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Local manufacturers are adhering to standards – SON DG

The Director-General of the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Mallam Farouk Salim, who spoke with our reporter on the occasion of World Standards Day, provides…

The Director-General of the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Mallam Farouk Salim, who spoke with our reporter on the occasion of World Standards Day, provides insights into the prospects and challenges of running a regulatory agency with oversight functions for monitoring and setting standards in the country. Excerpts:

 

Nigerian Exporters have had to contend with the rejection of local products at the international markets, how is SON addressing this concern?

Of course, you should know that SON is the key regulator for standards and quality in the country and we represent Nigeria in all international standards bodies like ISO, ARSO, IEC, etc. So we know what the importing countries want. In that regard, we are enlightening and sensitizing the SMEs operators and manufacturers to adhere to standards in their processes including the packaging in order for their products to be accepted and competitive.

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It will shock you to know that we have standards either adopted or elaborated for various goods and services in Nigeria. We have 42 offices across the country and we are sensitizing and training industry players on standardization.

I can tell you there is a great improvement in terms of local manufacturers adhering to standards. We do not have problems with local manufacturers because they are monitored from raw materials to finished product stages. However, our biggest challenge is with the imported products which come in through unofficial borders.

What is son doing concerning product certification for exports?

Yes, we are playing a key role in the elaboration and certification of products for both local and export markets. So, in that way we are working relentlessly to sensitise stakeholders to adhere to standards.

We are also collaborating with the relevant sister agencies to promote speedy processes for exports, and this will help to increase the nation’s non-oil exports and diversify the economy. We have regulatory instruments and regimes such as MANCAP for local products, SONCAP for imported ones, quality marks, NIS, and so on. So, we are actually doing a lot to ensure that Nigeria gets exportable products that conform to international best practices and standards.

SON was recently sent out of the port to improve ease of doing business but has now been recalled, what do you make of these moves?

SON was not sent out of the Ports in 2011 among other Agencies because it was causing congestion; rather the Axe fell on them as a uniform directive.

SON by its enabling Act N0.14: 2015 has been mandated to be at all entry points of the country:  sea, land, and air borders, to ensure that substandard goods do not find their way into the country.

This is an onerous task that only officers trained in standardisation activities can render, failure of which the citizens will be dangerously exposed to the effects of their consumption. No nation can afford to abandon this responsibility to untrained hands.

Basically, we are the only organization clearly stated in the Constitution to be in charge of Standards.

Originally, we were supposed to be at the port and also use the trade portal window to view everything happening in the port, including import licensing and so on.

If you may recall, we exited the ports 12 years ago and our coming back will be more useful to the nation.

We had a company that did a study of what the situation in Nigeria is right now and the same company in two months’ time went back to study and saw how much progress we are making.

To expedite SON’s clearance procedures, we have staff who  do joint examination of containers with other agencies at the ports at minimal time and follow up with the importers at their warehouses if necessary.

The joint examination enables our officers to physically inspect the goods, and obtain necessary documents covering the imports which will fasten our post-examination clearance.

We have the capacity to handle any questionable consignment or container with ease.  We have facilities and trained officers to ensure our activities in port are in line with Ease of Doing Business

We have been judged as the number one organization in terms of Ease of Doing Business by PEBEC which is a council under the Vice President’s office. We do not disrupt business but facilitate business and we are very efficient.

What is the level of support given to MSMEs by SON in order to grow the economy?

Very good! Small and medium-scale enterprises are the real drivers of industrial and economic growth in many countries across the world. We are supporting and assisting MSMEs massively.

We give them discounts and waivers, register and certify their products. We provide capacity-building training for their staff. MSMEs operators are parts and parcel of our standards development. They are co-opted into our technical committees that develop, review, and elaborate standards of products.

We are doing a lot to support the sector for the economic growth of the nation. We have since realised their importance in industrial and economic development including economic diversification of the Federal Government.

The theme of this year’s world standards day is “standards for sustainable development goals”. Can you shed more light on this?

Yes, the 2022 edition of the World Standards Day, like others before it, comes with some measures of innovation and benefits, which would go a long way in impacting positively on world economies.

The event’s theme, “Standards for Sustainable Development Goals” aligns with the United Nations’ goals of enhancing economic growth in countries across the world in the next few decades. A lot of people hear standards but have no idea how they affect their lives. Every individual has to live with standards every day. It may be cultural standards, religious standards, physical or scientific standards and so on. Standards are the reason why we are human beings. When there is chaos it means standards have been compromised. Standards are the basics of our lives.

Countries across the world including Nigeria, benefit a lot by ensuring a sustainable economy as well as improved public awareness of safety and standards in our daily activities

There is this increasing focus on the renewable energy sector for economic growth. How is SON impacting this sector?

The thinking is that if we fix the energy sector right, it will go a long way to solve the nation’s productivity challenges.

Having said that, SON in collaboration with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) recently built and commissioned a test laboratory for renewable energy products.

We also launched renewable energy standards to boost the confidence of end-users and consumers of products in the renewable energy sector. We are also encouraging foreign direct investment (FDI) to the sector. We focus on the sector in order to create jobs, increase the capacities of manufacturing companies and attract investments.

The standards for equipment would make the sector compete with on-grid power distribution companies across the country and ultimately encourage efficient and regular power supply. The renewable energy standards we have put in place would boost power demand, supply, capacities, and reliability across the country. Stakeholders in the sector should embrace what we are doing.

What’s your expectation from the public as SON turns 50? 

We want the industry to know that we are here to help them. I want a situation whereby when a SON employee appears, people are happy to see him and believe that with SON staff they can find solutions to their problems.

Equally, I want the public to understand that without them, we will not be able to do our jobs.

Substandard products should be reported or returned. Know your rights!

The people and institutions we serve can help donate facilities and equipment, donate laboratory and operational vehicles, and so on.

We want the public to know that we need more facilities across the country and better cooperation and collaboration even more.

SON, like any other institution, is not without challenges, can you identify them?

Life itself is full of challenges as you know. The government is trying its best to make sure SON is at par with other standard bodies but there are still some challenges such as funding to build more labs across the country, infrastructure, more trained staff, fighting the influx of sub-standard products, standardisation, and ensuring quality assurance culture.

My parting words are: today’s businesses are dealing with a complex brew of social, environmental, market, and technological trends. Standards are the way to go. It can help businesses to thrive and make a real difference in the world within and around us.

 

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