The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has inaugurated a Surveillance Investigation and Monitoring (SIM) Unit to reduce the influx of substandard goods into the country by at least 30 per cent before the end of 2018.
The Director General, SON, Osita Aboloma, said the move became necessary for SON to have independent intelligence gathering, monitoring, assessment and intervention from time to time to ensure transparency and accountability, stressing that the unit would also be expected to promote effective service delivery and the targeted turnaround time.
The SON boss during the inauguration, said, “We are setting up this Unit for quick turnaround time and for us to achieve the desired result of at least reducing the level of substandard goods by 30 per cent before the end of 2018. We are also using this Unit to safeguard genuine manufacturers and importers of goods and services, so we have to prevent the influx of substandard goods into Nigeria against unfair competition while also improving the lives of Nigerians through standards and quality assurance.”
In his words, “As the need arises, we evolve our strategies to rise up to the occasion and this is the first time we are setting up such unit and we believe it is going to yield a positive result. This is a new innovation and we are stepping up our game into the fight against substandard goods.”
The SON Chief Executive added that the inauguration is in line with the anti-corruption crusade and ease of doing business initiative of the federal government, stating the need to set up an intervention unit in the office of the Director General for rapid response to issues relating to stakeholder interactions in similar fashion to that of the Federal Operations Unit or Comptroller General Customs Strike Force in the Nigerian Customs Service or the Inspector General of Police’s special team of the Nigeria Police Force.
According to him, the SIM will be stationed in Lagos to be headed by the Deputy Director, SON, Isa Suleiman, as coordinator with two sub units namely operations and administration/logistics reporting directly to the Director General.
He noted that the staff of the unit have been carefully chosen and would be expected to prove their mettle in delivering on assignments.
He said the term of reference for the Unit would include intelligence gathering on substandard, fake and life endangering products throughout the country, maintenance of risk profile and registration of substandard, fake and life endangering products and cooperation and collaboration with the Federal Operations and PAAR Units of the Nigerian Customs Service and other security agencies on information and intelligence gathering, sharing and feedback on matters of substandard, fake and life-endangering products.
He also added that the team would also carry out quality assurance activities and strategic raids, enforcement and regulatory operations to reduce incidences of influx and sale of substandard products on the directives of the Director General and also provide the Director General with periodic data on the reduction of substandard products in Nigerian markets.
In his response, the Commissioner of Police, Criminal Investigation & Intelligence Directorate (CIID), Alagbon, Sabo Ibrahim, pledged the Force’s unflinching support to the Unit, saying that the Nigerian public would likely be the gainers of such initiative.
He called on Nigerians to support SON to achieve its mandate, saying that the fight against substandard goods in the country remains a collective effort from all and sundry.
In his response, the Deputy Director and Coordinator of the Unit, Isa Suleiman, said going forward, with the help of security agencies, the terms of reference would be achievable.
“We have been given specific areas of coverage. First of all, it is mainly on life-endangering fake and substandard products nationwide. We are going to use information gathering to achieve our aim and this is why we have collaborations with the key security agencies in Nigeria that deal with vital information,” he said.
It would be recalled that following the provisions of the new SON Act which empowers the agency to put everything in place to remove from circulation, fake and sub-standard products across the country, there arose the need for the agency to beef up its numerous operations and build capacities in order to attain its mandate.
Meanwhile, Aboloma during a recent enforcement exercise to different warehouses in Lagos stated that its enforcement activities on product standards could not be restrained or restricted maintaining that the agency would stop at nothing till the country becomes a safe haven for quality goods.
He explained that with its reinvigorated SON Act 2015, the standards body has the mandate to police the whole country to ensure that substandard goods do not find their way into the hands of the unsuspecting Nigerian consumer.
He urged importers to always consult SON for quality control guidelines before importing goods into the country, maintaining that this would go a long way to give their products a certificate of free sales without unnecessary hindrances from different regulatory agencies
Aboloma said: We want to ensure that as people consume these products, it will be the same as those who are sending the products to us. We want to have a certificate of free sale that once we are consuming these products, we are sure the quality is same as to where the products are coming from. We want to let importers of these goods to know that Nigeria is supposed to be a safe country for all of us and so if you want to import any product, you must follow all the quality control guidelines set down by the SON.”
In his words, “We have two policies which are the MANCAP for made-in-Nigeria products and the SONCAP for imported products. We want people to be sure whenever they are consuming these goods that they would not harm them while also getting value for the money spent on these products. SON is saying that there is no boundary in terms of the enforcement of this mandate, wherever we see these products, we would take them out and if you comply with our requirements, you will not experience any hindrance taking these products from the ports, borders into the markets, but when you do not follow the laid down rules, we will go into the warehouses to pick out these products.”