By Kingsley Adegboye
In highly performing economies in the world, the government agencies know their briefs or mandates and keep to them without any attempt to interfere or encroach on other bodies’ statutory responsibilities. By so doing, businesses, industries and commercial activities experience smooth and steady growth. But in Nigeria, the situation is different because of over-lapping of functions among the Federal Government’s Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs.
In Nigeria, government’s regulatory agencies set up to facilitate business are oftentimes at one another’s jugular, thus, making the essence of establishing them counterproductive.
Industry watchers have expressed serious disgust concerning the recent move by one of the Federal Government’s agencies known as the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency, NESREA, trying to take over one major statutory mandate of yet another federal agency, Standards Organisation of Nigeria, SON.
In a recent online advertisement, NESREA appealed to importers to obtain its newly formulated Environmental Clearance permit which according to it, would now replace SONCAP certificate usually administered and issued by SON. The development, according to industry watchers, is nothing but a clear confrontation by NESREA against SON, two sister-agencies of the Federal Government which are expected to work harmoniously in the spirit of inter-agency co-operation.
For NESREA requesting importers to apply for the agency’s permit negates the spirit of Federal Government’s ease of doing business mantra.
According to the online report, the safety of the products are not even given consideration. This is another way to tax consumers and manufacturers.
The NESREA procedure only requires the importers to send the agency’s Material Safety Data Sheet, MSDS, along with application to get a permit. This allows for serious loopholes in the entire system. The MSDS, given by the importer, could have been doctored which would invariably increase the level of unwholesome products in circulation across the country.
Furthermore, there is no value added to what SON and NAFDAC have already tested with their accredited agents and accredited laboratories in Nigeria. The bottom line is to collect money and create a safe haven for unscrupulous importers to falsify the import documentation by dealing with it as NESREA imported goods. To them, NESREA should focus on the huge volume of e-waste that is flooding the Nigerian market.
Countries like Rwanda are strongly against importation of second-hand goods. NESREA should therefore save its energy and direct it to such areas like increasing duplication of roles by MDAs at the nation’s ports, according to observers.
“The question is, what does NESREA want? Is it to make money or what by rudely and unconscionably intruding into the jurisdiction of another agency? NESREA perhaps wants to make revenue for itself given that the advert portrayed its own process or permit as cheaper than SONCAP.
“The beautiful thing about NESREA clearance permit is that the same certificate is used to obtain Form M unlike the SON certification where you are required to get product certificate first and later get SONCAP after getting Form M. Again, no certificate validation required for NESREA. Instead, you go straight, use your permit to apply for Form M and subsequently the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report, PAAR. Take full advantage of NESREA now and reduce costs associated with SON,” the NESREA online advert told importers.
It is so regrettable especially at a time when the Federal Government is focusing more attention on non-oil exports and export promotion drive for certain agencies to be thinking of flooding the country with imports. What is actually wrong with some agencies that are chasing shadows instead of living up to their billings?
Investigation showed that NESREA cannot even do what it is saying it can do in the import business. The agency has no facilities, expertise or skills to conduct due diligence certification and grant permit to prospective importers. It therefore appears fraudulent for NESREA to carry out what it has not been created to do or has no capacity to execute. The ministry or minister in charge of the agency should therefore call NESREA and those at its helm of affairs to order before the Federal Government becomes so highly embarrassed by the latest initiative, an industrialist stated.
According to Mr. Famikade Famiroti, a member of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN, government’s agencies are indeed over-burdening the economy and exploiting operators and businessmen through duplicity, duplication and over-regulation including taxes and fees for their services.
He wondered why NESREA should suddenly wake up and come out with such unwholesome policy when there is already another agency that is fully in charge officially and handling the processes seamlessly.
We gathered that to clear items in the country, importers are required by law to have for every consignment of regulated products, a SON Product Certificate, PC, and SONCAP Certificate, SC, issued by SON’s approved inspection agencies like Intertek, SGS and Contecna. These independent accredited firms are time-tested international technical partners which have the expertise and technical capacities and competence to handle the processes. The SON PC is used to open the Form M while the SC is for raising the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report, PAAR, for clearance of the imported items. Again, both the PC/SC are processed and obtained by exporters in the country of supply of goods following laid down compliance guidelines.
All products imported into the country (Nigeria) are regulated under the SONCAP programme administered by SON which also issues Mandatory Conformity Assessment Programme, MANCAP certificate for all regulated exports. For industry watchers, government regulatory agencies should fast-track the administration’s ease of doing business mantra; they should totally avoid over-regulation which in turn stifles businesses.