BY UDEME CLEMENT
Dr. John Akanya, is the director-general, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON). In this interview, he speaks on the introduction of off-shore conformity assessment programme (SONCAP) to check the influx of substandard products from abroad and other issues on the industrial sector of the economy.
Last year, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria , (SON) engaged the services of TUV International (Germany) and SGS (France) to assist in checking the influx of substandard imports coming into the country. What is the effect now?
The effect is that we now have a wider scope and areas of coverage with more ISO accredited laboratories available for testing and conformity assessment worldwide to ascertain the quality of incoming products and their conformity to approved and acceptable standards in Nigeria. We have fewer complaints from stakeholders on availability of SON country offices and necessary ISO accredited laboratories worldwide to attend to their needs.
What informed the introduction of on-line products certificate validation by SON and the accessibility of this validated certificate by commercial banks and the customs to protect local manufacturers from unhealthy competition?
The introduction was informed by observed shortcomings in the implementation of the programme particularly efforts by some unscrupulous importers and their agents to forge product and SONCAP Certificates. The accessibility by the key organizations involved in the implementation of the program is to make successful forgery of the certificates impossible.
Is it true that over 70 per cent substandard products in Nigeria are from China?
The volume of trade between Nigeria and China is very large and we have recently initiated and negotiated an agreement with the Chinese Government on certification and surveillance of exports from that country to Nigeria . The agreement will be signed and put into effect shortly as it has been approved by the President.
It entails that all Chinese exports to Nigeria must be certified by the General Administration of Quality, Supervision, Inspection & Quarantine of the Peopleâ€™s Republic of China (AQSIQ) to meet the specifications in the Nigerian Industrial Standards (NIS) and other acceptable standards.
This is in addition to the implementation of the off-shore conformity assessment programme SONCAP which has been in operations for about six years and was recently strengthened with the engagement of two additional programme managers namely Messrs. SGS and TRG to complement the pioneer programme Manager Intertek International Services. These initiative combined, we believe, will substantially reduce the presence of substandard goods in the Nigerian Markets.
What measures are you putting in place to ensure that only certified building materials are used for construction to enhance necessary quality assurance to prevent loss of innocent lives through building collapse?
As a Standards Institute, we have ensured the elaboration of standards for all necessary materials used in building construction and are working with the other agencies of government and the various professional bodies in the built environment on the implementation and enforcement of the standards. We recently shut down some steel manufacturing companies as part of our Quality Assurance program and re-opened them after meeting conditions for conformity with the relevant standards.
There is a unique marking scheme for steel manufacturers in Nigeria for traceability. We have a product registration programme in place for imported products and also undertake market survey activities nationwide to monitor performance in the market place in addition to Consumer complaint. We however use this medium to appeal to Nigerians at large to assist us and all other regulatory agencies with necessary information on suspected substandard goods including building materials being used for buildings under construction.
What should government do to stimulate rapid growth and development in the industrial sector of the economy?
Expand the scope of the campaign of Buy Made-in-Nigeria products being championed by the Federal Ministry of Commerce and Industry by ensuring that all Agencies of Government and Ministries at the Federal, State and Local Government levels patronize certified locally made products as first choice.
This will ensure increased capacity utilisation, job creation and economic growth.Â The efforts of Government in the power sector in particular and other sectors including the current initiatives to promote SMEs should be intensified.