By Prince Osuagwu &Emmanuel Elebeke
No matter how cheap counterfeit devices are sold in the market today, latest developments show that its days of existence in the Nigerian market are counted. Substandard and counterfeit products particularly mobile devices have in recent years become the toast of Nigerian consumers who due to combined elements of poor economy and lack of information patronise them to their own unknowing disadvantage.
But World leading manufacturers of mobile devices, Nokia, last week, rose stoutly to face the challenge of stamping out the menace. Nokia, though world market leader in mobile devices, also has its economy affected somehow by the activities of counterfeiters who churn out fake Nokia products to deceive hapless consumers.
Apparently as a first reaction, the company last week, gathered industry stakeholders in Nigeria, including the country’s chief telecom regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Nigerian customs Service, Consumer Protection Council, CPC and Ministry of Environment among others to discuss perfect strategies to curb the cancerous menace.
At the event which held at the Protea Hotels, Ikeja Lagos, interests recorded from relevant government agencies, media and the general public pointed to the fact that the end is about to come for the ugly menace.
Counterfeit mobile phones for instance are known world over, to exude excess radiation which could at the long run cause prolonged headaches, exploding batteries and electrocution while charging.
Flagging off the roundtable discussion, Head of Care, Nokia West Africa, Silvin Sinan, said that although its devices are most times being faked by these counterfeiters, the fight however was not that of Nokia alone because the menace also greatly affects the aggregate Nigerian economy.
He noted that the programme was part of his company’s commitment to ensuring that the Nigerian mobile device market was rid of substandard and counterfeit products.
For Sinan, the best way to curb the menace of counterfeit devices was to reduce the demand by highlighting the various dangers it poses to Nigeria and its people.
“We have come to realize that why counterfeit devices continue to surge is because of demand even when in actual fact it is not cheap. As long as there is demand there will be supply, so we have to work together to highlight the dangers that these sub-standard devices pose to the health and well-being of Nigerian users. This is basically to get them better informed and eliminate demand for these devices”, He added.
Quoting a recent statistics by a world body, the Nokia boss described Nigeria as the highest counterfeiting country in the world, saying that the illicit act thrives in Nigeria because of the absence of enabling laws and collaboration among stakeholders to stem the tide. Though, almost every product in the market is counterfeited, mobile devices and Nokia in particular appear to be the hardest hit, due to their high demand in the market.
Showing her own concern, the Director General, Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Mrs Ify Umenyi said that the agency has initiated several interventionist programmes as well as establishing Joint Task Force in conjunction with Standards Organization of Nigeria, and other agencies to curb the continued influx of the counterfeited phones, into the Nigerian market
Umenyi who lamented the rating of Nigeria as a dumping ground for sub standard products from other countries, identified ignorance poverty as the major constraint mitigating against the previous efforts to curb counterfeiting in the country, adding that the problem was compounded by the lack of zeal on the side of the producers to partner with regulators in educating the consumers.
Also lamenting where the menace affected her ministry, an Assistant Director at the Federal Ministry of Environment, Mrs Oluwatoyin Agbenla, described counterfeit devices as threat to the people and their environment.
According to her, old counterfeit electrical and electronic devices such as mobile phones can pose real threat to human lives when they are not properly disposed of or recycled. She warned against burning used mobile devices especially the counterfeited ones or indiscriminately disposing them as they can release toxins, including carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon gases amongst other harmful gases into the air and water. She added that these could have greenhouse effects such as acid-rain on the people.
In his own remarks, the Head media and Public Relations, Nigeria Communications Commission, NCC, Mr. Reuben Muoka commended Nokia for taking the bold initiative in organizing the event and pledged the readiness of the Commission to support any initiative that can stamp out counterfeiting in the country.
That was as Group Head of Electrical and Electronics, Standard Organization of Nigeria, Engr. Adewumi Richard, said counterfeiting is a trade issue between the manufacturer and the traders, and called on Nokia and other manufacturers of electronic devices to set up their plants in Nigeria to enable them start manufacturing in Nigeria, so as to beat the counterfeiters in their game.
According to him, the prevalence of counterfeiting in Nigeria does not signal lack of efficiency on the side of government agencies but because of the greedy attitude of the makers and importers.