By Nosike Ogbuenyi
APPROXIMATELY a year ago, Barrister Osita Aboloma assumed the mantle of leadership as the Director-General of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria,SON. And for the quality safeguarding agency of the nation, it has been a year defined by remarkable strides, change and landmarks. It therefore becomes appropriate to take stock of the lofty programmes, vision and achievements of the strategic regulatory organisation within the period.
Candidly, the SON has been successfully repositioned by Aboloma culminating in significant re-invigoration of the war on fake and sub-standard products for better results.
The SON is the federal government’s agency vested with the onerous responsibility of standardising and regulating the quality of all products in Nigeria for the strict enforcement of powers of seizure, confiscation and destruction of sub-standard products, including powers to seal off premises where such defective products are manufactured, stored or sold. Severe penalties for offending manufacturers, importers and sellers of sub-standard or fake products are provided for in the amended SON Act No 14 of 2015 which repealed and overrides all other previous enactments.
THE SON has been profoundly motivated under the leadership of Barrister Aboloma to frontally confront architects of sub-standard products with a solemn vow to make business miserable for them. Also, the organisation has set for itself the goal to provide Nigerian industries with up-to-date information on standardisation and its benefits and to encourage participation of the Organised Private Sector, OPS, in the standardisation and review to ensure improved competitiveness of Nigerian goods at home and abroad by encouraging quality assurance practices.
In addition, the organisation now provides information, enlightenment, advice and assistance to industries to match the required competitiveness in global trade and to motivate the workforce through steady investment in human resource development for acquisition of skills in line with latest technological advancements.
The commitment and steam of the SON team have been markedly boosted under the new leadership thereby making it to affirm its prime place as a tough and uncompromising standards enforcement organisation.
A robust atmosphere of discipline, motivation and dedication by all cadres of staff in the organisation has been established by the new leadership. The SON’s astuteness in sifting and analysing the labyrinth of products within the country and from abroad, while getting the companies and organisations to comply with the rules and regulations, is commendable.
Operating under the change administration of President Muhammadu Buhari which is fighting corruption and quackery, the SON has achieved a lot in the present dispensation especially with regard to disarming many violators of set standards.
Through the unprecedented passing of its amended Act by the National Assembly in 2015, the SON has now acquired new powers not only to arrest, prosecute and jail purveyors of fake and sub-standard products across the country, but prevent importers of such products into the country. With this upgraded status, the war against fake and sub-standard products has gained additional impetus.
In view of the danger the criminal activities of those dealing in sub-standard and counterfeit products poses to the lives and wellbeing of Nigerians, the SON has deployed modern electronic platforms to tackle the menace. The platforms include the Mandatory Conformity Assessment Programme, MANCAP, for locally manufactured products; the off-shore Conformity Assessment Programme, SONCAP, for certification of imported products from source; Product Registration for documentation and traceability of all products in the market and library services for access to relevant standards for local production, import and export with ease, among others.
Determined to provide guidance on how businesses and organisations can operate in a socially responsible way and leveraging on Nigeria’s membership of the International Standards Organisation, ISO, the SON has launched the ISO 26000. The ISO 26000 is Guidance Standard on Social Responsibility.
One unique quality of the current leadership of the SON under Aboloma is its belief in synergy and mutual collaboration in pursuit of the Federal Government’s objective of sound service delivery and good governance. A lot has been achieved through inter agency collaboration between the SON and the Nigeria Customs, the Nigerian Ports Authority and the NAFDAC among others. For instance, a recent collaboration between SON and the Nigeria Customs led to the seizure of a 20 feet container loaded with sub-standard armoured cables worth over N300m. Such collaborative efforts are really in the best interest of the consumers and the nation at large.
Apart from the Customs, the SON is also partnering with others like the Police. Now even, the market people are forming market associations to collaborate with SON towards ensuring that our markets are rid of sub-standard and fake products.
The SON’s ultimate goal is to guarantee the safety of Nigerians and ensure that they get value for money. It is also committed to the improvement of foreign exchange earnings for Nigerians through the export of standardised and certified local products.
In one year under Aboloma’s stewardship, the SON has recorded the seizure of billions of Naira worth of sub-standard tyres, cables, iron rods, telephone handsets, gas cylinders, fabrics, footwears, assorted building materials etc. Nigerians and foreign nationals involved in importation or production of the products had been variously fined, arrested and handed over to relevant law enforcement agencies for prosecution. The organisation has also sealed off several shops, seized and destroyed lots of sub-standard products in various parts of the country.
An example is the seizure of about N2billion worth of expired household products in a three-storey building in Lagos. The goods were being clandestinely sold to supermarkets and open markets as wholesome products within the city and other parts of the country.
Another instance was the arrest of two Pakistani citizens and importers of consumables by the organisation’s eagle-eyed enforcement team while changing manufacturing and best before dates of expired imported fruit juice at a warehouse in Lagos.
In a bid to ensure that offenders are severely punished for infringing on the laws of the land, the organisation has imposed a fine of N1million or life imprisonment on offenders.
The prompt arrest and diligent prosecution of offenders clearly demonstrates that it’s no longer business as usual for purveyors of substandard products in the country.
UNDER the present administration, the SON has worked relentlessly to make positive marks in the war against fake and substandard products. The efforts have paid off handsomely with the evident reduction in the rate of production of substandard goods in Nigeria. With such sure-footedness and solid achievements within a year, the SON under the leadership of Aboloma is set to post more impressive strides in the execution of its mandate.
NOSIKE OGBUENYI, an Abuja based public affairs commentator,