FG, others chart roadmap to curb sub-standard products menace

The recently concluded enlightenment programme organised by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria, SON, again brought to the fore the harzard of sub-standard products to the health of the people and the nation’s economy. OLUFEMI ADEOSUN, who attended the one-day event, captures stakeholders’ view on how to stem the tide.

The sale of sub-standard products, is one of the major problems identified all over the world as having the potential to stagnate any economy, disrupt social cohesion and terminate a lot of lives. While this unwholesome business activity could be viewed as a global phenomenon; it is more prevalent in the third world countries, including Nigeria.

Indeed, available statistics show clearly that if there is any country that is notorious for peddling and living on fake items with reckless impunity, then Nigeria is unbeatable. In our nation’s ports, containers laden with sub-standard products are intercepted every day. With market records showing 80 per cent in sub-standard products peddling in 2011, Nigeria was rated one of the worst in the world.

For instance, apart from fake electrical cables, which flow into the country in droves, Nigeria as today has over 45 million “tokunbo” tyres. The Director General of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria, Dr. Joseph Odumodu explained that although it was the responsibility of his agency to rid the country of fake and substandard products, it would be a daunting task without the support and collaboration of the critical stakeholders.

Speaking on the evil of substandard products, Odumodu noted, “fake and substandard products chase away good products, which led to factories closing down and hundreds of thousands, becoming jobless.

To be jobless is terrible; Any man who makes his fellowman to lose his livelihood unfairly is an enemy. Some people took to diverse unwholesome activities on losing legitimate income.

I am not justifying evil in any way, but I am saying that someone who causes his fellow man or woman to do evil also is part of the evil. “We must also understand that for us as a nation, any import is a job created for the exporter country.

It is also a job loss for Nigeria. It is better for us to patronise Nigeria-made products for two main reasons. By buying Nigerian made products, we are helping to create employment opportunities for our teeming school leavers.

We are building a better and stronger economy for our country. Secondly, you are also helping government to protect our citizens from the evil effects of substandard products.”

Highlighting some of the strategies being put together to reduce the level of counterfeited products in the country, the SON boss noted that the agency had begun aggressive training and retraining of staff with a view to having the needed capacities to do their work of tracking and exposing substandard products wherever they are found.

Apart from this, he also stated that the agency was pursuing legislation at the National Assembly, which would criminalise sale of substandard products. “We are about securing a new legislation that would really penalize dealers and marketers of fake and substandard products.

The existing law is weak. Before the year ends, the new law will take over. By the time people go to jail and properties are forfeited, they will think twice before they dare. Nobody wants to punish anybody. Government does not want to take your business but government insists that every business plays by the rules,” he counselled.

He however announced that with the agency’s aggressive onslaught on fake products in the last few years, their influx had dropped from 80 per cent in 2011 to 50 per cent in 2013.

According to him, the agency’s target before the end of the year is to bring it further down to 30 per cent. The SON boss noted that the agency would continue its zero-tolerance campaign against sub-standards products, adding that a new legislation is currently being worked on to penalise marketers of fake products.

`He said, “A lot of products are not registered, we gave a deadline and the deadline expired in June but people who have registered are less than five per cent of the products.

Why are they avoiding registration? It is because they know they are not selling the right products and they don’t want us to subject them to any evaluation and that is why we are doing this sensitisation.

After this exercise, from September, we will carry out inspections in the market to remove products that are unregistered.” Also speaking at the sensitisation programme, the President National Association of Nigerian Traders, Mr Ken Ukaoha lamented that many lives had been lost in the country through production, distribution and consumption of substandard products. Providing some insights into the activities, he said,

“These products and items are majorly purchased in the markets where traders make them available to unsuspecting consumers and innocent citizens. For instance, many cases of road accidents those have destroyed lives and property have been reported to have been caused by fake and substandard motor tyres.

“Houses and other buildings have crumbled upon many lives as a result of fake cements, fake iron rods and other building materials. Many of these property investments and other and even lives have been lost to fire resulting from fake and substandard electrical cables, appliances and other installations.”

Apart from the human loss, Ukaoha also chronicled other negative effects of the preponderance of fake products in the Nigerian market. According to him, “fake and substandard products have serious debilitating consequences on the economy.

Their influx into the country limits the capacity of local industries and producers to grow and to provide the needed value addition to the economy. Fake and substandard products shut the door against employment generation and keep Nigeria at the mercy of foreign manufacturers who weaken domestic production.

While promising to collaborate fully with government in its onerous task of riding the Nigerian markets of substandard goods, he put a disclaimer on any of his member who engage in acts capable of derailing the process, warning that NANT would not hesitate to hand over anyone caught in the act of trading substandard goods to the law enforcement officials for proper prosecution. “Henceforth, any trader found with fake or substandard goods is on his or her own and must be dealt with.

The NANT boss also called on government to give more support to SON with a view to enable it perform its duties in line with international best practices.

In a similar vein, the Chairman of the Federal Capital Territory, Chapter of NANT, Mr. Edozie Ugwu, stated that the heart of any well meaning Nigerian would bleed if proper evaluation of the evil of counterfeit products is done.

He admonished traders to rise up to stamp out the evil in the society, stressing that it was in their best interest to enlist in the war against substandard products because it would boost their capacities and capability for production of quality goods. He accused some of the officials at the nation’s borders of complicity in the influx of fake products that flooded the country’s market on a daily basis.

“While it is no longer a period for buck passing or trading of blame, it is also critical to take in-depth look at the activities of our border personnel who connive with unscrupulous importers to allow these dangerous products into the country. For us to engage this fight successfully, it is necessary we accept change. We must all change if we truly need our country to change for better, he said.”

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