Product Authentication-The Consumer Dilemma in Nigeria

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AS a social commentator and a Nigerian Consumer, I took particular interest in the news on a planned introduction of Product Authentication Mark, PAM, by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria sometime in December 2017 and the comments that have followed ever since.

For decades, we, the Nigerian Consumers have been at the receiving end of patronizing substandard and life-threatening products with our hard earned money.

The planned introductions of a scheme to verify the authenticity of products at the point of purchase would finally allow us consumers take our faith in our hands.

I am aware that a similar scheme was introduced by National Agency for Food, Drugs Administration and Control, NAFDAC, several years back to ascertain the genuineness of drugs before purchase.

OsitaAboloma, the Director- General of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria, had at a stakeholders meeting in Lagos, said that deployment of the PAM technology to ascertain the quality status and genuineness of products has become imperative in protecting the interest of Consumers and genuine businesses against product faking, cloning and counterfeiting.

“PAM is being introduced to consolidate all other quality assurance schemes like the Mandatory Conformity Assessment Program (MANCAP) for locally manufactured products, the Offshore Conformity Assessment Program (SONCAP) for imported products and the Electronic Product Registration scheme for traceability and quality verification”, he said.

The SON DG added that the gains in applying the authentication mark on products at a reasonable cost far outweighs the dangers posed by Consumers’ exposure to substandard products and the financial burden on the economy.

The Stakeholders Forum in Lagos according to him, was the first in the series of many others, planned to be held across the Nation to get inputs towards fine-tuning the scheme before its final launch and deployment”

Also commenting on PAM, the Chief Executive of the Consumer Protection Council, CPC, Mr. BabatundeIrukera, noted: “Consumers in Nigeria have been faced with challenges of identifying and distinguishing genuine from counterfeited products and thus exposed to the grave dangers associated with patronage and use of substandard products as well as the economic loss involved.”

He stated that the assurance of quality of products and the guarantee of their safety to Consumers should be paramount in Stakeholders consideration of the PAM.

Mr. Irukera, however, advocated for a downward review of the cost which he said, Manufacturers and Importers will simply pass down to the consumers.”

While also welcoming participants to the Forum, MAN President, Dr. Frank Jacobs, expressed the support of his members for the initiative but wondered if it would not be an added financial burden to Manufacturers and in turn the Consumers.

 

Every good thing on earth comes at some price. The feared cost of introduction of a product authentication scheme in Nigeria would be inconsequential to the gain of being able to tackle product counterfeiting and the loss and danger it poses to consumers.

 

The President of NACCIMA, Chief Mrs. Alaba Lawson at another forum on PAM was reported thus “NACCIMA anticipates that the introduction of PAM would enhance the authenticity of locally manufactured goods, promote export and effectively curtail the influx of substandard products into the Nigerian market.

According to her, the PAM initiative is also another step in supporting the rising interest in healthy living through ensuring consumables meet acceptable local and international quality standards thereby stamping counterfeit products from the Nigerian markets”

I was elated at the continued engagement of stakeholders and the robust discussion of the programme at the forum held at the NACCIMA Headquarters in Lagos which I personally attended. I was, therefore, looking forward to the introduction of the program albeit to reflect the diverse issues raised by the stakeholders.

My take as a social commentator and consumer was to acknowledge SON’s efforts in engaging different stakeholder groups prior to the launch of the programme.

Then on February 14, 2018, I read a Business Day front page lead story titled “Shoprite Hit By Difficult Operating Environment” with a Rider “Downsizes Some Stores, Close Others” SON Demands N3 Per Package Sold”.

I was taken aback because the program was yet to be launched to the best of my knowledge and stakeholders’ engagement was still ongoing. Furthermore, I am yet to see any Shoprite Store downsized, not in Lagos where I live. Rather, more and more of them are springing up here and there.  I see the report as a hatchet job executed by the Business Day Newspaper on behalf of those opposed to the introduction of the scheme.

There comes my dilemma as a consumer. Every good thing on earth comes at some price. The feared cost of introduction of a product authentication scheme in Nigeria would be inconsequential to the gain of being able to tackle product counterfeiting and the loss and danger it poses to consumers.

Genuine manufacturers and successful brand owners spend huge sums on the regular repackaging of their products in the fight against counterfeiting while we, the consumers find it difficult to determine counterfeited from genuine products in the market.

I do hope that this opportunity will not be allowed to pass the Nigerian Consumers, genuine manufacturers, and brand owners.

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