By Udeme Clement
Mr. Adebayo Adegun, is the Head of Enforcement department, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), he speaks in this interview with Sunday Business on how the agency achieved 90 per cent success in curtailing influx of fake and sub-standard products into the country.
The battle by your agency to curtail influx of fake and substandard goods in the country has been on-going, what is the situation right now?
If we want to give the percentage in terms of the level of success SON has achieved in this regard it would be 90 per cent. In 2010 alone, the agency destroyed over N500million sub-standard products seized at different locations in the country. The agency is effectively on ground and its enforcement unit is well equipped and strengthened to carry out the task adequately. Also, the team is trained to identify products that are substandard at the spot and to act immediately. The officers of SON are now at the borders and other strategic locations across the country.
For instance, in October 2010 alone SON destroyed substandard goods included motorcycle safety helmets, PVC cables, tomato paste, margarine and television sets estimated at over w N100milion, at the dump site in Sagamu, Ogun State. It further demonstrated that the rage against fake and substandard products in Nigeria is total. We advise importers to comply fully with the requirements of Standards Organisation of Nigeria Conformity Assessment Programme (SONCAP) to avoid taking grave risks.
In that case, why do we still have sub-standard products in the market?
The officials of SON are only positioned at approved and authorised locations. But sometimes these sub-standard goods are smuggled into the country through the bush path and also at night. The public should also realise that the only way through which we would achieve 100 percent success in eliminating substandard goods is for people not to patronise bad products.
What is the latest development on the forgery of SONCAP certificate, which your agency said offenders must be brought to book?
The case is still in court. At present, SON has commissioned a website where all service providers could log in for SONCAP documents and certificate issued are registered on this platform.
The directive from the Federal Ministry of Petroleum on illegal base oil trading states that your agency should work hand in hand with the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to stamp out illegal base oil business in the market, what mechanism have you put in place to actualise this?
Our major responsibility is to standardise products to ensure that quality products with value for money are manufactured in the country. We set standards to make such that imported products coming into our economic environment also meet the required standard for consumption. Lubricant is not an exemption in this regard. Already, we have standards for lubricants. These standards are available to all manufacturers and importers alike.
We have offices in almost all the regions across the country. The agency is closer now to the manufacturers than ever before. The officers in various offices move round on regular basis to visit manufacturers including lubricant producers. The initiative is to see how the manufacturers carry out their production processes and control the quality of their products. At the end of every inspection, samples of the products are also taken to the laboratory for test to confirm the compliance of their products to all specified standards.
And any company found short of expectation in terms of meeting the standard is given a serious warning, after which a corrective action is taken to put things right. If this is not done within a given period, then the company would be compelled so suspend production entirely, until compliance to specified standard is strictly adhered to.
Suspension of production is severe sanction and SON gives this sanction to curtail manufacturing and importation of sub-standard products into the country.
Also, it is important to not that in production the manufacturers would never have it 100 per cent. So, that is why we have production control, process control and other control measures to meet acceptable standards. But, in spite of this, there are some manufacturers who may be reluctant to carry out the process control, may be due to cost implication or whatever. And if the process is not controlled, the products might be affected at the end of the day. So, we give them time to ensure process control. Sometimes we give a month or two months, depending on the criticality of observation.
With the sanitisation programme on ground now, are you going to set new standards for lubricant and how do you intend to monitor compliance?
What the agency would do in this case is enforcement. What you see being sold on the road side is base oil and not lubricant. It is mixed with other chemicals that are not good for motor engines. Aside from strict enforcement, people may have to be prosecuted. Another thing is that we should be able to meet up with the expectations of the new engines we have now in the country.
Are you working in synergy with other agencies of government to enforce compliance?
SON is not working in isolation. There is collaborative effort between SON and other agencies and this synergy helps in enforcing standard in the industry. For instance, we make use of laboratory facilities belonging to sister agencies when samples of products are taken from various manufacturers for test. Sometimes we make use of private facilities when occasion demands.
Also, look at NAFDAC for example. The agency could record seizures of sub-standard goods and make reference to SON. We exchange useful information to ensure that compliance with specified standards is effectively monitored. So, in essence, the synergy has been existing and is very efficient. Even the standards we create for products, the sister agencies are part of it, because such agencies are involved in the technical committee producing the standards.