The Kano branch of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has called for the proper positioning of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) at the Nation’s entry points in preparation for the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). National Vice President of MAN, North West Zone, Alhaji Ali Madugu made the call in Kano while receiving the Director General, SON, Mallam Farouk Salim who was on a working visit to the State recently. Alhaji Madugu emphasised the need for SON’s quality verification of all imported products including those from West African Countries, even with the rule of origin in the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme.
Meanwhile SON generated the sum of N302 million in 2020 from its Rivers State Ports and Borders offices, compared to N400 million in 2019.
Head, Ports and Borders, Mr Tajudeen Dosumu said this after meeting with the Director-General of SON, Mallam Salem Farouk, when he paid a visit to the office in Onne, Rivers. Dosumu said that the reason for the 24.5% decline in revenue was due to challenges caused by the pandemic; however, the office had still been able to inspect 39,652 containers in 2020. “In the last four years, the operation has recorded continuous increase in number of containers’ examination, compliance with SON import requirements and guidelines and service charge income,” he said.
Other improvements listed by SON included sustenance of 24-hour operation in FOT terminal and the creation of an intelligence unit, for effective monitoring of consignment movements.
The SON Chief added that the organisation needed an e-Demand Note and e-Receipting to curb interference, and staff training on Ports and Borders operations, for improved service delivery. Salem Farouk stated that the agency faced some difficulties in assessing containers at the ports and promised efficiency through the implementation of technology to improve service delivery and container monitoring. in October 2020 that Global shipping line, Maersk, resumed services from China to Onne Port (by ship) last year, and also resumed operations at the Onitsha Inland Port.
According to Alhaji Ali Madugu, the commencement of the AfCFTA further underscores the need for SON’s presence at the entry points to prevent Nigeria from being turned into a dumping ground of substandard, fake and counterfeited products from other African Countries. He acknowledged the need for product authentication as an additional tool to fight faking, adulteration and unfair competition with substandard products in the market and urged SON to look at the best way to implement it without putting genuine manufacturers at disadvantage in terms of cost and the procedure for compliance. The MAN National Vice President, commended Mallam Salim’s approach to addressing the concerns of about 140-member strong, North West branch of MAN and enumerated issues for his further consideration. These according to him include; decentralisation of SON testing facilities through building of additional Laboratories across the country, including Kano; easier processing of import documents without necessarily visiting SON Headquarters in Abuja; greater protection of local manufacturers’ MANCAP certified products from adulteration and faking of their brands in Nigeria and overseas as well as unfair competition with substandard imports.
Other members of the North West Branch of MAN Executive Committee called for an upgrade and enlightenment of members on the SON offshore conformity assessment programme (SONCAP) portal, as well as the inspection procedure, sampling and testing relating to the Mandatory Conformity Assessment Programme (MANCAP) for locally manufactured products. Mallam Farouk Salim responded that SON was set up to provide technical assistance and support to genuine local manufacturers as well as protect them from unfair competition from substandard products. He acknowledged their sacrifices through investment in infrastructure, creation of job opportunities and regular payment of taxes as part of growing the Nation’s wealth and assured them of his commitment and support.
In his words “We need to partner with MAN to protect genuine manufacturers and legitimate importers by sharing intelligence to apprehend and prosecute standards infractions. With adequate consequences for actions, most people will follow the rules”, he said.
He decried the current situation where SON is unable to carry out quality verification of all its regulated imported products at the points of entry nor accost suspected substandard products outside the ports. Mallam Salim stated that efficient service delivery remains his focus and invited MAN to pull forces together with SON for collective success in the interest of the Nation’s economy and the wellbeing of its people.
The SON Chief Executive asked the MAN and other stakeholders to look forward to seamless and robust deployment of information communication technology to enhance the agency’s delivery of efficient services and an appreciable reduction in turnaround time for standards development, product certification and registration amongst others. He invited MAN members to work with SON to further protect their brands through the deployment of a product authentication scheme to empower Consumers at the point of purchase. In his words “We need a symbiotic relationship to succeed without loss of business and relevance. While I call for genuine partnership with MAN and other Stakeholders, SON would not back down from implementing the law by diligent prosecution of standards infractions”, he said.