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SON Act: Enhancing quality, harnessing opportunities

While the Federal Govern-ment confronts political problems created by civil strife in the North-East, the North- West and most recently, the South-South (Niger-Delta), there is a serious necessity to take up the menace of fake products which are commonly being dumped on the public. The Nigerian consumers need serious protection from this dangerous trend, so also is the manufacturing sector.

Why SON?
To the public especially the consumers, the manufacturers as well as the government, as the regulator, a vehicle for policing all manufactured goods whether within Nigeria or outside, are a necessity. This is why SON came into being. The enabling statute, Standard Organisation of Nigeria Act 2015 created the SON. This Act repealed and replaced the SON Act Cap. 59 of 2004. This statute states as follows:
Section 1 “Thus “the Organisation” shall be a legal person with all the powers to sue and be sued, to acquire, hold or dispose of any property etc. The general powers of establishment, constitution of the Council (Section 3) etcetera deal extensively with the governance structure.
This is the locus of the SON to deal with or be dealt with. A cursory look at Part I interestingly shows the SON as a truly representative body, with nominees from diverse background in the Public Service (the Ministry) and Educational Institutions (the University & the Research Institutes), the Chambers of Commerce, Industry & Mines (Private Section), Engineering (Consultancies), the manufacturing, the Construction, Employers’ Association and most importantly, the consumers. The only reservation herein is the ultimate power granted to the Minister to solely appoint the members of SON’s governing council. This is not too democratic.
Before I proceed into the functions of SON, I hereby seek to address the audience on what constitutes “Quality” products. Quality is defined in Blacks’ Law Dictionary 8th Edition as “the particular character or properties of a person, thing, or act, often essential for a particular result.” or “the character or degree of excellence of a person or substance, especially in comparison with others.” This definition captures the intent of the FGN as a holistic interest in obtaining excellent products for the people of Nigeria. This is not a compromise but a mandatory duty imposed on what Nigerians can buy or use in their day-to-day activities. SON is the torch-bearer of this excellence.
The function of the SON is explicitly covered under Part II – the combination of the Functions of the SON with the Duties under the same Act is germane. This is in correlation with the function of the Council (the Board) which is the governing authority.
For purposes of uniformity of standards in Nigeria, all Regulatory Agencies or Organisations dealing with matters pertaining to or related to standards shall do so in collaboration with the Standard Organisation of Nigeria.
The Organisation shall undertake such research as may be necessary for the performance of its functions under this Act and, for that purpose, it shall have power to make use of research facilities available in other institutions, whether public or private upon such terms and conditions as may be agreed upon between the Organisation and the institution concerned.”
The functions cover a plethora of responsibilities like testing of products, investigation of quality, certification, verification, checking of weights and measures on international standard system, standardisation generally, laboratories, information to both public and private sundries, inventories, surveillance on products, penal duties, regulation and registration, issuance of marks etc., publication of data, advisory services to the Federal, State and Local governments, training and accreditation in line with international organisations, coordination of all activities within and with international organisations in such fields and administer the Act.
The functions of the SON create a powerful organisation for a comprehensive management of standards in the products to be sold or to be consumed by both the public and private sectors and individuals. A good management therefore is needed to execute these functions.
The people of Nigeria have been inundated with the fact that the sole problem of the nation is leadership. This may be translated to managerial abilities of the functionaries of the federal, state and local governments. The same goes for corporations established by statutes e.g. SON.
To enhance quality of the products to be consumed by all, SON must live up to the reason for its creation; execute its mandate under the statute and in doing this, it is necessary to deploy fit and proper persons into the organisation.
Part IV on staffing. I am of the opinion that Sections 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 need a strict adherence by the appointing authority. The Minister must not allow political exigencies to influence him. So far, I am happy that capable men have been appointed as the DG and Executive Directors, in fact, most of them, Professors and Academics from Engineering, Sciences and Research Institutions, are supported by able lieutenants.
Section 9 allows the DG to “Freely manage the organisation in accordance with the Act.” This is a noble provision. He cannot be hindered by the Council” in the methods or with the manner in which he employs the material and human resources of the Organisation in order to obtain results…” a novel provision which I hereby recommend to all other agencies/organisations.
To effectively allow this provision to work is to enhance quality of service delivery by SON. This will go a long way to resurrect the comatose offices and laboratories scattered throughout Nigeria.
Financial aspect
To harness the opportunities that this Act has provided, the SON has been given largesse in terms of provision of funds, at least on paper! Part V deals extensively with sourcing for funds. This is not limited to government’s budgetary provisions that hitherto sabotage good intention by the Organisation.
Apart from appropriation by the National Assembly under Section 16, the SON has provisions under Section 15(2) and these include fees and penalties charged for services by the Organisation, gifts, endowment, and contributions by persons or organisations, foreign aid/assistance, and subventions and allocations from the FGN.
I submit that by the foregoing, the time is ripe for the SON to reach to the sky. However, I plead for a just regime in the management of accrued funds. We all must harness quality services by shunning graft and corruption. Funds made must be justly used to enhance productivity and welfare of both the SON and her staff. The opportunities made open to the Organisation to source funds from the Federal Government and even from abroad are geared solely to harness external opportunities for a result-oriented organisation.
This is the time to open offices in at least the 6,600 political regions of Nigeria and Abuja while establishing internationally approved laboratories and research centres in many states of the federation. The parts and border post needs this domain.
The efficiency of any organisation depends on the way and manner that funds at its disposal are used. Section 16 creates a fundamental shift from the past. The SON now has the power to undertake all the functions of the Organisation. See Section 16 generally.
Conclusion
I believe that this statute, SON Act 2015 if well-managed and enforced by all and sundry, Nigeria shall be rid of defective, fake, hazardous and inhumane products. What I believe is a concerted efforts by all and sundry to implement the extant provisions of this Act.

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