By Joe Anatune
The Director General, Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), Dr. Joseph Ikem Odumodu, entered his second year in February 2012 and started talking something quite different from his administration’s Six-point Agenda: a National Quality Policy which he said is vital and urgent for Nigeria to take solid stand on global trade.
In his estimation, it is policy that sets the template for officials, players and fans; in this case the regulators, standards accreditation bodies, facilities and skills for effective standards regime and ultimately, the consumers.
In order words, the national quality policy will give the scope and set the boundaries for the regulators, stakeholders, products and services that businesses and society get in the final analysis in terms of quality predicated on management systems, operating environment and human resources development as well the institutions that drive best standard practices and growth.
Essentially, a National Quality Policy is an official national document adopted in agreement with the public and private sector operators and which sets objectives on quality and technical regulations.
Lack of National Quality Policy means everyone acting according to the whims which has been the bane of the Nigerian society by and large and suspected to be responsible for the poor state of business performance and National Quality Infrastructure, weak regulations and imbalanced international trade relations currently dogging the nation. In fact, a National Quality Policy is vital to good governance because it is the foundation of quality of life of citizens.
The Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment through the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) set to work on the processes to establishing a National Quality Policy and to this end, on September 26, 2013, the National Steering Committee to formulate the National Quality Policy was inaugurated in Abuja; basically as an inter-ministerial committee to streamline regulatory frameworks and design infrastructure development models for the nation’s quality concept & practices that would form the basis of standards in both the public and private sectors.
The broad-based inter-ministerial committee, headed by Industry, Trade and Investment Minister, Dr. Olusegun Aganga and having the SON DG, Dr. Odumodu as the secretary was to review and harmonize existing quality policies in Nigeria and prepare Draft National Quality Policy that would be acceptable to the stakeholders in readiness for legislation and due implementation as the policy working document.
The NQP aims to help define the objective principles and results to be achieved, as well the necessary resources to be mobilized in the field of quality. An important outcome is that the NQP will facilitate the establishment of functional National Quality Infrastructure (NQI) and thereby catalyzing Nigeria’s entry into international trade in line with global best practices – hence enabling competitiveness of locally made products at the world market.
At this juncture, we commend the European Union (EU), and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), for joining hands with Nigeria to deliver the project. Special appreciation must also go to the Honorable Minister, Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Aganga and the SON DG Dr Odumodu who particularly must have feared privately that the project could misfire if the committee members did not redouble their efforts.
To forestall this, Odumodu caused SON to commit huge financial and human resources as the technical committee was largely drawn from SON experienced staff. With the EU support and UNIDO facilitation, the NSC comprising representatives of both the private and public sectors got marching orders from the minister on the following terms: To review and harmonise existing Quality policies in Nigeria
To prepare a Draft National Quality Policy that is acceptable to all stakeholders, and To support the approval and implementation of the National Quality policy. The committee was grouped into seven units with members from both the public and private sectors bearing on each member’s area of specialization and comparative advantage towards facilitating their work.
In addition, technical officers were drawn from SON to serve in the sub-committees as follows: Standards, Metrology, Accreditation, Conformity Assessment/Test laboratory, Communication, National technical Regulation and Budget and planning.
It is heartwarming that the Draft National Quality Policy has been produced and presented to Dr. Aganga with implementation schedule built into it so that it is not abstract but tangible with deliverable values and measureable parameters. The draft document was the result of consultations and inputs from stakeholders across the geopolitical zones.
However, a national quality policy does not exist in isolation. An NQP needs to integrate with the regional, continental and global standards. To this extent, the coming National Quality Policy of Nigeria needs integrate the West African Industrial Policy (WAPIC) which main objectives are “to maintain a solid industrial structure which is globally competitive, environment friendly and capable of significantly improving the living standards of the people.”
Again, the thrust: Manufacturing industries contribution to regional GDP from 7% to 20%; intra community trade from 12% to 40%, and export of ECOWAS manufactured goods to the global market from 0.1% to 1%. The draft policy also stressed the driving forces behind it: the desire to efficiently and effectively manage regulatory responsibilities to achieve the primary mandates of protecting the society and environment;
the need for stakeholders to deal with a transparent and reliable state regulatory system without having to battle with bureaucratic vagaries, and the need for stakeholders to give industries supportive standards, metrology, accreditation and conformity assessment schemes that are affordable and accepted globally.
And the question follows: Now that Nigeria has a draft National Quality Policy, where do we go from here or, now that we have gotten to the bridge that separated us from quality system societies, are we to move with dispatch or tarry awhile before we launch out with renewed courage?