NIGERIA – Nigeria may be at risk of becoming a hub for substandard products especially with the commencement of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), which has opened more doors for goods within Africa to come into the country.
For years, one of the major regulators of standards in the country, the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) has been ejected from Nigerian seaports.
The Federal government in 2012 banned SON from carrying out the inspection of products that come into the country at the ports, giving reasons that the presence of too many government agencies were causing congestion at the ports.
Although the decision of the government to evict SON from the seaports was to ensure a smooth transition of cargo at the country entry points, the side effects of this same decision have now posed great danger to both economy and the well-being of Nigerian citizens.
The Director-General of SON, Mallam Farouk Salim told the media recently that the Agency has destroyed goods worth hundreds of millions within the past few months.
Looking at the Agency’s mode of operations currently, it will be easy for many substandard products to be sneaked into the country.
According to the Nigerian Tribune, SON now has to depend on intelligence, reports or petitions to track goods suspected to be fake or substandard products.
The Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) that are predominantly in charge of Nigeria’s seaports do not have the primary mandate to determine whether goods meet a particular standard before letting them in the country.
This leaves the work of SON now more of a chasing agency. The personnel of this very important standards regulator are also not found at the country’s borders.
Given the fact that SON is grossly understaffed with less than 5000 personnel, the organization may be overwhelmed with the task of stopping substandard products from infiltrating the Nigerian market in large numbers, considering It absence at the entry points of the country, particularly now that AFCFTA implementation is in the process.
However, despite its eviction from the country seaports, the agency in trying to still carry out its mandate of preventing the influx of substandard products in Nigeria, has invented Standards Organization of Nigeria Conformity Assessment Programme (SONCAP), an initiative aimed at certifying products at the country of origin.
SONCAP is a Pre-shipment Verification of Conformity to standards process used to verify that products to be imported in Nigeria are in conformity with the applicable Nigerian Industrial Standards (NIS) an approved equivalent, and technical regulations before shipment.