Director General, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Osita Aboloma, has been upbeat on the efforts of the agency to take the vexed issues of sub-standard products and counterfeiting in the country. In this interview, he discloses that the agency has been sparing no efforts to ensure that local industries are protected from the onslaught of unwholesome imported, sub-standard products, among other issues. Excerpts
We are already half way into 2017, what are some of the achievements recorded so far by the agency?
Since I assumed office as Director General of SON, my focus has been to complement the federal government’s quest for economic diversification and development. It has not been easy though, but we are committed to supporting the present administration’s effort to expand revenue base and so far, we have carried out a lot of initiatives aimed at achieving this feat. As our mandate to safeguard lives and property against the influx of substandard goods, we have destroyed substandard goods worth billions of naira. This way, we are able to protect our local industries from unfair trade and with the federal government’s team on ease of doing business chaired by the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. We are poised to providing the business community with the right technical and business advisory support services to improve Nigeria’s business and investment climate.
We are refocusing our national efforts on agriculture to contribute its own quota to diversifying Nigeria’s economic revenue and also to tackle the issue of rejection Nigeria’s products encountered at the international market. We have developed and also identified priority agricultural products where Nigeria has competitive and comparative advantage and established over 400 new standards for agricultural products. We have adequately built capacities to imbibe the national drive for economic diversification using agriculture as a platform for development.
We are ensuring Nigeria’s agricultural products from the farm to table meet the minimum requirement of global standards. Nigeria’s agricultural sector has the comparative and competitive advantage to compete globally. This is the reason SON is prioritizing its efforts towards the sector. With some of Nigeria’s agricultural products currently being banned from some markets, the training will be very useful in preventing incidences of such a nature in the future.
What are the efforts being made concerning consumer awareness on the danger of patronizing substandard goods?
We have carried out lots of enlightenment campaigns on the negative effects of patronizing substandard goods in the country. We have visited many schools to teach children about the dangers of substandard goods, because we believe if the younger generation is aware of the harmful effects of substandard goods, it will go a long way to drive our campaign. Take for instance, substandard tyres, we rolled a platform where we designed an identification emblem for approved dealers whose tyres conform to standards and this emblem will be very difficult to fake and we believe it will help consumers to identify the genuine tyre dealers in the country. There are many enlightenment campaigns we are planning going forward and we believe that in no distant time, we will get there.
How has it been fighting against the influx of substandard goods in the country?
It has been tough, but we are resilient. The fight against influx of fake and substandard goods is continuous, because despite our efforts in stamping out the scourge, importers still indulge in this nefarious activity. We are also working with various regulatory agencies of government because the fight against substandard goods is a collective one and only recently, with the help of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) we were able to discover three warehouses stocked with expired household consumables in Lagos. We have urged members of the public to give us information whenever they see anything. Our fight against the preponderance of substandard goods is a continuous one and we will stop at nothing till we reduce the influx to the barest minimum.
What new initiatives are you developing to combat the influx of substandard goods into the country?
Yes, just last month, we commissioned our new SON office at the Seme border area which is in line with our efforts to retool our processes in order to offer efficient and enhanced service delivery to Nigerians. This move was also a measure to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive. We will continue to review and update our standards to ensure goods and services conform to the minimum requirements of the Nigerian Industrial Standards (NIS). In the new office, all the departments of SON that are into the business of combating influx of substandard goods have a place here. We have our customer service, sampling, stakeholders parley and other departments there to serve Nigeria well. The newly commissioned SON office is a product of a robust relationship with our sister agencies. Some of the materials were donated by stakeholders which means members of SON family in Seme border are good representatives of SON. We have also relocated our Rivers State office in Port Harcourt from Aba road to Freight House, Kilometer 1, off Eleme Junction, Eleme/Onne Wharf Road, Port Harcourt and established our office in Asaba, Delta State. This will help us reach and cover a wider spectrum of businesses in the State and also to ensure efficient and effective service delivery. The new office was also to reiterate the commitment of SON to facilitating businesses with a view to improving life through standards. It will give stakeholders first-hand information and technical business support services to facilitate their businesses in the most convenient manner. We hope to do more in the coming days, because we are poised to make Nigeria great again.
How has the SON fared in addressing concerns through inter-agency collaboration?
We have continued to enjoy a fruitful and rewarding relationship with various arms of government other MDAs. Like I said earlier, with the help of the NPF, we discovered three warehouses in Lagos stocked with expired household consumables that could have found their way into the market. We have partnered with several agencies of government such as the Nigerian Army, NAFDAC, CPC, Customs and other regulatory agencies, because we believe inter-agency co-operation and collaborations will go a long way in helping us to deliver on our mandate. The ugly effects of fake and substandard goods on the economy cannot be over emphasized and should therefore be tackled in different frontiers. Recently, the federal government directed that one stop shop examination of imports should be erected at the ports. This development promises greater involvement for agencies like SON which for some years now have not been at the seaports. The one-stop shop clearance would check influx of sub-standard imported products into the country. We need the harmonious co-operation and understanding of all relevant agencies concerned to realise the government’s objective of setting up the policy.