Importers cheat govt because they don’t fulfil global trade obligation – Aboluma, SON DG

Calabar Port

By Gboyega Oni

“The importers don’t fulfill their obligation with respect to global trade when they try to cheat the government, let alone import harmful equipments like guns into the country. This problem would be reduced to the barest minimum when people stop false declaration. The Nigerian government and its agencies would sit back allow such anarchic importers to use fraudulent processes to defraud the nations and expose the country to dangerous unlawful products.”

The Director General of Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), Barrister Osita Aboluma stated this past week in Lagos while speaking at a townhall meeting with stakeholders.

Aboluma, who was represented by Engr. Bede Obayi, Director, Inspectorate and Compliance at SON, noted that false declaration was wrong, charging them to declare what is in the container because when there are security lapses people import weapons and other harmful instruments into the country.

“False declaration is wrong and we encourage importers and freight forwarders to avoid this. They should declare what is in the container because when there are security lapses people import weapons and other harmful instruments into the country. We have to ensure that we declare rightly. Out of all the interceptions of arms by the Customs in recent times, you would find that none of them was honest to declare that what was in the container was ammunition,” he said.

He said SON had keyed into the Federal Government order on Ease of Doing Business in the port in ensuring that the standards are maintained for the importation of goods into the country.
The DG said SON had made public all standard operating procedures to enable the trading public and stakeholders know what is obtainable and what is not.

He added that the SON management had intensified efforts in the fight against sub-standard products both from imports and locally made goods, saying this was important for safety, health and to enable Nigerians make money from their businesses and get the appropriate value from products.
According to him, “We have made public our standard operating procedures to enable the trading public and stakeholders know what is obtainable and what isn’t.

“We have also intensified efforts in the fight against sub-standard products both from imports and locally made goods. This is important for safety, health and to enable Nigerians make money from their businesses and get the appropriate value from products.

“SON has ensured that are documentations are done properly and our SOPs are available on our website so that everyone interested in importing or manufacturing knows the appropriate standards and procedures. This ensures that they can easily comply with the procedures. Today, due to the efforts of SON, for the manufacturers especially for items like cable; we have ensured that made-in-Nigeria cables are always the best. People know clone Nigerian products because they know the level of the standards and certification we stand for in Nigeria. People now brand imported products as made-in-Nigeria but this is wrong, because it dents the reputation of Nigeria and products made in the country.”

Speaking on the importancve of the townhall meeting, Aboluma said it was important for SON and its stakeholders to sit together and ask themselves pertinent questions on compliance with rules.

“SON is calling on all stakeholders today so that we sit together as a family. This is a town hall meeting where we need to ask ourselves question, are we getting it right? Is this country like another country or a substandard country? If it is an independent country, why can’t we observe our laws and regulations that are there for citizens of this country to enjoy the dividends of standardization? You find that certain products are brought into the country without being tested but SON is saying it would no longer allow non-compliant trade in the country. Anybody who wants to import must do so along the stipulated procedures and standards.

“We have people bringing products that are made outside and stay here and label them as made in Nigeria products. That cannot drive the government’s quest for consumption of made in Nigeria products.

“And so, if SON is out there to do its own bit, we need those who are doing the business, the stakeholders with us to understand their own responsibility. So, it is not the issue of saying this government agency has seized the containers either on the highway or somewhere but what did you do? Did you understand and follow the procedures for these imports before you brought in the goods?” Aboluma asked.

Speaking on the SON’s efforts at preventing sub-standard imports, the SON boss said that SONCAP offers importers the needed information on standards of goods they intend to import.

Aboluma has this to say: “That is the essence of the SONCAP (Standards Organization of Nigeria Conformity Assessment Programme) scheme. SONCAP is an opportunity offered by SON to anybody who wants to import any product into the country but the importer must first contact recognized accredited agents across the world. This would enable the importer ensure that the goods he or she intends bringing into the country conforms to the standards of SON.

“If anybody makes good use of this opportunity by ensuring that the import procedures passes through our agents, he can be sure that he would be properly guided and when the good arrive in Nigeria there would be smooth access into the country. This highlights the ease of doing business by ensuring that goods conform to the standards.”

Assessing the level of compliance to executive orders by SON, he said “The business of today is that SON isn’t working in isolation. We are not doing it alone, but in collaboration with other government agencies and critical stakeholders. This pertinent responsibility of ensuring standards also falls on the importers, freight forwarders, middlemen and all those who want to pervert due process by encouraging an importer to use an HS code to bring in a wrong product. This doesn’t enhance the ease of doing business and that is the essence of this meeting. Even as an individual if you see something that is wrong, the onus is on you to raise an alarm.

“We have also seen places where SONCAP certificates that are not supposed to be used for certain products. In certain cases, you see the SONCAP certificates presented for a product, but it is not what it is in the container. So, why will you go and get SONCAP certificate and swap it with another product. These are the issues that we have called all of you today and we have invited capable Nigerians who are going to look at the issues here.

“Everyone has to know that ‘conformity to standards’ is everybody’s business. It is good that the government is saying let us do things right for our citizens but if we make the decision to stick to what is right, we would achieve a lot together.”

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