As the continent wide trade agreement popularly known as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement sets to kick off soon, the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has called on the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to quickly integrate the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) into its upgraded home grown technology known as the Nigeria Customs Information Systems (NICIS II).
The National President of ANLCA, Chief Iju Tony Nwabunike who made this call at a stakeholders’ forum organized in Lagos on Tuesday by the SON noted that the call became imminent because as Nigeria prepares to participate in the intra African trade, good quality would be key to penetrating new market frontiers in Africa.
Nwabunike observed that as a body of customs brokers, the association was set to facilitate imports and exports under the emerging AfCFTA regime while beckoning on all and sundry to keep their eyes on the ball of quality all the time.
On ensuring standard importation into the country, the ANLCA President pointed out that members of ANLCA see their profession, not only as a means of livelihood, but also as a way of contributing to national economic, social and total well-being of consumers adding that “as a result of this, we have an unsung ethic of promoting standards and best practices across various areas in the course of carrying out our cargo clearing functions at the seaports, airports and border stations.”
He further said that over time, the customs brokers had been victims of substandard importation by importers who, in some cases, failed to disclose to them the actual content or degree of compliance with extant rules like SON Conformity Assessment Programme (SONCAP).
According to him, “You will also agree with me that the influx of these illicit products, in addition to being injurious to our national economy, also spells doom for our people. A proverb among the lgbos says ‘When a man throws a stone into the market, he does not know whether it is his mother or another close relation that would be hit by the stone.’
“In view of copious challenges faced in our line of business, we have taken it upon ourselves to educate importers on the need for their compliance to safeguard lives and avoid losses emanating from seizures and destruction of fake and substandard goods. This task is daunting, but we are not relenting because customs brokers have suffered an estimated cumulative losses amounting to over N20 billion in the last ten years for undertaking to clear goods discovered to be substandard.
“Let me put it clearly, that upon seizure of suspected fake or substandard goods after payment of duty, it will be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for an importer, whose consignments were seized to pay you the balance of the agreed sum even after the broker has spent his money on the logistics. This is just a mild analogy of the costly price we as professionals are paying to achieve standards and build an enduring economy that will be beneficial to all.”
Chief Nwabunike who is also the pioneer Chairman of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) however recalled that earlier this month, SON destroyed N480 million worth of substandard mobile phones even as he further recalled that late last year, the organization also destroyed 5,000 fake gas cylinders valued at N51.3 million saying “these are just two examples of a routine activity that promotes quality in our country.”
“Destroying investment channeled wrongly towards fake and substandard goods may look harsh, but preventing death, injuries and pains of buying poor standard imported items is a great humanitarian task.
“For the latter, I commend SON for saving lives, SON is raising the Nigeria flag high in the global standard community where over 164 countries converge under the aegis of Geneva based International Standards Organization (ISON). We can only say, you should raise it higher.
“Under its present Chief Executive Officer, Osita Aboloma, I can say that the bar is higher, even for the Nigerian Industrial Standards (NIS) which comes with the mark of quality for certified products. We are aware that the Mandatory Conformity Assessment Programme – a mandatory programme to which all locally manufactured products in Nigeria must comply with before the product can be allowed to be distributed to the market is presently being improved upon.
“While following SON’s activities, we have seen it close down or suspend production of non MANCAP compliant manufacturers. These efforts are outstanding and indeed very commendable”, he added.
While describing bringing the stakeholders’ meeting to the port at a time when access to Apapa comes with inconvenience as another mark of resilience, commitment and selflessness on the part of SON, he went further to stakeholders either as individual or corporate entities to join SON in the noble battle to instill standards and raise quality in all they import, manufacture, buy and sell.
“May I at this juncture, implore that SON’s laboratories to be sited in the six geopolitical zones of the country which should operate under a culture of due diligence, non-compromise and efficiency to justify Federal Government Investment on them for maximum positive results”, he appealed.
Photo: ANLCA National Presideent, Chief Iju Tony Nwabunike.
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