Health

SON tightening noose on merchants of death to save lives

Recently, at a parley with journalists in Abuja, the Director General of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Malam Farouk Salim, revealed that his organisation had, in the past nine months, arrested 10 manufacturers of fake products in Kano, Ibadan and Lagos.

He also disclosed that substandard tyres and other products worth hundreds of millions of naira have been confiscated by the organisation within the same period. Similarly, Salim announced that the SON confiscated six million naira worth of stuffed substandard tyres in a warehouse in Ogun state; seized two containers of stuffed imported used tyres in Port Harcourt; mopped up substandard LPG cylinders in Suleja; seized adulterated engine oils in Kano and Lagos; destroyed substandard products in Katsina State and also mopped up and destroyed LPG cylinders from different parts of Anambra state.

Furthermore, he stated that six containers of stuffed imported tyres and substandard LPG cylinders were intercepted and destroyed from multiple sources in Lagos and the prosecution of standard infractions relating to substandard lubricants, electrical cables, forgery of SON clearing documents, etc. All these happened within the period of nine months. Also, the offering of assistance to the health care sector through management system training, certification and calibration of measuring equipment by the SON gives renewed hope that things will, in no distant time, change for good in the country.

This is because the health sector is also facing numerous challenges in terms of the influx of fake, substandard and adulterated medicines and equipment. This singular action, will no doubt, assist the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and indeed, critical actors in the health sector and empower them with the know-how to checkmate the activities of these merchants of death and prevent them from operating freely.

One would admit that these are the major causes of most of the unfortunate incidents and accidents that occur in the country. However, it is safe to agree that most incidents of collapsed buildings, accidents on our major roads, fire incidents in homes across the country and many others are the resultant effect of substandard products. There is no doubt that the effect of substandard products is unimaginable. This is because it comes with a lot of carnage, calamity and sorrow as most times some property is lost, and most painfully, human lives are also lost.

The most worrisome aspect is that most of these goods look attractive and seem genuine to the innocent buyer, who, due to ignorance, go to purchase them without having the ability to differentiate between the original and the substandard. After the purchase of such fake or substandard products, then comes the beginning of unending troubles for the innocent buyer which may, sometimes lead to the loss of lives.

The activities of these merchants of deaths have grave implication to both the economy and international image of the country. Apart from having negative impacts on the economy, it brings down the reputation and image of the country among the committee of nations globally. These activities of the very few greedy and selfish businessmen/women, no doubt, scares genuine investors who get frightened and express doubt if they can recoup their investment due to the activities of these dealers in substandard products. The good news, however, is that, with the zeal and steps put in place by the Malam Salim management at the SON, the days of these merchants of death is numbered.

The aggressive manner and stiff resistance demonstrated by SON in recent times through the arrest and prosecution of these ‘enemies of Nigeria’, is however, heart-warming. It gives hope that very soon, Nigeria will be free of these bad elements who are bent on killing our people and pulling the economy of the country down.

It is, however, gladdening to note the recent steps taken by the SON management to fight these merchants of death through the provision of equipment and enabling environment for the staff to work. The recent laying of foundation stone for the construction of SON permanent offices, laboratories and storage complex in Sokoto, signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Katsina State Government and support for development and growth of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) are steps that are commendable by all well-meaning Nigerians. Another recent step taken by the SON that is encouraging to most Nigerians is the attainment of international accreditation for three of its additional laboratories for the testing of paints, electrical cables and food (micro nutrients).

These items are being used on a daily basis either as building materials or consumed by most Nigerians; hence, to ensure that only the best quality are/ is circulated in the country is a good gesture to all Nigerians. Also, according to many observers, the recent launching of 38 approved Nigeria industrial standards for renewable energy in conjunction with NESP/GIZ/ MESA and other stakeholders and the commissioning of an ultra modern state office/ laboratory complex in Ado Ekiti, is a step in the right direction.

This will, no doubt, improve standards in the country. The recent revelation by the Director, Standards Development of the SON, Mrs Chinyere Egwuonwu, that the Nigeria National Standardisation Strategy (NNSS) plan had identified 658 standardisation projects to be developed before the end of 2023, is also gladdening to the heart of most stakeholders in the trade and investment industry in Nigeria. The NNSS would, no doubt, provide support to the Federal Government’s Economic Recovery Growth Plan and Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) to drive the government’s diversification agenda.

However, keen observers of the trade and investment industry and, in particular, the activities at the SON believe that the recent inauguration of state officers across the country will help immensely in checkmating the activities of fake and substandard product peddlers and dealers in all nooks and crannies of the country.

The Minister of Industry, Trade & Investments, Chief Niyi Adebayo, corroborated this when speaking at the formal inauguration of the new SON office in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, recently. The Minister noted that: “Before now, you all agree with me that hundreds of thousands of Nigerian lives have been cut short as a result of substandard and life-threatening products like: Steel and roofing sheets, adulterated lubricants and explosions from continuous usage of old and expired liquefied petroleum gas. According to Adebayo “SON is, by its amended Act 2015, weaponised to arrest, confiscate and prosecute offenders, who violate the laws relating to standards of goods and services in Nigeria.” However, stakeholders in the sector have called on SON to improve on some of its activities. The Chief Operating Officer, Winco Foam Company, Abuja, Engr. Paul Ezeadi, advised the SON to improve on its training of stakeholders and visiting the premises of manufacturers and importers in order to access their strength and weaknesses.

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