Standard Organization of Nigeria; The Agony of Nigerian Consumers
One may simply say General Yakubu Gowon's administration meant well for Nigeria when his government established Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) through Act 56 in 1971; it was then called the Nigerian Standards Organization (NSO). The Act establishing the body witnessed a number of amendments by different military regimes of General Olusegun Obasanjo in 1976, in 1984 by Major General Muhammadu Buhari and in 1990 by the regime of General Ibrahim Babangida respectively.
SON was statutorily vested with the responsibility of standardizing and regulating the quality of all products in Nigeria for the strict enforcement of powers of seizure, confiscation and destruction of substandard products, including powers to seal up premises where defective products are manufactured or stored. Severe penalties for offending manufacturers, importers and sellers of substandard products are also provided for, in the amended Act.
Also the organization has set to itself under law the goal to provide Nigerian industries with up-to-date information on standardization and its benefits, to encourage participation of the Organized Private Sector (OPS) in standardization and review as to ensure improved competitiveness of Nigerian goods at home and abroad by encouraging quality assurance practices. Apart from what has been mentioned previously SON is also meant to provide information, advice and assistance to industries on quality management for improved cost effectiveness. To ensure adequate technical support for Nigerian industries to match the quality required for competitiveness in global trade, and to motivate the workforce through steady investment in human resource development for acquisition of skills in line with technological advancement. Other goals are to collaborate with regional and international organizations in the areas of metrology, standards, testing and quality assurance for the enhancement of skills and the encouragement of free trade and capacity building.
It is however surprising seeing SON to have been docile, ineffective, and silent all this while when it has all these barrage of goals, responsibilities and statutory rights to safeguard the interest of Nigerian consumers. It was most shocking and disturbing when SON alleged sometime that NAFDAC was overlapping on its oversight function. That scenario even led to a face-off between Dr. John Ndunuba Akanya and Prof. Dora Akunyili (now Minister of Information & Communication), leading both DGs to trade words on the pages of newspapers and magazines.
Moreover, the Nigeria's epileptic power supply caused by failure of our successive governments, has made the defenseless and negleted consumers to suffer great economic lost to the purchase of substandard generating sets which are being imported from different Asian states by greedy importers into Nigeria market, despite heavy presence of the officials of SON at different point of entry of these goods, both in the sea and airports and boarders.
In my own objective view SON has failed to wake up to its statutory responsibilities in curbing the influx of these products coming in to Nigeria; products like electric cables, sockets, generating sets, spare parts (for cars and heavy duty vehicles), cooling systems like Air Conditioners and refrigerators, electric fans, pressing irons, cooking equipments, Television sets, radio, CD & DVD players, building and plumbing materials, plastic and rubber materials, labouratory equipments, tyre, mobile phones, wrist watches to mention but a few; it is so unfortunate and embarrassing that these substandard products now freely reign in Nigerian markets at the expense of the unsuspecting Nigerian consumers who are left in dilemma.
However, if Nigeria still wants to dream of rubbing shoulders with the leading economies of the world and wishes to meet up with its vision 20:20:20 targets, an organization like SON should be overhauled to make Nigeria achieve its set objectives for purposeful economic gains and vibrancy. My clarion call goes to the Presidency, Ministry of the Interior, and other stakeholders in government to help in the revival of this ailing organization; Nigerians have suffered enough as a result of their insensitivity and sheer lapses. I think they should be standardized first, both in resources, policy formulation and action plans, before attempting to standardizing and regulating the quality of all products in the country.