The proliferation of substandard products in the country has continued to generate great concern despite efforts by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to check the menace. The recent directive given the agency by the Federal Government to reduce the volume of substandard products to, at least, 15 percent by next year is quite in order.
To ensure compliance with the new order, government also proposed jail terms for manufacturers and importers of fake products. These fresh measures were unveiled recently by the Director-General of the organization, Dr. Joseph Odumodu, at the 10th year anniversary of SON Conformity Assessment Programme (SONCAP) in Lagos.
According to the SON boss, the new SON Act of 2015 gives the agency the power to prosecute offenders as a means of effectively checking the importation of harmful sub-standard products, with jail terms upon conviction.
He also stressed that the Act empowers the agency to compel importers and manufacturers to create a database of every product in the market. This measure will be powered by the Electronic Products Registration (EPR), which has been installed in the organisation’s strategic offices.
These measures are put in place to check the proliferation of fake products. We support the long jail terms and other condign punishment for importers and manufacturers of substandard products.
However, we think that the 15 percent reduction target of substandard products given by the Federal Government in 2016 is still high. It would be ideal to target a reduction rate of 5 percent or even lower.
This is in view of many reports on seized substandard products in the markets across the country. Statistics released by SON in September 2015, revealed that substandard products seized by the agency between January and August, was worth N4 billion. These include substandard telephone sets worth N350 million, substandard tyres, electric bulbs, wire and cables, steel products, telecommunication devices and drugs.
All of these indicate that the battle against fake and substandard products remains a Herculean task that SON should demonstrate much commitment to win. Although SON has made giant strides in the war against inferior products, the current upsurge presents a fresh challenge which imprisonment for offenders could help to curb.
Recent figures from SON’s Inspectorate and Compliance Directorate show that substandard goods imported into Nigeria have increased by over 200 percent. This rise may not be unconnected with the withdrawal of the agency’s officials at the ports. The Federal Ministry of Finance had in October 2011 directed the reduction of agencies in order to ease the clearance of goods. However, the directive has been reversed as the order was found to be counter-productive.
We commend SON for the completion of its new laboratories in Lagos that have capacity to detect fake products.
Undoubtedly, the danger of inferior goods, either manufactured locally or imported, cannot be over-emphasised. Nigerian market cannot continue to be a dumping ground for substandard, cheap and fake products from Asian countries. This is why SON should work in concert with other agencies like the Nigeria Customs Services and the Immigration service to check the importation of substandard products into the country.
For our local industries to remain competitive in the global market, Nigeria must ensure that products manufactured, sold or consumed in the country are of high quality.
This will augur well for the economy and give local manufacturers a competitive edge in both regional and international markets. This is one of the reasons the influx of counterfeit and substandard products should be checked. While the computerization of SON’s services and the integration of its e-product certification into Nigeria Integrated Customs Information System (NICIS) have helped to check the proliferation of inferior products, SON should tighten its inspection and clearance of imported goods. It should also not neglect locally-manufactured products.
Let government address the factors that encourage the importation of inferior goods into the country. These factors include poverty and the low purchasing power of majority of the citizens. Above all, SON should ensure that all companies comply with set standards in accordance with its mandate.