By Jimoh Babatunde
In pursuit of the federal government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) with emphasis on agriculture, manufacturing and other sectors, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has stated that the agency would be refocusing and strengthening its support to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) while also introducing initiatives to drive the nation’s agro allied sector to complement the federal government’s effort at making these sectors competitive and attractive globally.
Indeed, the agency stated that a major goal of standardization is to grow MSMEs, including the agro-allied sector so as to ensure industrial and economic development, stating that SON has continued to introduce several initiatives to support the Industrial sector.
The Director General, SON, Osita Aboloma, stated this at a sensitisation forum on SON Act 2015 in Abuja,
“Besides, we have done a lot to deal with product counterfeiters primarily in the interest of manufacturers. SON has been promoting SMEs development across the country. The agency is part and parcel of the federal government’s efforts and initiatives, be it the Presidential Industrial Competitiveness Advisory Council, Presidential Economic Council as well as the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council a.k.a Ease of Doing Business. All these are geared towards rapid industrial/ economic development, “he said.
According to him, the provisions of the SON Act give operators and players ample room to do the right thing in order to promote their businesses and industries for the overall benefit of the nation’s economy.
In his words, “SON is therefore a business facilitator rather than a body out to stifle industrial and business development. Our products need to be acceptable and competitive locally and globally; meaning that they must meet global standards and international best practices. This, among others, is what the SON Act is meant to ensure. Local industries need to survive and enjoy fair competition with imported goods. As a regulator, this is the work of SON. The agency provides enabling environment for businesses to thrive. Let us embrace standards and all its attendant benefits, thereby advancing industrial and economic development as well as the rights of consumers and end users.”
The SON boss represented by the Head of Standards Library Services, SON, Abdullahi Ibrahim, said it is the responsibility of all citizens to be part and parcel of the federal government’s efforts to build a global competitive economy using ERGP template already drawn by the government, in line with the recently launched ERGP focus laboratories initiative by the President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said the aim is to drive investment and job creation, stressing that SON is already on top of the matter by deploying World class laboratories and the Act to sanitise the nation’s market.
“Sub-standard products must be removed completely from our markets while the purveyors are to face severe sanctions if and when caught. We are aligning with the government in its concerted efforts to diversify the economy, with re-invigorated focus on commerce, industry and agriculture. If and when things stabilize in these sectors, there would be massive employment and job creation.
He noted that developing SMEs through standardization and quality assurance remains the task of SON, pointing out that most resource-based manufacturing companies are within the SMEs bracket.
‘We are not relenting on our commitment towards the sustainable growth and development of SMEs across the country. This is the power house to industrialization and economic diversification. We are partnering with Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) to review our Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in view of emerging challenges of doing business in Nigeria. Therefore, the essence of workshops which we organize is to create a platform for mutual and robust exchanges, Public- Private Partnership (PPP), synergizing, and identifying challenges for the benefit of the operators and regulators,” he said.
“This forum on SON ACT 2015 is therefore to provide everyone with the necessary information that would make us appreciate the need to work together as partners and promote standards across the country, rejecting whatever is substandard, not only in products, but also services,” he added.
A council member of MAN, Rasaq Okulaja, in his presentation, said the SON Act 2015 is set out to sanitise the nation’s industrial, commercial, business and market space of substandard products, saying that using the instrumentality of the Act, Nigeria could attain economic development via standardisation, quality assurance and control as well as monitoring and compliance.
He stated that the Act stresses the need for all stakeholders to be involved and carried along in its implementation, which he said, is a clear proof of government and SON’s determination to engage in robust public-private partnership that works. He added that MSMEs form the engine of economic growth of nations, therefore calling on the need for MSMEs to key in properly to existing policies and programmes of the federal government meant to ensure their survival and sustainability.
“MAN is willing to work with SON to ensure standards are kept. Stakeholders must also unite and tackle challenges of consumer sensitisation. Nigerians must appreciate the impact of substandard products on them as consumers, manufacturing, employment and the economy as a whole,” he said.
A principal partner, legal expert Agbonhese Chambers, Dr. James Agbonhese said the provisions of the new Act is 52 sessions and would protect the staff of SON, genuine exporters, importers and manufacturers to make sure their return on investment is secured while also making their products compete globally.
“The Act gives SON the power of police to arrest you, confisticate your goods, investigate your operations, prosecute you and on conviction, the act has provided strict penalties for it to serve as a deterrent who may be involved in such act,” he said.
According to him, the SON Act will drive Industrialisation and economic development while also bringing about massive employment generation for the nation’s teeming unemployed youths
Agbonhese added: “Apart from the offences already recognized under the old Act, the new Act created some other offences and imposed stringent penalties on defaulters. By virtue of section 31(1) of SON Act 2015, both evasion and attempt to evade fees or levies payable or chargeable under the Act is an offence which upon conviction attracts a fine of not less than N1,000 ,000 and/or an imprisonment term of not less than nine (9) months”.
He further stated: “It was with impunity that people flouted the directives of the organization in time past, but that will no longer be tolerated under the new Act because, now, section 31 (2) provides that where a person refuses, neglects or fails to comply with any directive lawfully given by the organization, he commits an offence under the Act, and in addition to the forfeiture of any article or product seized, he is liable on conviction to a fine of not less than N1,000,000 or to imprisonment and in the case of a continuing offence, to a further fine not less than N250,000 for everyday during which the offence continues”
On the revised penalties for offences, he disclosed: “Under the former Act, the penalties imposed for the various offences under the Act ranged from N200 to N100, 000. These penalties were grossly inadequate in serving its deterrence purpose; neither did it constitute enough punishment for the havoc being wrought by substandard goods in Nigerian market”.
Our correspondent reports that participants from the various sectors including manufacturing, import and export, Business Membership Organisation, SMEs, entrepreneurs, legal profession, consumers, sister-agency, among others.