The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has said that lack of presence of its personnel at the nation’s seaports to check containers bringing goods into Nigeria accounts for a 200 per cent rise in the volume of substandard goods in the country in the last four years.
The agency said since its agents were withdrawn from the seaports, it had not been able to effectively monitor and control the influx of substandard goods into the country, hence it was consequently seeking to return to the ports.
Acting director-general, SON, Dr Paul Angya, at a just –concluded two-day SON Capacity Development Retreat for Media Practitioners in Lagos, regretted that the situation had hindered the work of SON and posed a lot of danger to the economy since almost 80 per cent of the goods coming into the country were coming through the seaports.
“It is very bad for us to allow these goods to be coming in without SON being physically present to check them because importers may present fake certificates to other agencies that do not have the facilities to cross- check like SON would do,” he said.
According to him, while the agency has resorted to warehouse monitoring and interception of containers on the highways in order to control the influx of substandard goods into the country, the succcess rate had been below average as the agency has not been able to intercept all the containers.
“Out of 10 containers in a consignment, the agency may be fortunate to intercept only one.
“At that point, 90 per cent of the substandard products had already entered the Nigerian market.
“We don’t receive invitation from the ports and we cannot keep waiting for such invitations while containers are flying in every day with substandard products,” he added.
Angya said most of the containers come in at night, by 2 a.m because they lacked the necessary documentation.
The DG explained that the number of those constituting the cabal in the import business was very small and in the region of about 0.0001 per cent of the entire population of the country.
He also said this initiative has led to a running battle with those who profit from the importation of substandard products into the country as they refused to align themselves with the legal platform to process their Soncap and had resorted to blackmailing the SON and declaring outright war.
He explained that the Nigerian Customs Service established an Electronic Provisional Clearance Certificate (ePCC) digital platform through which products coming into Nigeria could be seen and where people were supposed to register their import,all manifest of all consignments coming into Nigeria could been seen there.
“On that platform, if you are bringing in any product without SON certificate of compliance which is called Soncap, you will not be cleared to bring in those goods because the CBN will not issue you Form M through which you can import.
He hinted that massive importation of substandard goods into the country has forced the SON to shutdown the Electronic Provisional Clearance Certificate (ePCC) platform after the 90 days expiration elapsed this year.
He also explained the agency’s frustration at getting the government of China to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the agency on Certificate of Free Sale for Nigeria which allows only certified standard goods to be exported to Nigeria from China.
While declaring that China refused to sign the agreement, Angya said the Asian giant was the highest producer of many goods in the world and had signed the same MoU with the advanced nations of the world.
“Out of 10 products in America, eight are from China and they are of the best quality, but out of 10 products in Nigeria, nine are from China and they are substandard,” he added.
He also identified lack of infrastructure and insufficient workforce as other challenges to the operations of the agency.
The DG further disclosed that government has not approved the National Quality Policy(NQP) formulated since during the last administration.According to him, the unavailability of this policy has led to loss of revenue for the country as most of the country’s Nigeria’s agricultural produce had to be taken to Ghana and or Brazil for certification, bearing those countries’ logo as if they were produced there and sold to European countries.
He maintained that if there had been a policy like that, it would have facilitated the development of a National Quality Infrastructure(NQI) that would enable goods produced in the country to be certified for international standards, and metrology. To this end, Angya also revealed that the agency has developed codes of practice for some Nigerian non-oil commodities to shore up the export of the products.According to him, the move would go a long way to putting an end to the rejection of some commodities from Nigeria in the international market over issues of quality, as in the recent case of the ban placed on beans.
On the spate of accidents on the highways, he disclosed that SON would also launch new campaign against substandard tyres especially during the festival periods adding that the organisation had been designing identification emblems for the dealers of approved tyres across the country to enable consumers identify where they could get genuine products.