The Director-General, Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Dr. Paul Angya, has disclosed that the unbridled influx of substandard products into Nigeria contributed to the current economic recession in the country.
While addressing journalists and other stakeholders during a-two day Capacity Development Retreat for media executives in Lagos, Dr Angya said the country was facing the most supreme challenge of economic downturn, facilitated by continual spread of substandard goods across the Nigerian market.
He said: “These substandard products are like weeds growing up among a farmer’s crop. It has been a major challenge for us at SON even though we have a lot of initiatives to get to the heart of these imported products. 90% per cent of them come in mainly through the seaports of this country. We are not allowed to operate at that port and by the conspiracy of a segment of our society; who are benefiting from the importation and circulation of these substandard products. They even mount a campaign against SON. So any attempt to communicate with the appropriate quarters on the need for SON to be repositioned to deliver on its mandate is resisted vehemently by the community that is controlling especially importation of sub-standard products.
The resistance sometimes is violent. I personally and a lot of my staff have been subjected to intimidations, blackmail and outright open threat. This community of people we are talking about form less than 1% of the population, these people who have destroyed the economy control the importation of substandard products. They determine whether our economy can grow or not.”
The challenge, he said, does not stop at illegal ease of entry in that it contributes to the repression of mainstream sectors of the economy including manufacturing, agricultural among others. Since the substandard products appear cheap to obtain, local producers with quality injected goods are relegated in competition with such goods, thereby leading to the closure of firms unable to cope with the overwhelming pressure of fake products.
“If they were able to do to our thriving manufacturing sector, enterprising climate what they have done to cripple it, they can still do the same for any initiative and investment that we can attract in Nigeria,” DG said noting that Nigeria’s current situation as a less producing economy is more endangered. But to stem it, revamp the economy and establish an atmosphere to safeguard investments of genuine manufacturers, the government needs to approve SON’s operation at the port,’’he said.
It was however revealed that the thorns in the flesh of SON were numerous as the war against circulation of substandard goods cannot be treated in isolation of other accompanying bottlenecks. In as much the restriction of operating at seaports remains, the resolve to deploy means of checking the movement of the goods from the seaport.
According to the DG, rather than verify the authenticity of these products right at the seaports, the organization is compelled to hunt the innumerable spread of illegal operatives with a limited staff base of 1,500.
He said: “The whole of SON has a population of 1,500 country wide and we have offices in the 36 states of the federation. We are supposed to be manning all the border post which are about 400; we are supposed to operate laboratories in all the critical zones of the country; we have inspector who are going through the factory as a routine. On a daily basis we inspect production, audit management processes, and we have the administrators. If we only post like 4 or 5 people to each of the border post which are about 400; when you multiply four by 400, we don’t have anybody to work with.”