By NBF News

The Standards Organisation of Nigeria, (SON), under the new Director General, Dr. Joseph Odumodu, (MFR), has recently witnessed a vibrant restructuring. Virtually every personnel of the agency know that what is now on the ground is different from what was obtainable in the past.

I wish to draw the attention of SON to the 'bad image' given the organisation by some unscrupulous Clearing Agents who capitalise on the SONCAP and Product Registration Certificate programmes to swindle unsuspecting importers in the cause of taking delivery of their goods.

Most importers get their goods cleared by Licenced Customs Agents at the nation's entry points. In the process, the Agents are required to present records of SONCAP or Product Registration Certificate to SON. This has become another avenue for money spinning to some dubious Agents.

The trick deployed by some of these dubious Agents, is to raise the false alarm to importer(s), who lack SON's requisite document, that SON will confiscate their products. This will panic the importer into pleading on what could be done to remedy the situation. The importer is made to part with huge sums only to end up paying SON's mandatory handling charges or at best default penalty fees, which in most cases is a far cry from what was collected from the Consignee, with the receipts hidden from the importer to cover the dirty deal. This leaves the importer with negative impressions about the SON.

Some importers, who may want to visit SON's office to find out things for themselves, are cajoled to believing that they will be summarily arrested, handcuffed, detained or prosecuted with their imports impounded then destroyed. No importer would want to be so treated; thereby making the dubious Agent get away with his illicit act.

The antidote to this is for the SON to carry out rigorous enlightenment campaigns through stakeholders' workshops, radio and television jingles, printing and circulation of leaflets to inform the public on the true position of its activities/programmes and tariff specifying penalty fees as applicable if in default. A sister organisation like NAFDAC had a similar problem, but public enlightenment rested it all.

Finally, I will like SON to address the key complains of stakeholders in the Import Business in respect of the on-going restructuring of the organisation. I want the hierarchy of the parastatal to look into the entry-points sampling and placing products on hold despite presentation of pre-requisite genuine document like SONCAP, Product Registeration Certficate which had been authenticated by the various departments and payment of mandatory N21, 000 handling (service) charge. Goods are still being held without default on SONCAP or breach of existing regulated procedures just on the flimsy ground of mere suspicion that the goods look substandard, further complicating the grace period announced by SON's DG.

Once a merchant satisfies all SON's requirements prior to importation, the cargo must be accorded a free passage, except there's anything to the contrary which must first be communicated to the consignee before any action could be effected. This should not be misconstrued as to asking the SON to be passive if in doubt of the quality of a product based on information gathered on such item. SON's management must make some clarifications to avoid further confusion arising from this ambiguity.

SON has an enormous task and responsibility of ridding Nigeria of fake and substandard products, as well protect its image from being battered by some get rich-quick Agents.