SON tells customs agents to harmonize cargo import documents to avoid alert

Osita Aboloma, Director General of Standards Organisation of Nigeria

By Adegboyega Oni

Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has again reiterated the need for customs agents to advise their principals – importers – to ensure that they obtain proper documents – SONCAP for any certified/regulated product – before embarking on importation.

SON noted that all documents relating to the product must be in harmony; otherwise discrepancies in the documents will automatically raise red flags and such cargo will be immediately alerted.

Engineer Obiora Manafa, Director, Directorate of Compliance, SON, gave the advice during an interaction with customs agents led by the Zonal Coordinator of Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA, Western Zone), Comrade John Dankatsina Oforbike in Lagos.

Some of the operational challenges raised by ANLCA were:  regulation of a single item by two agencies of Government – SON & NAFDAC, non-availability of examination reports by SON officials.

Engineer Obiora Manafa, who assured the visitors that all their complaints would be addressed by the organization, explained that the role of SON in the cargo clearance process is to ensuring that substandard goods are not allowed into the Nigerian space, noting that SON staffs were not Police to arrest but to prevent importation of fake and substandard products into Nigeria.

Manafa noted that every importer desperately wants to cut corners, and the reason is that they are averse to compliance to extant regulations relating to permissible imported standard products.

Describing a vivid description of the fraudulence that is being perpetrated by unscrupulous importers, Engr. Manafa revealed some importers take samples of especially the popular, MANCAP-compliant Nigerchin, Kabelmetal, etc to China, requesting manufacturers there to produce substandard products, design and label such products with those of local compliant manufacturers, and subsequently introduce such to the Nigerian market, after beating the regulatory agencies at the international trade boundaries.

He pleaded with ANLCA to assist SON in enlightening and sensitizing the importing publics on the dangers inherent in the importation and consumption/use of fake and substandard products, saying that anyone could be a victim of substandard and fake products, if allowed into the markets.

‘’We are appealing to the public, especially those importing for the public/open market, to ensure that proper documentations are done before importation such that SONCAP for any certified/regulated product is obtained before commencement of import,’’ said Manafa, saying that SON would not relent in contravening and detention of fake cargoes.

 He noted that the inclusion of SON by the Nigerian Customs Service on the Nigeria Integrated Customs Information System (NICIS II) will enable SON access to interface and interrogate some suspected imports.

He was of the opinion that if SON were returned by the government to the ports it will help the organization to stop at source substandard and fake products from making their way into the markets.

Engr. Manafa pleaded with members of ANLCA to assist SON in checkmating the influx of life threatening substandard products like electric cables, tires, etc, informing the visitors that SON is now very well equipped to test any products determine their level of compliance with standards.

Also speaking at the event was Engineer Yahyah Bukar, Head, Port and Border Operations, who addressed the visitors on regulation of the borderline products by SON and NAFDAC concurrently, saying that an inter-agency committee set up by the government to harmonize the grey areas of operation between the two agencies of government had addressed the issue.

On the issue of examination reports not being issued by SON operatives inside the port as evidence of witnessing the examination, Engr. Bukar explained that such lapses occur where SON operatives are not present. According to him, ‘’when such incidences occur, and in order not to be contravened on the highways by operatives of the enforcement unit of the Directorate, efforts should be made by the customs agents to reach out to the officials at the Apapa office for immediate intervention to allow exiting of the affected consignment.’’

Earlier in his statement, the Western Zone Coordinator of ANLCA, Comrade John Dankatsina Ofobike, reassured SON of the support of the association ‘’Therefore, ANLCA has no choice other than to work with SON to achieve a collective objective of ensuring that our people do not die or lose their properties from the use or consumption of substandard products,’’ he said.

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