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Substandard products: SON clamps down on ‘merchants of death’

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The past nine months may be described as terrific to dealers in substandard and fake products across Nigeria. This is as the Standards Organisation of Nigeria, SON, have revealed that it has  arrested 10 manufacturers of fake products in Kano, Ibadan and Lagos.

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

The Director General of the Agency, Malam Farouk Salim, disclosed these at a recent media parley in Abuja. Unfortunately, despite the afforts of the regulatory agencies in the time past, substandard products still find their way into the Nigerian market.

In most cases, the effects are unimaginable because it comes with a lot of carnage, calamity and sorrow as most times, property is lost, and most painfully, human lives are also lost.

According to a report, Nigeria loses about N15 trillion to fake goods annually. Also, the country is ranked among the world’s highest market for fake and substandard goods.

According SON DG: “Six containers of stuffed imported tyres and substandard LPG cylinders were intercepted and 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.

“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 the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, 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.”

However, while carrying out the raid, Salim regrets the worrisome aspect, stating that most of these goods look attractive and seem 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.

He said: “After the purchase of such fake or substandard products, then comes the beginning of unending troubles for the innocent buyer which may, sometimes lead to the loss of lives.

“The activities of these merchants of deaths have grave implication to both the economy and international image of the country. Apart from having negative impacts on the economy, it brings down the reputation and image of the country among the committee of nations globally.

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

Other steps the management of the agency has taken include 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.

Another step 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 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.

The recent revelation by the Director, Standards Development of the SON, 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.

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 the country. 

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

He said: “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. 

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 its 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.

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