By JIMOH BABATUNDE
Dr. Paul Angya, the acting Director-General of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), in this interview says building collapse in Nigeria has more to do with dishonest construction personnel and business that are willing to cut corners by reducing materials, and he is ready to let you know that 90% of the Nigerian products meet Industrial Standards.
He says the fight against substandard products is a fight for all and that the agency is educate Nigerians in demanding and getting the standard products.
Here is an excerpt
How has it been getting people do the right thing in terms of standards?
One of the major challenges in this direction is getting the people to psychologically key in into the quality policy of Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and for Nigerians to demand for standards and quality products as well as services.
The basic Nigerian mentality is still there , it is a psychological thing getting the people to do what is beneficial to them , that is the major challenge we have in terms of delivering on our mandates.
Otherwise, there is availability of standards on almost every issue in Nigeria. We have actually step up our standards elaboration processes and we are able to deliver standards to the people on relevant products within the shortest time .
But, we are required to dwell more on enforcement in Nigeria, because of the mentality of the people they do not willingly embrace issues of standards and quality requirements and so we are challenged in terms of personal and resources to enforce the compliance to standards , both in the public and private sectors as well as to get the people to buy into the quality issues by changing their mentality to that of expecting, demanding and receiving only products that conform to quality .
On the next level in the fight against substandard goods
We can’t talk about next level until Nigerians appreciate the benefits of standardization , appreciate the nexus between standards and quality delivery. It will continue to be a challenge in terms of enforcement, until Nigerians come to expect it as normal that we are entitle to a good way, that we are entitled to quality products, we are not second hand citizens of the world.
So the next level is really education. That is the next level, because really speaking there will never be a time in Nigeria’s history when you will be able to enforce quality issues , quality conferment 100% .
You can never have enough personnel, you can never have enough resources, so you can never come to that position , but the position you can come to and which you can reasonably say today Nigeria is predominantly populated with quality products and services is when the people mentally come to that stage when they expect, demand and receive only quality products.
The key we are taking into the new millennium and going forward is standards education. So, it is our projects, it is our initiative.
We are pushing forward to introduce standardization and quality assurance concept to people at the earliest stage and we are taking it to the schools , so our long term target is to have standardization and quality issues introduced into school curriculum where children are taught standards and quality issues at early stage up to secondary and university level.
Some will also have degress in it. As I speak to you now, there is no formal education in standardization. What people go to study in school is to do geography, chemistry, physics and so on and you get employed in standard board and over the course of your work, you begin to understand the concept of standardization, because standardization is about everything in life.
It is not about the material products , it is even about the services . the journalism code is a standard in itself and these are issues for us to make that standard, we need journalists, we need newspapers’ readers , we need editors and everybody to seat together with the standard boards to make those standards.
So, standardization is not taught in the formal sense, so all of us who are experts in standardization learnt it on the job . but we are few in number and that is why it has been difficult to impact the whole Nigeria community .
Perhaps, the next level is to take it to the younger generation , when they understand it, it gets into their consciousness and they will grow up with that assumption that we are a people that are entitled to this and they will demand and receive it .
If you educate one child, you probably educate a lot of people. So our next stage or going forward is about education.
On his visits to states
It is really about furthering our strategy of sensitization and information dissemination. That is what we have been doing for a long time, sensitization, information and partnering.
Those are strategies we are using currently to try and build the concept of standards and quality in the people, because the governors are closer to the people and we have decided to expand our information network in the state to reach the grass roots.
That is why we are going to the states and in getting the states to buy into our visions, automatically the state governments are coming on board. In fact, the receptions in Nassarawa, Benue, Enugu states were overwhelming.
We have state governors who are inviting us now to bring our campaign to their states. Again, we have already keyed into the government’s policy of economic diversification, looking at the non-oil exports.
ON local and imported products meeting standards
In Nigeria more than 90% of legitimate manufacturers are complying. They are under our scrutiny 24 hours, we inspect registered factories to inspect their production processes, and we test their products. Both production processes is where you have the International Organisation for Standards (ISO) certification, management system certification, to certify that your procedures are conforming to standards and if they are doing that, it is expected that the products will meet the standards.
And when they are manufacturing, the products are tested against Nigeria standards upon which they are then given the Mandatory Confirmatory Assessment Program (MANCAP). I can tell you that 90% of the Nigerian products meet the Nigerian Industrial Standards.
Of course, in any system, you have cheats. Those we call free loaders in law. Those who operate outside the formal sector, those you cannot really see, and you cannot regulate them because they are operating outside the system.
Some do so for reason of economy, some for dubious reason, but some think they may do better if they are outside the system. So, those are the criminals.
But substantially, made in Nigeria products are good and I can tell you they always come with the Nigerian industrial mark. If you find any product in Nigeria without the NIS mark, so it is not made legitimately, because as soon as a factory goes into production, even if you don’t come to us, we have our officers go out to take inventory or survey of factories, industries and immediately begin to interact with them.
Our purpose is to advice, to assist, to grow industries and not to diminish production, so when we go to factories; we are not going there to shut down factories. If you are not doing it the right way, we teach you how to do it the way, we teach you how to improve.
It is only when we know that as a deliberate policy that the manufacturer wants to cut corners and deliver sub-standards to Nigerians that sometimes are dangerous to health that is when we forcefully stop the manufacturer.
We give room for growth in industries as Rome was not built in a day and we guild and teach them as well as train them to build capacity.
For products made in Nigeria, even if they are beginners, you probably have problems with packaging and labelling, but in terms of quality, you cannot fault products produced by legitimately registered companies in Nigeria.
On standard for building sector to avert collapses
It is proven expert opinion that building collapse in Nigeria is 100% responsibility of personnel. It has nothing to do with materials.
I am not saying that buildings materials in Nigeria or elsewhere are 100% perfect and compliance, but I am saying if you have qualified personnel on ground for the project, for example, if you have an architect gives you a standard design, because a building can collapse from the design concept.
If the design concept is faulty, and you don’t put pillars where they are supposed to be and you put a five story structure on a foundation that is meant for a bungalow, it is bound to go.
After the architect has designed, the project manager or builder must have enough knowledge and also conscious to apply the right material to the project. So, if you have qualified personnel, who are also responsible on the site, then you can’t have a building collapse, because he will not use sub-standard materials.
First he will recognize, identify materials that do not comply with standards and secondly, he will not use them on the project, so the building will not collapse.
So, building collapse has something to do with personnel rather than materials, but coming to materials, yes, buildings are aggregation of different materials and then personnel, so you are talking about sand, you need cement, and you need water.
Even the kind of water you are using to mix the cement is important,, for example using water with alkaline or salt water to mix cement and sand, it will not bind as salt will act on the cement to take away its elastic quality.
Then go to the iron rods and then the bricks, the quality of the bricks you are using and the concrete mix itself, what proposition of cement and sand are you mixing , so all this aggregates into the structure. Even if the soil type you are putting the building needs to be tested as well as Environmental Impact Assessment test needs to be carried out for you to know that this soil type can carry this type of structure or foundation.
These are some issues put together, but I tell you as a responsible agency and under my watch we have engaged with traders dealing in building materials, we have engaged with them even before the building went down in Lekki.
We have met with those in the steel sector, even before the building went down; we have met those in the cement sub sector as to making sure that the quality of cement produced is responsibly good for use.
We even defined the use of different types of cement, if people now know the usage for 42.5, 32. 5 and 52.5 brands of cements and that not all type of cement are used for all kind of construction, it will go a long way in combating some of these collapses.
Some cements are used for making blocks, some for building bridges and some for plastering. So, if you carry cement for plastering to build our normal bungalow no problem, but if you apply it for building skyscraper then you have problem, because that cement is not meant for foundation or casting pillars.
So in our engagement with cements stakeholders, we have educated and told them the standard and they are collaborating. The steel sector too, we met them to let them know they must give the current line sizes of iron, if it is12mm, it must be and if 10mm, it must be 10. If 14, it must be and the standard length must be 18 for all rods.
We have given all those standards and we are enforcing them , so basically, I can tell you that the last building collapse, we sent our team, civil, mechanical engineers and building technologists who went to the site to pick samples from the site and we conducted test, most of the materials on site have above average rating .
The test result is actually out and once I get approval, I will make it public. So, in most cases there are people dealing with substandard products, but for people dealing with major projects in Nigeria of that standard, they need to know and they ought not to complain of substandard products as they need to know the quality.
Ultimately, Nigeria law now requires that any procurement of materials of large quantity should referral the Nigerian standards on those products.
So, for a building engineer, an architect or a builder doing a multi naira project what stops them from making enquiries even on the phone to ask for the acceptable standards.
We will tell you buy products with NIS marks and then you cannot have a case of failure attributable to the quality and the standards of the building materials. I can assure you, so building collapse has to do with dishonest construction personnel and business that are willing as a matter of deliberate policy goes out to cut corners by reducing materials and qualities, so that they can make undue profit. That is where the fight lies.