After five decades of being in the saddle as the regulator of standards of products and services in Nigeria, the Standards Organization of Nigeria(SON) says it has done well. But do stakeholders share the same perception?
Against all odds, SON had committed and dedicated itself to ensure that production of quality and standard products are produced or imported into the Nigerian market.
The SON is the sole statutory body that is vested with the responsibility of standardising and regulating the quality of all products in Nigeria. SON was established by the Act No.56 of 1971.
As an organization constantly in the quest for covering new grounds, the SON Act has undergone several amendments over the years, with the most recent being the amendment to repeal the Standards Organization of Nigeria, Act, caps Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and enact the Standard Organisation of Nigeria Act 2015.
As an improvement on the previous laws, the SON Act 2015,vested the organisation with additional functions, which include the power to impose fees, fines or penalties on any one that contravenes any import or export surveillance, Certification or Conformity Assessment Scheme (CCAS).
This Law was needed to give SON more power to carry out its activities, given the dynamics of the changing times. Still, there is need to give more bite to the organization in line with current realities.
As a full member of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), SON’s mandate includes the preparation of standards related to products, measurements, materials, processes and services, amongst others; their promotion at national, regional and international levels; the certification of products; assistance in the production of quality goods and services; improvement of measurement accuracy and the circulation of information related to standards.
The Standards Organisation of Nigeria Conformity Assessment Program (SONCAP) was introduced in 2005 by the Federal Government of Nigeria to address the concern of unsafe products entering the country.
This assessment conformity scheme requires all imported products, whose standard specifications were declared compulsory by SON, to be inspected for conformity to the relevant Nigerian standard before release into the Nigerian market.
Under the leadership of its current Director General, Mallam Farouk Salim, SON has witnessed some highs and lows.
Recall that in 2017, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), in the process of implementing the executive order on ease of doing business issued by the then acting President Yemi Osinbajo, ordered SON and other related agencies that were affected to immediately vacate the ports across the country.
This was a low turn for the organisation as it restricted its activities outside the ports.
However, five years after a presidential order to vacate the seaports, SON has ones again clawed its way back to the Nigerian seaports albeit temporarily.
There is no doubt that the SON has come a long way. Therefore it was a thing of joy for the organisation to celebrate 50 years of torturous journey of standardization.
Speaking at the 50th anniversary celebration in Lagos, DG of the organisation, Mallam Farouk Salim, gave a long turbulent but consistent journey of the organisation to its destination of standardization. Therefore, from the beginning, Mallam Salim recalled: “Our staff visited factories for inspection, using commercial vehicles as most of them had no private vehicles of their own. Sometimes they were allowed to carry out the required inspections while in some instances, they were not. With the passage of time, SON purchased a number of Volkswagen Beetle cars for use by staff. I am told that five or more staff will squeeze into those tiny little cars to go for factory inspection. Over the years, as the vehicles became stuck in the legendary Lagos traffic jam, meandering between reckless molue and danfo drivers, they often broke down.
I am particularly amuzed each time I recall the story that was told of Standard officers in those corporate wears mentioned by Fela Anikulapo Kuti in the song “Gentleman” pushing those old vehicles along several Lagos roads in very hot and humid weather, sweating profusely.
My predecessors believing then, in the advertisement that “there is no killing the Beetle”, spent huge resources in an attempt to keep the old bangers on the road until they realized it was better to allow the Beetles to have peaceful rest in several mechanics’ yard spread all over Lagos. I am happy to note that Industry realizing the enormity and the relevance of the work of SON, began to assist and continues to assist the organisation with vehicles to facilitate the movement of its staff. Today, SON staff are warmly welcome whenever they undertake factory inspections because of the value industry received from the exercise. Feedback received from the industry has been impactful”.
Today, 50 years after, the SON has become a formidable power block that ensures that quality products are produced or imported into the country.
Mallam Farouk sucintitly stated the premium his Organisation places on the fight against sub standard goods in both deeds and words.
To him,” Quality is a journey without a destination. The Standards Organisation of Nigeria and Industry must undertake this journey together. The journey is necessary in order for Nigeria to industrialize, create jobs and wealth, alleviate poverty, reduce restiveness, minimize threats to our national security and achieve the fullness of our potential”
These are clear statements of intention. It is indeed a road map of what the SON intends to achieve going forward, with of course the collaboration and cooperation of all.
Speaking to MMSPLUS, in an interview, the new President of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Otunba Francis Meshioye, noted that at 50 Years of meritorious service to the nation, SON, has come of age. He noted that despite numerous challenges, SON had been able to weather the storm and therefore deserves to celebrate.
His words ,” Standard Organisation of Nigeria SON actually has come of age, but has been able to force out quality standard across board in Nigeria. They have really moved so much hard to ensure that what we produce and consume in Nigeria is quality and standardized goods.”
The MAN president noted that SON has done extremely well in the reduction of fatalities on our roads, through the reduction and destruction of sub standard tyres that are imported into the country.
“Another thing they have done marvellously well is that they do not only move around, when they capture the goods, and test it, and discover that they are below standards, they confiscate them and take them to their warehouse They do it passionately without fear or favour. To me, they are really working hard. And I wish they would continue in this direction,” he said.
Despite the seeming success recorded so far by SON, even as they celebrate 50 Years on the saddle as standards regulator in Nigeria, a lot still needs to be done ,as it is not yet uhuru for the organisation and Nigeria, as daily sub standard products still find their way into the Nigerian markets, despite SON’s efforts.
Worried by this ,the MAN president believes that the SON should step up and concentrate more on promoting standards.
” They should strengthen focus in promoting standards. So that we could be able to compete favourably with standard of any product produced anywhere in the world, particularly now that we have Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement ( AFCFTA) in place. Goods can come in and go out of Nigeria easily. Our own concern particularly the manufacturers is, that we will be able to have products that is of good quality that will compete favourably with any goods anywhere in the world. This will promote industrial sector in Nigeria and improve our international trade.
In his own contribution the Managing Director Chief Executive Officer of Mouka Foam Limited ,Mr. Femi Faponhunda, expressed happiness for the golden jubilee celebration of SON.
It’s a wonderful celebration” he said .
To him ,”Golden Jubilee celebration is a celebration of excellence. SON has actually been one of the organizations that have played significant role in Nigeria, in products development, in standardizing products especially in controls and it has tremendously helped industries like ours, like mine. I for one, work as MD of Mouka Ltd. and we have seen the work has been doing years after years. Therefore, celebrating 50 years is something commendable as we all know, standard is a continuous thing. You can’t say you have reached it. And I think the SON celebrating 50 shows that yes, the organization is doing the right thing and is one of the organizations that the country will need, to take us to the right standards in the world”
The Mouka MD stated that he would like to see the SON in the next decade ,”Taking Nigeria to a stage where we are not a dumping ground, to a stage where our standard, our products is comparable to, and compete favorably anywhere in the world”
On the SON coming back to the ports, the Mouka MD argued that SON being in the port is a welcome development.
His words,” I think that is one area they should address and I don’t think SON being in the Port is not the issue. It is because we have in the Port different levels of organizations which most importers, manufacturers or people that take their goods to the port believe that they should be organized. What I think is the issue is not SON, but rather the organizations at the Port. So, there’s no reason for SON not to be at the Port. But I think what government needs to do is to organize the port, so that we don’t have different agencies in numbers doing the same job. SON is there, NAFDAC is there, etc. There will be a stage where they will be doing the same job. So they need to harmonize their activities, and there need to be a standard procedure for everyone going through the port and I think that’s more of what we need”.
On whether the SON is doing enough in checkmate the influx of sub-standard and counterfeit products in Nigeria, Faponhunda argued that SON is doing their best for now, given the circumstances of their operation and present realities.
“I will say they are trying their best. But, with standards, enough is never enough. We are moving from good to great. There was a time there was no standard, there was a time when they started with three offices. Now they have spread across the country. There have been tremendous improvements in standard and performance of SON. And I think we are not there yet but have made improvements,” he said.
Faponhunda said that there is need to strengthen the SON enabling Laws to give it more bite, stressing that as society develops things don’t remain the same, adding that there is need for more punitive laws or measures to compel people to comply with approved product standards and also to give SON more force in their operations.
Speaking also, the Deputy Comptroller of Customs, Elton Edorhe who stood in for the Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali, believes that the SON’s role is critical to sustainable economic growth and security of the country.
Comptroller Edorhe said the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), and the SON have a good working relationship, stressing that the two agencies are collaborating to ensure the security and safety of Nigerians.
His words, “There are certain categories of cargoes that will not come into the country without customs getting SON to be involved in the examination and getting the certification before we release from the customs control. We have shared that understanding and we will continue to do that. And I want to believe that this collaboration will always continue”.
As SON, celebrates 50 years of standardization in Nigeria , stakeholders are concerned about the level of sub-standard, fake and counterfeit products that litter the markets today.
Nigerian markets are saturated with all manners of sub-standard goods both from within and without. This should pose a challenge to the SON. Now that SON has wriggled its way back to the port, one hopes that their presence would make a difference and change the narrative. One thing is certain ,standard is a journey that has no bus stop, according to SON’s DG, Mallam Farouk Salim.