The Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) has said that its absence at the port would make it difficult to monitor influx of substandard products into Nigeria, saying that its operations are better conducted at the nation’s seaports and border posts rather than chasing fake goods across Nigeria.
This is even as the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has raised an alarm that her members have lost more than N20 billion to fake goods imports in the last ten years.
Speaking at a stakeholders’ forum in Lagos on Tuesday with the theme, “Facilitating Trade Through SON Automated Services” Director General of SON, Mr. Osita Aboloma disclosed that there is need for the Federal Government to reinstate SON at the port just like other government agencies.
Aboloma who was represented by the Director, Inspectorate and Compliance Department SON, Engr. Obiora Manafa assured the stakeholders that the agency’s automation process has since been completed, urging importers to always perfect their documentation and SONCAP (SON Conformity Assessment Program) before cargoes arrive Nigeria.
He solicited support of major freight forwarding associations in the fight against substandard products, saying that since the agency commenced its sensitization programs, compliance level has increased.
He however said that it is easier to fight the influx of substandard products at the point of entry rather than chasing them around all over the country, in markets, warehouses among other places with its attendant problems.
He said, “This is important because for us at the enforcement unit of SON, it is very difficult for us to chase substandard products across the country as far as the product has left the port because, immediately the product leaves the port, you don’t know the destination. The product can be in Kano in the next one day, it can be in Port-Harcourt in the next two days, it can be in Enugu, it can be in Aba, it can be in Osogbo. So, you don’t know the direction the product will get to immediately it leaves the port”
“So, it is easier for us to get that substandard products at the port because the logistics requirements for you to chase the product, maybe the product has entered one big market for example Alaba, ASPAMDA or the big markets in Kano or Sokoto, it requires a lot for you to go and get them from that market”
“You have to mobilize your security because it is not safe, you have to mobilize the vehicles and you have to do so many thing things. So, it will cost you like 100 to 1,000 times what it would have cost you to stop the product when it is about leaving the port or inside the port.”
Also speaking, National President of ANLCA, Mr. Tony Iju lamented that his members have been badly hit by noncompliance of Nigerian importers, saying that in ten years, N20billion has been lost.
He said the importers usually fail to disclose to their agents the actual content of their containers or degree of compliance with extant rules like SON Confornmity Assessment Programme (SONCAP).
Iju said the association has taken it upon herself to educate importers on the need for their compliance to safeguard lives and avoid losses emanating from seizures and destruction of fake and substandard goods.
” This task is daunting, but we are not relenting because customs brokers have suffered an estimated cumulative losses amounting to over N20b in the last ten years for undertaking to clear goods discovered to be substandard”
“Let me put it clearly, that upon seizure of suspected fake or substandard goods after payment of duty, it will be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for an importer, whose consignments were seized to pay you the balance of the agreed sum even after the broker has spent his money on the logistics”
On his part, Dr. Eugene Nweke, former President of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) urged SON management to ensure collaboration with the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) to continually educate stakeholders.