufacturer, donâ€™t permit product that does not meet manufacturersâ€™ quality standards to reach the market. Counterfeiters sometimes are labelled damaged goods to make the market believe they are new. It has become an extremely profitable business, generating income that can compete with narcotics and weapons trafficking.
He noted that counterfeiting, faking and the theft of intellectual property can do enormous damage to any economy especially a fragile economy as Nigeria. Even the sort of economy that relies on quality and innovation like the EU, USA, and Japan are easily affected also.
Communications Manager Nokia Nigeria, West & Central Africa, Ngozi Anene, however, defended the companyâ€™s brands of products (handsets) being manufactured in China and sold in Nigerian markets, saying â€œthey come with same high quality as Nokia Finland, and Hungary.â€
â€œNOKIA has factory in China not only in Finland and Hungary and the quality of the phones are at par with the eight other factories around the world. The factory in China now sells to the Nigerian markets,â€ she said.
She, however, urged consumers to be wary of fake Nokia brands at the point of purchase, because as she puts it: â€œToday, counterfeiters used advanced technology to manufacturer exact copies of our products, they use the internet to find out overseas customers and receive electronic payments, they are more cautions and aware of the risks involved in dealing with counterfeit products, and they forecast and factor such risks into their profits margin.â€
â€œWe are eager to work with local partners and the Nigerian government to fight counterfeiting, and encourage all involved parties including other brand owners to pay the effort to protect their customers and markets against this illicit trade,â€ she assured.
She noted that the spread of counterfeit products in the markets around the world has become a global problem that is costing governments, consumers and corporations hundreds of billions of dollars.
â€œThe International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC) estimated that counterfeiting is a $600 billion a year problem, and that it is a problem that has grown 10,000 per cent in the past two decades. This shows the enormous size of the problem, and the need to start taking it seriouslyâ€
The Director General Consumer Protection Council, Mrs. Ify Umenyi, said the Commission has beamed its searchlight on Alaba International Market, Ojo, Lagos State. The market is renowned for faking products of all sorts.
According to her, CPC has inaugurated a Joint Task Force for continuous inspecting and monitoring of counterfeited and pirated electrical and electronics products at the market. The task force, she said, comprises officials of the Council, Standards Organisation of Nigeria, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Nigerian Society of Engineers, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, National Environmental Standards and Regulatory Enforcement Agency (NESREA).
According to her, the need for the task force has become very necessary to curb the counterfeiting and piracy of electrical and electronic products in Alaba Market.
She vowed that the Council shall intensify its surveillance and enforcement operations in the market place and step up its consumer education programmes for all categories of Nigerians to stem the tide of counterfeiting in the country.
She enjoined the business community to join forces with the Council and other regulatory agencies in the country to enforce quality standards in the market, stressing: â€œGovernment can not sanitise the market alone. Also, it is an exclusive preserve of manufacturers and importers all over the world to protect their brands from being counterfeited or pirated,â€ she stated.
â€œWe all owe it a duty to protect our country and the environment from waste emanating from electrical and electronics products (e-waste), because when these waste are burnt they emit gas that are hazardous to peopleâ€™s health,â€ said nesrea Director of Inspection and Enforcement, Mrs. Ronke Soyonbo.
Anlaysts say beyond surveillance, the only way we can change consumersâ€™ behaviour is by raising awareness of the hidden costs of fake goods. As in other areas of the economy, without demand, there would be no market to supply. All too often, consumers knowingly buy faked street products, thinking that no harm will come from such venial behaviour. As long as they think they are getting a good deal, the trade in fake goods will continue and it even cost more. So the role of consumer education is paramount. From early years and throughout their adulthood, consumers should become aware that the choices they make every day shape the world especially the economy, for better or for worse.
This is a battle that needs to be fought on two fronts: the supply side and the demand side. Tackling the supply of fake goods requires concerted action in three areas: within the country, at its borders, and in its relations with other countries especially the ECOWA member states.
Within the nation, legislation on the enforcement of intellectual property rights, patent rights etc, has to be beefed up. Further, there is need to develop a joint action plan particularly with the Chinese and other Asian countries customs authorities and other regulatory agencies.