By Kennedy Dimaku
Standard Organization of Nigeria, SON is an agency of the government saddled with the task to improve the quality of lives of Nigerian citizens. This it does by guiding against people doing business that harm others. Established in 1971, it is responsible to protect Nigerian consumers from paddlers of unsafe and fake products through setting of Standards and Specifications as well as quality assurance system of commodities. But the agency over the years appeared to have gone into oblivion notwithstanding many Director Generals that have manned its affairs at different point in time without any positive change in reducing the circulation and paddling of fake and substandard products which have claimed many lives of Nigerian citizens.
These substandard products are not only manufactured within the shores of this country but the bulk of them are import from countries like China, Indonesia and others, making Nigeria a dumping ground for products which are not allowed to be used even in their countries of origin. Like the pre National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC era where a headache, for instance, which would have ordinarily been taken care of by a dose of analgesic, killed millions of people courtesy of fake and substandard drugs. The pioneer Director General, Dr Dora Akuyili gave those fake drug paddlers unprecedented chase which almost cost her life. Her successor, Dr Paul Orhii is today taking the fight to another level. There has been appreciable turnaround, sanity and transformation in the sector vis a vie the mechanism that has been put in place to checkmate the then ugly trend of merchandize of death.
In 2001, before Dr Joseph Ikem Odumodu became the DG of SON, the level of substandard goods and services in circulation in the country was above 80 percent which was the worse in the world. These substandard products are pervasive in every nooks and crannies of the Nigerian market. There are fake in electronics and electrical appliances, auto parts including tyres, lubricants and fuel; building materials including blocks, cements and rods; ICT both soft ware and hard wares. These substandard products criss-cross every sphere of human life.
There have been two divergent views on the peddlers of these unhealthy products. Whereas the proponents would exonerate traders and importers for been ignorant of the fake products they buy and sell, they blame it on the pores borders and picking on the customs and all the agencies that are responsibility for protecting the borders of entrance of such unwanted goods and services. Perhaps, this explains why traders could boldly exonerate themselves whenever they are confronted by buyers on the authenticity of their products they sell. They would always shamelessly reply, “That is how I bought it and that is how I am going to sell it. I am not the manufacturer.” With this they claim it is difficult to identify these substandard products from the importers or exporting countries.
But the proponents on the other hand have always carpeted traders for collaborating with the manufacturers and business counterparts abroad to reduce the quality of inputs and increase the quantity of production. This cutting corner is to enable them make unimaginable profit at the expense of the unsuspecting buyers.
Since the assumption of Dr Joseph Ikem Odumodu, as DG SON, series of sensitization workshops educating traders on the imperatives to shun fake and substandard products have been on going across the states of the federation. Initially, not little attention was given to this campaign when it was first kick started in Lagos State not until the organization complement the effort with subsequent public destruction of these unsafe products.
Recently in Ogun State where substandard products worth over N300 billion were destroyed, Odumodu noted that he was not interested in the destruction of these unhealthy products considering the fact that they are Nigerian money that are wasted, but aim at stopping the products from finding their ways into the country.
Also, in Abuja sensitization workshop titled, “Save Nigeria: Shun Substandard Goods”, the Director General told traders that SON has awakened to its mandate of guaranteeing goods and services and improve the quality of life of the people. He noted that the organization is training and retraining its workforce and refurbishing the old and building new laboratories as well as redoubling market surveillance and enforcement. According to him, “SON enumerates standards. This means we help to facilitate and warehouse rules for businesses and thereby ensure comformity, safety of lives and protection of the environment.
“It conducts laboratory tests on products to ensure that they meet set standards. We also monitor and enforce these standards by entering markets, factories and warehouses to check products and ensure that they conform to standards.”
Odumodu said any product made in Nigeria must have and carry Mandatory Conformity Assessment Programme, MANCAP Certificate while imported ones have Standard Organization of Nigeria Conformity Assessment Programme, SONCAP Certificate. He stressed that SON has the powers and can impose sanctions on any regulated product found deficient in meeting the specifications of the standards.
He advised traders (retailers) to insist the importer or manufacturer shows and gives them a copy of his registration, or SONCAP certificate for his products; and MANCAP certificate for manufacturers within the country. He reiterated, “Within the next three months, all products in the market are expected to carry codes on them. This will assist us to capture data for traceability and removal of substandard products from the market. Any product that is not e-registered is fake or substandard”.
He revealed that substandard goods in the market have dropped below 50 percent and |SON is committed to bringing it down to 30 percent in the next few months. Soliciting the support of the traders he said, “it is better for Nigeria that we work together to succeed.”
He further told the traders that his organization is about securing a new legislation that would really penalize dealers and marketers of fake and substandard products. “The existing law is weak. Within the shortest possible time, the new law will take over. By the time people go to jail and properties are forfeited, they will think twice before they dare.” He pointed out.