SON striving to fulfill its mandate, by Biodun Folarin

When Standards Organisation Of Nigeria (SON) was established by an Enabling Act Number 56 in December 1971, it was with the purpose of providing additional functions for the organisation, increasing penalty for violation, and other related matters.
The amended SON Act 2015 has now replaced the Enabling Act No. 56 of 1971 which has three amendments: (Act No. 20 of 1978, Act No. 32 of 1984 and Act No. 18 of 1990).
The agency is meant to improve life through standardisation and quality assurance.
The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) is committed to providing standards and quality assurance services for all products, services and processes in Nigeria in line with international best practices and to ensure continual improvement.
The Standard organization of Nigeria (SON) as a full member of International Organization for Standards (ISO)continues to collaborate with ISO to secure uniformity of standards across board with a view to ensure that importation to any member country conform with ISO standards.

As the sole agency saddled with responsibility of ensuring only legitimate products are allowed into Nigeria, the SON has not shied from its responsibility as recurring destruction of various impounded substandard products worth billions of Naira speaks volume of the work it is doing.  

So it was a surprise to see in the media a report that the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) on an advocacy visit to President Muhammadu Buhari at Aso Rock in Abuja described the Agency as inefficient because according to them a lot of substandard products find their way into the country’s market thereby causing huge loss to local producers.

According to a statement attributed to MAN’s President, SON as the sole agency saddled with responsibility of ensuring legitimate products are allowed into Nigeria has not been able to do its job.

“Unfortunately, presently in Nigeria, there are multi-billion naira value of various substandard products freely being traded in Nigerian markets and causing collapse of many Nigerian industries.” 

“It is the statutory operating standard of SON, to issue Product Certificate (PC) to Offshore Exporters to Nigeria for a Fee in order to confirm standards of products being exported into Nigeria and also issue Standards Organization of Nigeria Conformity Assessment Program (SONCAP) to the importer for a Fee to validate that products being shipped meet NIS Standards. Despite the payment of these statutory fees by Offshore Exporters and Nigerian importers, Nigerian markets today are increasingly dominated by substandard imported products constantly sabotaging the economy and running down many industries such like Textile, Tyres, Cable and recently Steel.

“In the face of all these abnormalities, we are of the opinion that the sole mandate given to SON in this respect need to be reexamined while the management efficiency of all fees collected on PC and SONCAP need to also be examined.

For instance, Sub-standard aluminium products are coming into the Country at prices cheaper than the production cost of same product manufactured locally. Since the approved minimum thickness is 0.40mm, manufacturers are not allowed to manufacture products below the approved gauge while aluminium with thickness as low as 0.25mm are being imported.

“This unfair trade practices are having devastating effect on aluminium manufacturers, as many have shut down operations with others on the waiting wing. Similarly, the approved minimum thickness for aluminium profile manufactured in the country is 1mm whereas imported profiles with gauges as low as 0.7mm thickness have flooded the markets. As a matter of fact, no manufacturing sub-sector in Nigeria is insulated from the menace of imported sub-standard goods,” the body added.
To prove its doubters wrong once more, SON recently seized substandard aluminium sheets worth over N200 million from three companies in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
Director, Inspectorate and Compliance Directorate, SON, Obiora Manafa, said the companies had been fined for the illegality and would also be prosecuted for their actions; while the products would be recycled. 
In his response, MAN representative in SON governing council, Mr. Ifeanyi Okoye, said: “I will want to believe that this is a wrong presentation of the report by the press.  “Everyone in Nigeria including MAN knows that SON is no more present at the ports. How do you control the importation of substandard goods that majorly enter the country when you are not on ground at the ports? This press error report might be important information to the Federal Government to rethink about the absence of SON at the ports.
“MAN has been working symbiotically with SON and has always been represented in the Council of SON. Therefore has opportunities to discuss knotty issues and has been contributing to the operation of SON. SON has automated system of monitoring import of genuine raw materials and finished goods through their involvement in the issuance of Form M. Importers of substandard goods don’t go through this system and can only be detected through physical presence and inspections. I am currently representing MAN in the SON council and can vouch for SON activities for now,” he said.
Head Public Relations, SON, Fashina Rilwan Bola, had also noted that: “SON can however not be totally held responsible for the influx of substandard and life-endangering products due to its glaring absence at the Seaports where a greater percentage of imports come in from. We are not there to verify the quality of the Imports.
“SON also has no control over smuggling of substandard and life-endangering products into Nigeria. It relies entirely upon the support of sister regulatory and security agencies to undertake quality verifications only at approved land border posts. 

“Our experience with most consignments that we apprehend after exit from the Ports without our Quality verification is that of wrong declarations. 

 “Many local Manufacturers/Importers are found using import  permits for importing raw materials and machinery to bring in finished goods that are most often substandard and life-endangering. 

“We are only allowed to carry out quality verifications of imports at the Ports on Customs invitations. Most imports exit without our quality verification. When we  apprehend few of the suspected substandard products after exit from the Ports, we discover most cases of wrong declarations.


“SON pays special attention to life-endangering products and works with the Sectoral Stakeholders for effectiveness and synergy.

“We recently (14th June 2019) formed a joint Task Force with the Galvanised Iron and Steel Manufacturers Association (GISMA), a Sectoral Arm of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria to tackle identified challenges in the Sector particularly with regard to smuggling and importation (under wrong declarations) of substandard/low gauge roofing sheets into Nigeria. The Task Force Secretary is a staff of MAN.

“A joint Task Force was formed with Lubricants Stakeholders in December 2018 following which many substandard/adulterated Lubricants/Engine Oil have been apprehended and perpetrators being prosecuted.

We’ve recorded similar successes with LPG Stakeholders with many perpetrators undergoing prosecution.

“The Steel Sector Task Force was also formed on 21st November 2018 and has been working with visible success particularly in ensuring self regulation among local manufacturers while jointly keeping tabs on imported substandard steel products. 

“This has been our modus operandi, working directly with Sectoral Stakeholders to tackle issues within each Sector as they have more information about happenings in their sectors.

“We require their sincere collaboration to effectively tackle such challenges like we did successfully with local Cable Manufacturers/Importers.

“All of the above are in addition to regular stakeholder engagements and introduction of ICT to ease transactions with the organisation and serve the stakeholder more efficiently 

“Within the limits of the Human capacity and material resources available to SON, the organisation is doing all it can to curb the influx and distribution of substandard products in Nigeria. This is in spite of the obvious limiting factors like visible ABSENCE from the main source of substandard/life endangering products, the Seaports and Smuggling,” he said.

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