SON: Winning war against merchants of deaths

The Director General of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Malam Farouk Salim, at a parley with journalists in Abuja, recently, revealed that his organisation had, in the past nine months, arrested 10 manufacturers of fake products in Kano, Ibadan and Lagos.

He also disclosed that substandard tyres and other products worth hundreds of millions of naira have been confiscated by the organisation within the same period.

Malam Salim also announced that the SON confiscated six million naira worth of stuffed substandard tyres in a warehouse in Ogun state; seized 2 containers of stuffed imported used tyres in Port Harcourt; mop up substandard LPG cylinders in Suleja; seized adulterated engine oils in Kano and Lagos; destroyed substandard products in Katsina state and also mopped up and destroyed LPG cylinders from different parts of Anambra state.

He also said that, sadly, 6 containers of stuffed imported tyres and substandard LPG cylinders were intercepted, destroyed from multiple sources in Lagos and the prosecution of standard infractions relating to substandard lubricants, electrical cables, forgery of SON clearing documents among others. All these happened within the period of nine months.

A cursory look at these seizures and confiscation, one would admit that these are the major causes of most of the unfortunate incidents and accidents that occur in the country.

Looking at these, it is safe to agree that most incidents of collapsed building in some cities in Nigeria, accidents on our major roads, fire incidents in houses across the country and many others are resultant effect of substandard products.

Sadly, however, all these materials and equipment are deliberately imported and or produced by our own fellow Nigerians just for pecuniary profit.

There is no doubt; the effect of substandard products is unimaginable. This is because it comes along with it a lot of carnage, calamity and sorrow as most times properties are loss, and most painfully, human lives are also lost.

The most worrisome aspect is that most of these goods look attractive and seems genuine to the innocent buyer, who, due to ignorance, go to purchase them without having the ability to differentiate between the original and the substandard.

After the purchase of such fake or substandard products which are packaged to look like the original, then comes the beginning of unending troubles for the innocent buyer which may, sometimes lead to the loss of his or the lives of loved ones.

This has been the daily occurrence among many Nigerians due to the greed and selfishness of manufacturers/importers of the fake and substandard products. Unfortunately, however, they are in all sectors of our national life.

The activities of these merchants of deaths have grave implication to both the economy and international image of the country.

Apart from having the negative impacts on economy, it brings down the reputation and image of the country among committee of nations globally.

These activities of the very few greedy and selfish businessmen/women, no doubt, scares genuine investors who get frightened and expressed doubt if they can recoup their investment due to the activities of these dealers in substandard products.

The good news, however, is that with the zeal and steps put in place by the Malam Salim management, the days of these merchants of deaths are numbered.

The aggressive manner and stiff resistance demonstrated by the SON in recent times through the arrest and prosecution of these ‘enemies of Nigeria’, is however, heart-warming. It gives hope that very soon; Nigeria will be free of these bad elements, who are bent on killing our people and pulling the economy of the country down.

It is, however, gladdening to note the recent steps taken by the SON management to fight these merchants of death through the provision of equipment and enabling environment for the staff to work.

The recent laying of foundation stone for the construction of SON permanent offices, laboratories and storage complex in Sokoto, signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Katsina state government and support for development and growth of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) are steps that are commendable by all well-meaning Nigerians.

Also, the offering of assistance to the health care sector through management system training, certification and calibration of measuring equipment by the SON gives renewed hope that things will, in no distant time, change for good in the country.

This is because the health sector is also facing numerous challenges in terms of the influx of fake, substandard and adulterated medicines and equipment.

This singular action, will no doubt, assist NAFDAC and indeed, critical actors in the health sector and empower them with the know-how to checkmate the activities of these merchants of death and prevent them from operating freely.

Another recent step taken by the SON that is encouraging to most Nigerians is the attainment of international accreditation for three of its additional laboratories for the testing of paints, electrical cables and food (micro nutrients).

These items are being used on a daily basis either as building materials or consumed by most Nigerians, hence, to ensure that only the best quality are/is circulated in the country is a good gesture to all Nigerians.

Also, according to many observers, the recent launching of 38 approved Nigeria industrial standards for renewable energy in conjunction with NESP/GIZ/MESA and other stakeholders and the commissioning of an ultra modern state office/laboratory complex in Ado Ekiti, is a step in the right direction. This will, no doubt, improve standards in the country.

The recent revelation by the Director, SON Standards Development, Mrs Chinyere Egwuonwu, that the Nigeria National Standardisation Strategy (NNSS) plan had identified 658 standardisation projects to be developed before the end of 2023, is also gladdening to the heart of most stakeholders in the trade and investment industry in Nigeria.

The NNSS would, no doubt, provide support to the Federal Government’s Economic Recovery Growth Plan and Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) to drive government’s diversification agenda.

However, keen observers of the trade and investment industry and, in particular, the activities at the SON believe that the recent inauguration of state officers across the country will help immensely in checkmating the activities of fake and substandard product peddlers and dealers in all nooks and crannies of country.

This, is more so, because, most of these merchants of deaths prefer to go to the hinter lands and remote areas so as to cash on the ignorance of the local populace to circulate their fake and substandard products and services.

The Minister of Industry, Trade & Investments, Chief Niyi Adebayo, corroborated this when speaking at the formal inauguration of the new SON office in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, recently.

The Minister noted that: “Before now, you all agree with me that hundreds of thousands of Nigerian lives have been cut short as a result of substandard and life-threatening products like: Steel and roofing sheets, adulterated lubricants and explosions from continuous usage of old and expired liquefied petroleum gas.

“Others include Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) cylinders, fires from substandard electric cables and road accidents from expired and re-threaded vehicular tyres.

“With such situations as expressed above, the inauguration of this building could not have come at a better time than now as this will not only expand the activities of the SON from the state capital to all local governments.

“Rather, it will also reduce the cost and turn-around time for test results as opposed to transporting product samples to SON laboratory facilities in Lagos or Enugu.”

He, however, warned manufacturers and importers of fake and substandard products of the danger inherent in the business following the new Act establishing the SON.

According to Adebayo “SON is, by its amended Act 2015, weaponised to arrest, confiscate and prosecute offenders, who violate the laws relating to standards of goods and services in Nigeria.”

However, stakeholders in the sector have called on SON to improve on some of it activities.

The Chief Operating Officer, Winco Foam Company, Abuja, Engr. Paul Ezeadi, advised the SON to improve on its training of stakeholders and visiting the premises of manufacturers and importers in order to access their strength and weaknesses.

“They should sensitise workers on how to keep to standards as well as make companies familiar with key issues. There should be quick response to calls, so that if there is an issue a company is having it will be easily addressed,” he said.

With the new and well equipped SON offices in most states of the federation, it is, therefore, pertinent to call on both local and international industrialists/investors to avail themselves of the new facilities and invest in the country in an effort towards the much needed industrialisation and economic viability.

The members of the National Assembly, and indeed, all stakeholders in the trade and investment sector should, therefore, lend their support to the current effort as the SON in order to make Nigeria great.

Maryanne writes from Abuja.