By Christiana Ekpa
The House of Representatives yesterday asked the Federal Government to rescind its order on Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to leave Ports to allow it carry out its statutory mandate to check the influx and circulation of substandard and the endangering products into Nigeria.
The resolution of the House followed a motion by Minority Leader of the House, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu (PDP, Delta) raised during matters of urgent public importance at plenary.
Presenting the motion, Mr Elumelu expressed serious concern that the exclusion of SON and NAFDAC from the list of agencies at all ports and borders is a clear signal for purveyors of substandard products and their collaborators that the road is wide open for nefarious and unpatriotic activities.
He note that, “whereas the SON and NAFDAC expressly provides that the Standard Organization of Nigeria shall have a right of access at reasonable times to any premises, including all Nigeria sea ports, airports and land borders where an industrial or commercial undertaking is being carried On, and may use reasonable force, if need be, to gain entry. Meanwhile, the agency since November 2011 has been out at all ports and borders on the order of the Federal Government”
The minority leader further noted that since the expulsion of SON/NAFDAC from all borders and ports, there has been unabated importation of substandard products into the country by unpatriotic Nigerians adding that, it is one of the highest forms of corruption and threat to National security.
He expressed concern that the ministerial directives expelling SON NAFDAC from all ports and borders was done without taking cognizance of the compelling need for SON to be at ports and borders in line with the requirement of the law.
According to Mr Elumelu, the reasons for the removal of SON and NAFDAC and other agencies of government advanced by the then Minister of Finance in 2011 was the Slowing down of clearance of goods at ports and borders.
“However it is pertinent to note that those reasons are no longer tenable as clearance of goods are now done electronically in support of the diversification of the economy in line with the Presidential directive on the ease of doing business.
He added: “that apart from countries that have established single window platforms for the inspection and clearance of goods at their ports and borders, all other countries have their standard bodies at the ports and borders to enable them prevent the influx of counterfeit and substandard goods.
“The need for the physical presence of SON at the point of inspection seeks to compliment the short comings of the electronic clearance, since it ‘s impossible to access or ascertain the quality of goods being cleared electronically.
“Preventing SON from operating at any ports or border into the country is in flagrant disregard to the SON and NAFDAC adding that no other agency can carry out the statutory functions of SON on its behalf at the ports and borders, as their function of quality assurance cannot be interchanged with any sister agency, the minority leader worried.
Contributing to the debate, Hon. Nasir Ahmed(APC, Kano) who spoke in favour of the motion, said there is need to look into the matter particularly as chalks are now being used to manufacture fake drugs.
The lawmaker called for pre shipments assessment before shipping products into the country.
According to James Faleke(APC, Lagos) Standard Organisation of Nigeria should ensure that products being brought into the country are certified by the agency rather than allowing every agencies to go to the ports to screen products.
The motion was adopted by the House through a voice vote put up by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila as the committee on finance was directed to have an interface with the Minister of Finance on the need for Standard Organisation Nigeria (SON) to urgently return to the ports and borders as part of the strategy required for it to effectively check the unprecedented influx of substandard products.