By Jimoh Babatunde
LAGOS—Many were speechless and others moved to tears, weekend, when they were conducted round a warehouse in Satellite Town, Lagos, that was filled with sub-standard tyres imported into the country by some Chinese nationals.
The tyres, described by Standard Organisation of Nigeria, SON, as the largest seizure of substandard tyres in one swoop in the history of Nigeria, is about two million and worth over N5 billion.
Director-General and Chief Executive, of SON, Osita Aboloma, who conducted journalists round the warehouse, described the tyres as dead on arrival, adding that allowing them to enter the market amounted to surreptitiously taking away the lives of millions of Nigerians.
The two Chinese nationals, Taolung Shen and Xu Jing Yau, arrested in connection with the fake tyres, are now telling the police all they know about the issue.
The two were paraded before newsmen, following their arrest, and the sealing of the warehouse where they had been cloning different sizes of tyres under such brand names as Powertrac, Aptany, Harmony, Duraturn, Bearway, City Tour, Winda, Glory, Chachland, City Grand, Grandsonte (Tyre Type) and Sunny (for tricycle), among others.
Aboloma said the Chinese importers were busted through inter-agency collaboration and intelligence received from “well meaning Nigerians.”
According to him, “we acted on the intelligence we received from well-meaning Nigerians. This was achieved as a result of inter-agency collaboration. The glory is not for SON alone. You can see the number of tyres brought in and you can imagine the implication for our society if these tyres are let into the market.
“We have over 60 containers of tyres; actually stuffed tyres to be precise. Again, even if these are to be standard tyres, the fact that up to five of them were tucked into one, with operators using rods to separate them from one another when they reached Nigeria, the tyres will naturally become substandard.
“This is because in the course of separating them, the wires and geometrics of the tyres will be affected.”
He said stuffing tyres through the long sea journey from China to Lagos had already compromised the quality, not to talk of the crude way the tyres were separated on arrival in Nigeria and the poor storage facility, without sufficient aeration in the warehouse.
It was observed that the Chinese adorned the tyres with new labels and shiny linings to create the impression that they were new.
Aboloma added: “SON Directorate of Compliance intercepted one of their trucks on the highway, tracked it and then this. You can see the amount of danger that these people are posing to our people and our economy just because they want to make huge profit at the expense of the lives of Nigerians.”
He said on getting to the premises, they also uncovered other illicit activities including re-labelling, high level of stuffing of several tyres into one, tampering with expiry dates and stacking the tyres in very bad conditions.
He said: “It is a clear case of investing millions in illicit business to destroy the lives of millions of Nigerians. If we should allow something like this, it will amount to killing Nigerians.”
He showed tyres in stock at the warehouse postdated January as date of manufacture, adding “because we have sensitised the public that while buying tyres, they should look out for the manufacturing date, these people postdated their tyres to reflect manufacturing date to be first week of January 2017.
“However, the tyres berthed on Nigerian soil first week of February 2017. So, are they saying it took them only four weeks to bring the tyres from China to Nigeria across the sea?”
Aboloma thanked SON Directorate of Compliance for discovering the warehouse and other meaningful Nigerians for volunteering information to the agency, saying that those arrested in connection with the latest deal would be tried in line with the new SON Act and if found guilty, prosecuted.
Aboloma advised users of automobile tyres nationwide on the need to be extra cautious when making purchases of such products.