New Telegraph

Product Authentication: Tackling infiltration of substandard goods

The Nigerian economy is said to be losing an aver- age of N15 trillion annually due to substandard products. The importation of fake, substandard goods into the country has caused incalculable damage. Besides the damage it inflicts on the economy, the consumption of substandard goods ruins lives. At a one-day stakeholders’ sensitisation workshop and mandatory conformity assessment programme, MANCAP, certification presentation with the theme “Zero Tolerance for Sub-Standard Products,” held recently, Mrs. Chinyere Egwuonu, Chief Executive and Lead Consultant of Pearlcee Consult Limited, regretted that the country was groaning under the yoke of fake and substandard products. At the celebration of World Standards Day last year, Director-General of the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Farouk Salim, raised the alarm about the importation of fake and substandard goods, which Salim said had become a major killer in the country.

Salim regretted that the activities of a few economic saboteurs were impacting negatively on the national economy. He said SON was in a wrestling contest with the importers, local manufacturers, and all elements aiding and abetting the distribution of fake and substandard goods in the country. Nevertheless, SON DG is confident the agency will win the war against the proliferation of fake and substandard goods in the country with the collaboration of related bodies such as the Nige- ria Customs Service and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), in addition to various product authentication mark tools put in place by SON for easy distinction between fake and original products. Tackling menace with identifiable mark Nigeria is a key member of the Af- rican continent that signed on to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in 2018. It’s expected AfCFTA will progressively eliminate tariffs on intraAfrica trade, making trading among African businesses within the continent un- hindered.

The AfCFTA is expected to expand the size of Africa’s economy to $29 trillion by 2050. As the largest economy on the Af- rican continent, Nigeria is positioned as the biggest player in AfCTA affairs, with numerous imports and exports. To guard against the infiltration of substandard goods through importation and to ensure locally manufactured goods meet standards, SON is enforcing strict compliance with the Products Authentication Mark (PAM). PAM is being enforced in accordance with Sector 5 of the SON Act, 2015. SON owns PAM, a distinct mark to be applied to all products that comply with the SONCAP and MANCAP. While SONCAP is a distinct mark for imported commodities, MANCAP is a requirement for locally manufactured commodities. However, arising from the rampant application of the mark on non-certi- fied products, SON decided to control the printing of the mark as well as improve its security features through physical and digital technology.

Essentially, some of the objectives of PAM include protecting genuine manufacturers and importers from the faking and counterfeiting of their certified products. Enforcement of PAM is also to pro- mote a level playing field in the mar- ket for both locally manufactured and imported products certified by SON. Can SON win the war? Combating the infiltration of sub- standard imported goods or curbing locally manufactured fake.products is not a tea party affair. Winning the war is evidently a task, as it were. Industry is theHeart of the nation just as SON is the heart of industries. The two must collaborate to win the war. Speaking in an interview with New Telegraph recently in Abuja on the sidelines of an event, SON Director of Product Certification, Mr. Tersoo Orgudwem, shed light on steps being taken by SON to address issues bor- dering on substandard commodities in the country. “Over the years, the issue of sub- standard and counterfeit goods has of- ten been discussed by every.Nigerian buying products in our market. It has been very persistent. SON, the apex standard-.setting body in the country, has put measures in place to reduce incidences of fake products to the barest minimum. As my CEO will say, faking goods is a means of earning for some people. “Unfortunately, it results in the death of our industries. As DG also put it, it is linked to a security.issue because the more factories that are out of production, the more youths we have on the streets.

“To deal with it, we introduced SONCAP to ensure the quality of prod- ucts coming to our market are of an approved standard,” Orgudwem said. He said SON had product certifica- tion for specific products. For instance, he said the SON Conformity Assessment Pro- gramme was meant for goods import- ed into Nigeria. This, he said, is to make sure goods coming into Nigeria are satisfied before they reach the Ni- gerian market. “We also have a trademark for lo- cally manufactured goods. It’s called MANCAP. This is to ensure a level playing field is created, and the inter- national community will not see us as creating trade barriers to prevent imported goods from coming into our country. “The world, as you know, has be- come a global village, and Nigeria is part of that village. We cannot run away from it. “Rising from that, we have introduced measures, particularly for the imported goods, so that Nigeria does not become a dumping ground for any other country that wants to trade with us,” Orgudwem explained. Special stamp to counter counterfeit As part of the effort to curb entry of substandard goods into Nigeria, SON is firming up a plan to launch special stamps to be affixed to goods entering through the nation’s bor- ders. SON’s director of product cer- tification, Orgudwem said.

“Most countries in Africa have their own stamp stickers with vary- ing security features. We are look- ing at the intelligence of our people, which, if harnessed on the positive side, will make us one of the best digitised people on earth. “We decided to go from four to 20 security features, andthe stamp is also water-proof. From four to twen- ty features, you must really be up to something to crack 20 features, which will cost you more than the cost of doing that sticker. “The sticker is per product, not per group, and for each product, the number is unique; they can’t be rep- licated. The alphabet and numeric systems can’t be duplicated. So with it, security is enhanced. “Like I said earlier, substandard goods are a problem for the nation. It makes our local industry not thrive and affects job creation. If most of our industries were working, many youths roaming the.streets would have jobs to engage them in. Nowhere in the world does the government give jobs to.mass numbers; the private sector provides the jobs.

“With the stamp, smuggling of products will be reduced to the bar- est minimum. We all know the effect of smuggling on the economy. Many investors will come to our country because there is no.fear of counter- feiting of manufactured products in Nigeria. It will be reduced to the bar- est minimum. “The product will be launched first in our economy’s capital city, La- gos, because that is the place where most of our imports come in. It’s a deliberate attempt to involve the im- porters of goods because the stamp will be provided here. “When we are sure of the qual- ity of the goods that have arrived, we give you the stamp based on the number of goods that we inspected. So we want to.engage the importer of these goods for direct retail into our markets so that if they have the stamp and we will also use the jingle to con- vince consumers and so on,” he added. The SON Director admonished Ni- gerians to appreciate and buy made- in-Nigeria products to sustain the local manufacturers, which are threat- ened by the menace of substandard products. According to him, with the enforcement of the Mandatory Conformity Assessment Programme (MANCAP), which is another initiative of SON, a mandatory product certification scheme can be implemented to ensure that all locally manufactured products in Nigeria conform to the relevant.

Nigerian Industrial Standard (NIS) before such products are presented for sale in the market. SON mulls stiffer penalty As a deterrent measure, SON said it had put in place stiffer measures to nib the bud on incidences of faking goods in the country. The director-general of SON, who stated this in Abuja at a stakeholders conference organised by the Commerce and Industry Correspondents Association of Nigeria (CICAN), said the Act establishing the organisation was currently being reviewed at the National Assembly. He added that the Act would pro- vide stiffer sanctions for unscrupulous individuals who import and deal with substandard products. Represented by Mrs. Mariam Sam- son, Assistant Director, Public Relations Department, he said the bill to repeal and enact the SON Act, when passed into law, would not only impose fines on dealers of sub-standard products but also prescribe jail terms to them to serve as a deterrent to others.

He also said the bill would criminalise the production, manufacturing, and distribution of substandard prod- ucts that could endanger the lives of consumers in the country. The Act, according to him, is aimed at strengthening the core mandate of the organisation against malpractices as well as “encouraging improved competitiveness of Nigerian goods at home and abroad by encouraging quality assurance practices.” Last line Enforcement of the Products Authentication Mark (PAM) on both imported and locally manufactured goods will tame rampant cases of fake products in Nigeria.

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