By Gilbert Ekugbe
In this interview, Barrister OsitaAboloma, Director- General, Standards Organisation of Nigeria, SON, spoke on various initiatives and collaboration with sister agencies aimed at making locally made products of high quality and competitive in the global market.
Last year, the Federal Government incorporated SON, NAFDAC, CAC and other regulatory agencies into a one-stop-shop to fast track Ease of Doing Business in the country. How far have you gone to bring this vision to light?
It has not been easy, but we are not relenting on our efforts to make sure this mandate by the federal government becomes a reality, as you are aware of our enforcement exercises across the country are all aimed at ensuring that local and foreign businesses thrive in the country.
We are worried about the preponderance of fake and substandard goods, because it brings nothing but economic loss to this great country and courtesy of our surveillance and enforcement team and tip- offs information we get from well- meaning Nigerians.
To answer your question, we are working tirelessly to make sure that the Nigerian business community is in safe hands and during the course of the year, we will be rolling out other different initiatives to safeguard the lives and property of Nigerians. This is because the human life is unquantifiable and we would stop at nothing to see that we protect the unsuspecting Nigerian consumers. We have also reduced the turn -around time to issue certificates to genuine importers and manufacturers. This, we believe is a way to complement the federal government’s ease of doing business mandate.
What is the status of your Laboratory at Ogba Industrial Estate Ikeja, Lagos, and how would the project impact on the economy when completed?
Our state-of-the-art laboratory at Ogba comprises of about 74 different laboratories would go a long way to reduce the level of rejection of Nigerian products at the international market. This laboratory has been accredited so whatever comes out of Nigeria would be acceptable anywhere in the world. We are deeply committed to realising the country’s goal of standardisation both locally and internationally. The laboratory has also been designed to accommodate the standardisation needs of the West African sub-region where analysis of locally made cement components and products for instance will no longer be a challenge as the chemical and tensile test analysis laboratory would be operational shortly, to certify strength of compression and other parameters shortly, thereby limiting the risks of building collapse. The next phase of laboratories infrastructure will be spread to the regions beginning with Northeast, Southeast and Southwest. So Nigeria stands a benefit a lot from this laudable project of ours.
Let us talk about Products Authentication Mark, PAM. What should Nigerians expect from this technological innovation?
In line with Section 5 of the SON Act No. 14 of 2015 to ensure the authenticity and traceability of products certified to have met the requirements of the relevant Nigeria Industrial Standards (NIS) or other approved specifications in Nigeria. The objectives of this scheme would provide assurance to Nigerian consumers on products and guarantee value for money; ensure effective control of non-complying products in the Nigerian markets; promote a level playing field in the market for both locally manufactured and imported products and protect genuine manufacturers and importers from faking and product adulteration by ensuring that only certified products are in the markets in the long run. PAM is an added quality assurance mark in furtherance of our role in creating an enabling environment for diversification of the economy and SON’s attempt to put control on the goods consumed by Nigerian consumers.
The major challenge hindering the sale of goods in Nigeria is the issue of cloning and faking of successful product, this is why we had to think outside the box to tackle this menace headlong. Cloning has exposed the lives of Nigerians to serious health and commercial trauma. It has also discouraged a lot people from investing in Nigeria, so we had to bring the PAM to harmonise the existing products we have, it is also an attempt to accelerate technological innovations in effective service delivery so that our MANCAP and SONCAP can be codified and made simpler for the consumers to identify the genuineness of a product before purchase.
How many standards have SON developed in recent years?
I want to tell you that with the support and effective collaborations of relevant stakeholders, SON has been able to develop over 5,000 national standards and over 100,000 international standards covering all sectors of the economy. Using standards to drive the economy is only the way to go. You will agree with us that the world is fast moving away from goods and services that do not meet international standards and best practices.
SON is therefore out to make Nigeria’s locally made products to be at par with what is obtainable elsewhere around the world. Locally made products need to meet international quality and standard conformity criteria to enable them qualify for local consumption and global competitiveness. Product competitiveness is becoming so tough with the developing countries at the receiving end. In fact, the common language nowadays is ‘standardise or die.’’ In other words, effective use of standards ensures fair trade practices and facilitate overall economic development.
We often hear of products certification and standardisation, what is the difference?
According to International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), ‘’certification represents a provision by an independent body of a written assurance (a certificate) that the product, service or system in question meets specific requirement. Certification is equally known as a third party conformity assessment. The product must have passed performance and quality assurance tests. Product certification is a process that confirms that a product meets the necessary quality standards relevant to a particular market.
We have been telling manufacturers and franchise owners to ensure that their products are registered and certified by SON. We are equally telling consumers not to patronise uncertified products without SON logos.
So, product certification helps the particular product have competitive advantage and global acceptability. It is absolutely mandatory; we have legal enforcement backing it; it helps to avoid financial risk, and so on. Once again, we are reminding manufacturers and importers, please, ensure that your products are registered, tested and certified by SON. If you do not do so, you are doing an illegal business and sooner than later, the long arms of the law will catch you.
“I want to tell you that with the support and effective collaborations of relevant stakeholders, SON has been able to develop over 5,000 national standards and over 100,000 international standards covering all sectors of the economy”