Worried by the level of import of substandard goods into the country, the Director General of the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), Mallam Farouk Salim has said that Nigeria cannot survive if her citizens continue to bring in substandard products into the country.
Salim who stated this at a stakeholders sensitization forum held in Lagos on Thursday with the theme, “Standards Saves Lives, Grow Economy”, observed that substandard goods destroy the local factories and industries which in turn spike the level of insecurity in the country.
“It doesn’t matter if you have ten million dollars, you cannot drive that car in your town or in Lagos or in Kano or anywhere because there will be bandits, there will be criminals, there will be cult members who will attack you and collect that thing from you.
“We are now prisoners in our house, nobody builds a house now without putting burglary proof for ourselves, nobody has house now without ten Mai guard and ten security personnel. Most of you big men, you have Policemen following you all over the place, it is as a result of this activities”, he submitted.
He pointed out that most importers import products that are either deliberately or indeliberately substandard into the country only for them to find out that such products are not acceptable in the country saying, “I know how painful it is when we have to destroy them or when we have to delay you to make those products better.”
The SON boss went on to posit that when SON takes products that are substandard, it is not doing it to spoil anybody’s business, rather, it is doing it to protect their business and to protect the people they are bringing the products to.
“In other climes, when you buy a product and sell it to the public and the public get injured or they didn’t get satisfaction from the product, you get sued and when you get sued, you lose a lot of money, sometimes, they take you to jail. In Nigeria, we have not developed to that level. We have the laws but we have not developed to the level where somebody goes to buy a substandard cable, sell it to Nigerians and then, Nigerians build houses with it and then, fire comes because of that cable and the whole family perishes and die, nobody tracks down the importer of that product and then, arrest that person and charge him with manslaughter. We have not developed to that level here.
“So, that is the reason why some of the business men think their business is just to make money, they don’t see the consequences of their actions. Sometimes, God will in a way, bring such consequences to their families because maybe their village person or town person who belongs to them will go and buy the cable in the market, save their hard earned money to build their house and then, when fire comes, the whole family perishes and then, we start crying how we hated this while it is man made disaster created by us”, he said.
He maintained that one would still make profit and have more customers for his products if he buys standard products adding that sometimes, it is ignorance of standard and sometimes, people don’t just have the business sense to know that when they are known for doing good, people would follow them and buy their goods even if it is expensive.
While acknowledging that it is very important for Nigerians to pay attention to the consequences of their actions, he appealed to them saying, “we know our problems, we know where these problems come from, we can be politicians and play politics about these things but the bottom line is, we know when we are doing what we are doing wrong.
“Most of you here that importing items or you are helping importing, you have the ability to start producing locally in this country. Why is it so difficult for you to put your money together the same way you put money together to buy containers of one item? You can put your money together and build a small factory and start producing and employing your people as well as start paying taxes to the government.
“We have to work together as Nigerians to save this country. We don’t have any other country better than this country. So, this country we are destroying slowly and blaming everybody else but us will not survive, our children will not have great country. We need to seriously address this issue.”
On his part, the acting National President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Dr. Kayode Farinto while delivering a paper titled, “Juxtaposing Substandard Imports And SON’s Absence At the Ports observed that if Nigeria must achieve the Ease of Doing Business, then, as freight forwarders, licensed customs brokers, they should not be involved in dishonesty in their declaration such as concealment, inappropriate description of import and export in order to circumvent the process which are all impediments to achieving Ease of Doing Business.
He warned that as freight forwarders, they cannot afford to jettison standard best practices and standard of quality import as according to him, “we need to facilitate Ease of Doing Business in our country. Standard saves lives.”
Speaking on the Standards Organization of Nigeria Conformity Assessment Programme (SONCAP) introduced by SON in order to save lives, Farinto who is also the Managing Director of Wealthy Honey Investment Limited said, “This is an offshore certificate. If you go anywhere abroad, particularly China and you are buying a product and you insist that SONCAP must be issued to you, that seller will sell to you a product that can pass the test but if you tell him to forget about SONCAP, he will sell to you a substandard product and that is where we are getting it wrong.Some unscrupulous importers would want to maximize profit and say give me the one without SONCAP just because you want to make money.
“Before a product obtains this certification, it must have been tested and certified that it can save lives and not take lives. The objective behind SONCAP is to ensure that products imported into Nigeria meets minimum safety requirements. This will help to ensure that Nigerian consumers are not exposed to potentially unsafe and substandard goods. Note that it is a mandatory document which must be obtained offshore.
“All SON regulated products cannot be cleared without mandatorily obtaining this certificate. You as freight forwarders and customs agents can know all SON regulated products, all you need to do is to go through their website. It is your responsibility as freight forwarders and licensed customs agents to know the products that SON regulates and the procedure of clearance because before it is imported at all, that product must be certified.
“Once a product does not meet standard or specification, such products are not supposed to be imported into the country because they are injurious to our health
It is rather unfortunate that some unscrupulous importers, out of greed would still want to import such products just to maximize profit.”
He, however, insisted that freight forwarders have one role to play, to ensure that they do not facilitate the clearance of such injurious cargo adding that substandard goods are goods deviating from all or short of standard or norm such as of a quality lower than prescribed by law.
Also speaking, the President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Chief Tochukwu Ezisi who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Rev. Emma Agunbaze urged SON to engage stakeholders more.
He further said stakeholders’ engagement will further ensure proper consideration of interests while commending SON for embracing the ease of doing business in the country.
Photo: Mallam Farouk Salim, Director General, Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON).
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