In the year 2014, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) destroyed over N5 billion worth of sub-standard goods toning down of the sub-standard products in the market from its alarming 95 percent.
According to SON Director-General, Dr Joseph Odumodu, over 95 per cent of substandard products are imported into the country, indicating that they either come through the seaports or the airports, challenging freight forwarders and custom agents on their role to raid the country of sub standard products.
While consumers are to be blame for pratonizing fake and substandard products or many are too less concerned to examine the quality of products they buy.
Nigerians in the new year are looking forward to seemless partnership between freight forwarders, custom agents and SON to tackle influx of fake products from other countries.
Director-General of the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Dr Joseph Odumodu, at an interactive forum with freight forwarders and custom agents ‘Seamless Importation: Building Stakeholders Synergy and Trade without Compromising Standards, said “when consumers take pain to check the standards on the products and services offered to them, they are discouraging fake and counterfeit products. We are all responsible for the state of the state of affairs. One of the effects of the situation we have found ourselves is that a lot of the local companies in production have closed down because they have not been able to compete with the imported substandard products. We should have zero tolerance to these products because some of them are actually killing us.
“We all have a collective responsibility to fight against it. As cargo handlers and professional logistics providers, you are the link between manufacturers and the consumers. Of course, you are not importers but without you, importers are nowhere”
Odumodu strongly believed that fighting substandard products could easily be made possible when there is a concerted effort.
“Decades ago, the business paradigm was let the buyer beware. Now, the responsibility, like security, has become everyone’s business.
Soldiers and policemen cannot secure a nation if citizens compromise security either by omission or commission. Often, importers are not too clear about what are legitimate and what are prohibited in a nation. It is the duty of agents to educate importers; not only educate on general matters but also specifics, hence quality and standards.”
Odumodu noted that, it is possible that an agent would actually tell an importer that certain products are banned and the importer may still go ahead to bring it in. It may well happen that an agent would turn down an importer because the product fails the requirements and the importer goes to another agent and gets through.
“I believe business culture should prevail at all times. I have seen a few cases of an importer giving us information about another importer who brought in substandard or fake products. In contrast, I have no reported case of an agent informing on substandard goods imports. Do we assume that agents do not see or hear or it is the case of hear no evil, see no evil and report no evil?
“The problem with looking aside in the face of all these evil is that no one knows the limits of the effects. The state of insecurity in Nigeria today tells us that we are all joined together intrinsically.
SON has among other commitments, the duty to help Nigerian businesses not only to grow and dominate the local market but also begin to venture into the global scenes. No nation survives without playing on equal terms with the rest of the world,” Odumodu said.
“It does not matter the industry; whether banking and insurance, hospitality and tourism, drugs and health care or shipping and maritime, it is incumbent that national or local players start thinking of joining the rest of the world and playing to win and not merely warm the bench.”
The National President, Association of Nigerian Agents, Prince Olayewole Shittu on his part wants SON to improve on its collaboration with trade groups and unions.
“We make public our new partnership with SON and to encourage other stakeholders in the maritime industry to put hands together to tackle the problem. All port operators must work together and join hands with SON if truly we want the very disturbing and harmful incidence of fake and substandard products to be effectively tackled in our country. We should all cooperate at ensuring that only safe and standard products get to our markets.”
Special Assistant to the President on Maritime, Mr Oyewole Leke however lamented that substandard goods had lead to the closure of many companies locally, increase unemployment, leading to so many deaths and brought lot of havoc on the country.
“We rely so much on importation and pay heavily for it, and now we even battle with fake and substandard imported products. We must decide on the type of products we want in our country. Certain products never enter some countries. This is not a dumping ground.”
He added that the Nigerian shipping industry had a great future which lied in looking at the African and world markets and how to venture out rather than remain satisfied with holding the local market in firm grips.
According to him, SON has the requisite skills and templates to enable Nigerian shippers grow to international status. We need the determined decision of the players. There is no where on earth that there are no dubious operators. The difference between Nigeria and the rest of the world, however, is that there are more dubious players here and in some situations, the dubious players call the shots.
He noted that emerging countries like China, South Korea and India were not pushing ahead of the western economies by chance. “It is the result of superior business models: quality, integrity and universality.”
He called on freight forwarders, agents and other operators to rise and embrace the change by ensuring best practices in conducting their businesses.
“Standards are not parochial; you cannot partition standards into cubicles. Our education standards are clearly facing challenges.
Anybody can see it in the quality of our graduates. Parents spend fortunes to send wards to schools and what are the results?
“Similarly, we spend billions, trillions as a nation importing goods and what do we have to show for it? The largest fake and substandard goods market in the world! Is that something we should celebrate or that we should be proud of as a country?