Special Report: SON’s Weighbridges Calibration: A Lift for Nigerian Ports and Shippers

Mallam Farouk Salim, Director-General, Standards Organisation of Nigeria

The Federal Government of Nigeria earlier in the year 2021 approved the National Quality Policy to stop the rejection of Nigerian goods exported out of the country.

Announcing the approval, the Minister of Industry Trade and Investment, Chief Niyi Adebayo, after the 31st virtual meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in Abuja, said that the essence of the policy is to ensure goods exported out of Nigeria are accepted in the countries they are being exported to.

According to Chief Niyi Adebayo, “Nigerian exporters, for a long time, have been suffering because of lack of quality of their goods. We felt that it was high time we actually have a policy that will create a situation whereby the standard of the Nigerian goods that are exported would be raised, such that that rejection would stop.

“This policy will create a situation whereby the government and the private sector will be able to collaborate to set up quality testing centers, testing labs which we hope will have accreditation with international centers, such that any goods that have been approved to have met the standard would be of international standard,” said the minister.

The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), the custodian of measurement in the country, was directed by the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Works and Housing and Ministry of Transportation, to commence a calibration of all axle load weighbridges in Nigeria as part of measures to protect the roads from excessive loads by cargo trucks and trailers.

Flag off of Weighbridge calibration at APM Terminals 

A container-laden truck being measured on the weighbridge

Acting on the government directive, SON flagged off the calibration of the weighbridge at APM Terminals in Apapa Port Complex in Lagos in January 2021.  Performing the calibration, the Director-General of Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Mallam Farouk Salim, said the calibration would help the government to get accurate weights of cargoes and also to check the influx of substandard goods and services.

He added that the calibration of cargo and goods leaving the ports and industries is designed by the Federal Government of Nigeria towards preserving the roads from constant damage by overweight trucks and as well as giving Nigerians the right quality products. He maintained that the measurement would be extended to other seaports and oil depots/terminals in the country.

Mallam Farouk Salim said, “The increased capacity is in furtherance of implementing the Federal Government directive to ensure that all axle load weighbridges are properly monitored and maintained throughout the country by SON.”

The calibration exercise is handled by the SON’s National Metrology Institute (NIMA).

SON DG Salim unveils the latest laboratory accreditations for global recognition of Nigerian products in Lagos

Importance of Calibration to National Economy

The essence of the policy, according to Chief Niyi Adebayo, is to ensure goods exported out of Nigeria are accepted in the countries they are being exported to. Mallam Farouk Salim said the calibration would help the government to get accurate weights of cargoes and also to check the influx of substandard goods and services

Corroborating the Minister and SON DG, the Director of NMI, Engineer Bede Obayi, inferred that the measurement exercise would help the government to collect correct revenues.

Obayi added that the investment (calibration) is in line with SON’s determination to ensure equity in business and control rapid wear and tear on Nigerian roads.

According to Obayi, “As you are aware that the Director-General of Standards Organization of Nigeria had a stakeholders forum with the steel manufacturers association of Nigeria where he directed them to ensure that all their equipment and measuring instruments are properly calibrated to ensure that products coming out of the steel factories complied with the specifications of the standards for the products.

“So, it is no longer business as usual. It is either you calibrate your equipment and instrument properly or you get out of business or SON will prosecute you and the law will take its cause on you.

Accurate Measurement – Fear of Stakeholders 

The Director-General of SON Mallam Farouk Salim allays the fears of importers (shippers) and industrialists by saying that the calibration exercise is a country-wide exercise and is being handled by its metrology institute based in Enugu, National Metrology Institute (NIMA), the custodians of the primary measurement standards of highest accuracy in Nigeria.

“Metrology is the science of measurements that can be used to check the influx of substandard goods and services in Nigeria. The Federal Executive Council (FEC) Approval on the roads gives credence to our calibration services to ensure that our roads are preserved and maintained for long-term uses.

“An example of the implementation process in Kenya is which Nigeria is adopting. NMI is to ensure that the weighbridges are giving accurate measurements to the users,” Mallam Farouk Salim said.

To further boost the capacity of its staff in the area of measurement, the SON boss noted that the organisation would send some of its staff on attachment to National Metrology Institute in Enugu and testing laboratories abroad for further studies, consider retired staff as SON Ambassadors, and maintenance of established procedure for the Mandatory Conformity Assessment Programme for locally manufactured products.

Also allaying the fears in line with the Director-general, Engineer Bede Obayi said measurement services that would be provided by the weighbridges would be accurate and in line with the international standards.

Obayi maintained that given the assignment to SON by the government shows that government appreciates the roles of the institute in providing accurate measurements and assured Nigerians that the roads in the country would be safe from frequent damage caused by overweight trucks leaving the ports, petroleum depots/terminals and factories.

“We are happy that this assignment is given to us. This shows that government appreciates our measuring roles. We want to assure all port stakeholders of accurate measurements; we are enjoining them to always declare accurately the necessary information about their imports and export,” he said.

Gas truck being weighed on the newly installed facility

Enlightenment of Stakeholders

Calibration is a novel idea, especially to importers and exporters. To gain their cooperation, the NMI Director said that the SON management had sensitized all stakeholders on the benefits of weighbridges and accurate declaration. He promised that SON would continue to educate and enlighten them.     

Acquisition of New Calibration Equipment

Taking into consideration the nationwide scope of the exercise and meeting the demands of the target users, the NMI Director, Engr. Bede Obayi stated that the SON management has increased the capacity of the NMI in the provision of calibration service for Nigerians.

Engineer Bede Obayi, Director, NMI

“The Institute has continued to receive requests for calibration services from public and private organizations across the country and is capable of meeting all the demands,” he said, adding that the institute recently acquired some new equipment to boost calibration services in the country.

He assured stakeholders of the NMI’s preparedness to ensure the accuracy of all measuring instruments and equipment in Nigeria to facilitate fair trade and promote the increased competitiveness of Nigeria-made products in view of the ongoing implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement.

The Director enjoined manufacturers and other suppliers of goods and services to avail themselves of the Institute’s calibration services to satisfy the requirements of their customers, stressing that businesses conducted on equity considerations have the potentials for continual improvement and longevity.

According to him, “NMI as Nigeria’s custodian of primary reference standards for the calibration of all measurement instruments and equipment represents the country at the International Bureau for Weights and Measures (BIPM) conferences and conventions in order to be in tune with international best practices.

Engineer Bede Obayi (left) with some staff of NMI taking delivery of the new weight standards acquired by the SON recently in Enugu

“SON is ready and fully equipped to carry out calibration of those equipment used in the manufacturing of these steel reinforcement bars. SON has acquired the latest measuring instruments to ensure compliance with standards. All the weight bridges, universal tensile testing machines, optical emission spectrometers (OES) used in the determination of the properties and weight of these products before they go out of the factories must be properly calibrated so that there will be equity in the business.

“The products will not fall short of the requirements of the standards and the consumers will get value for their money, the manufacturers will be happy that they have given their products that will meet the requirements of the standards organization of Nigeria and that means that Nigerians will be happy to use these products to build structures that will stand the test of time, to stem the incidences of collapsed buildings and grow the economy of this country.”

Tonnes of weight standards equipment

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