MASSIVE IMPORTATION OF SUB-STANDARD GOODS – WHY PRESIDENT BUHARI SHOULD RETURN SON TO THE PORTS
It is no more news that Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) was expelled from our sea and Airports in 2011. It is equally no more news that both the Nigeria government and people appear to have collectively consented to suffer the perpetual damage inflicted on them by massive dumping of fake and substandard products mainly from Asia on our soil.
There is no doubt that Nigeria ranks first among the countries with substandard dumps such as drugs food and beverages, articles, electrical materials, electronics, household appliances and equipment, building materials, automobiles, spare parts and tyres to mention but a few.
It is sad that this absurdity appears to be under-captured and under estimated by both government and the general public. Part of the reason is that we have become accustomed to abnormalities and oddities. In Nigeria, lives and properties are lost due to building collapse or fire outbreak occasioned by substandard building and electrical materials; many lives are lost every day on our roads as a result of substandard or twisted tyres, fake brake oil and other substandard parts. Nigerians are not getting value for their money because they probably spend five times more replacing and maintaining these products because of their inferior quality, a clear case of huge economic waste and losses.
Dumping constitutes a substantial disincentive to indigenous production and investment in Nigeria. Massive dumping is responsible for failure of many small and medium scale industries in Nigeria. This substantially retards our effort towards developing a robust and sustainable industrial base that will actualize our dreams in terms of industrialization and employment generation.
Massive dumping of substandard products constitutes undue pressure on our environment. As a result of waste generated through unnecessary high frequency of replacements caused by use of poor quality products, our environment is always littered and overburdened with replaced and unusable items and packing waste. The chain effects of environmental pressure and pollution from this problem as they relate to our farmland marine and aquatic life, blockage of our canals and drainage channels are monumental.
This is a big drain on our economy. Some law-abiding entrepreneurs even lose out under the undue competitive advantages enjoyed by the perpetrators of this economic crime. Sometimes these entrepreneurs end up in the hands of the EFCC as financial defaulters. Some fraudulent business people including Chinese, Indian, Lebanese companies and their Nigerian collaborators sometimes indulge in shipping different qualities of the same product to different importers in Nigeria in order to create artificial competition among themselves to the undue advantage of the exporter and at the expense of our lives and economy.
Dumping has diminished and deformed our sense of quality. Today, Nigerians are more 'price' driven than quality. People tend to be more concerned about ''what price'' than value or quality. This dangerous trend is even affecting the quality of our locally manufactured goods. Our low quality consciousness which is partly caused by dumping is one of the factors responsible for the poor competitiveness of our locally manufactured products at the international market. Manufacturers are more concerned about survival than quality in the face of the huge pressure presented by dumping.
Dumping creates strong pressure on our foreign exchange portfolio. It constitutes a lot of pressure on our lean foreign exchange earnings because in most cases, the rubbish must be paid for. It therefore has a significant element of capital flight.
In all these, we end up sacrificing lives and so much of our hard earned resources, fatally injuring our economy while growing the GDP and employment index of the exporting countries of these rubbish as well as enriching the pockets of the partners-in-crime including Nigerians and their foreign collaborators.
Therefore there is no justification for the expulsion of SON from our sea and airports. In the face of the danger and threat posed by fake and substandard products flooding our markets, SON must be allowed to return to our sea ports and airports. It is a well-known fact that over 80% of substandard products imported into Nigeria come through the sea and airports. If the above points are correct, why is SON not allowed to operate in the Ports which actually present more economical, convenient and efficient environment for result oriented operation? In the Port, SON enjoys great synergy working in partner-ship with other agencies of government including customs and security agents. Outside the Port these agenciesare working alone with very limited capacity in terms of staff, logistics, security and facilities.
It is true that the security challenges in our country today have also placedsignificant limitation on the capacity and reach of SON. Outside the Port, SON's activities are seriously hindered due to poor security and the attendant risk of trying to apprehend offenders.
But returning to the Ports, SON must raise its bar on the issue of the quality, professionalism and integrity of its staff. Focus should be more on proactive measures and prevention followed by appropriate penalty like destruction of the imported sub-standard goods and punishment of the criminal as this sometimes end up in huge economic losses that on some occasion trigger a chain of deep rooted negative economic consequences including business failure, bank default and job losses among others. For instance, it is in the overall interest of our socio-economic system that a criminal is discouraged from embarking on importation of defective electric cables than catching him and destroying N50million worth of such product after he borrowed from the bank to effect the transaction.
Less time and resources should be spent on paper work, registrations and renewals and processing of payments by developing a more efficient and cost effective wayof achieving the required result. Energy and resources released or saved should be directed to greater enforcement of preventive measures including education, public enlightenment, intelligence gathering, surveillance and monitoring.
SON should strongly engage major stake holders including all the arms of Government, the business community, the consumers and the general public by bringing to the front burner the litany of challenges militating against the war on dumping in Nigeria. For instance the Act establishing SON is prostate and comprehensively deficient when it comes to punishment regarding offences relating to standards. It is baffling, that the highest penalty for violation of the law on standards is one year imprisonment or fine of N1000. How come our legislators have not bothered to increase the punishment for buying and sale of sub-standard products in Nigeria.
As part of its proactive strategy, SON should take the war on sub-standard products to China, the major country of manufacture of majority of these fake and inferior products. First, the relationship between SON and its service providers like Intertek and Cotecna should be reviewed to impose serious penalty on these providers for contractual default. There should be a new arrangement which makes clear provision for holding the service providers responsible for failure to perform as stipulated in the contract in terms of assessment
Written by Uche Anigbata.