Maritime operators collaborate with SON to check counterfeit products

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*Aboloma

Ime Akpan

Stakeholders in the maritime sector Key stakeholders in the maritime industry have pledged to work with the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to reduce the incidence of influx of substandard products at the ports.

The maritime operators made the declaration at a one-day national stakeholders’ sensitization forum entitled ‘Collaborations as tool for zero sub-standard imports’ held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

The stakeholders said they would collaborate with SON to address the issue of false declaration of cargoes at the nation’s points of entry stressing that “false declaration by unscrupulous importers has been one of the ways which substandard goods find their way into Nigeria.”

The vice president of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Dr. Kayode Farinto said in his remarks that renewed and intensified collaboration was critical to ridding Nigeria of substandard products.

“We are going to say NO to clearing of substandard goods. For instance, if your bill of lading is containing fridges and at the point of examination, we realise it is not carrying fridges.

“It is my responsibility as a patriotic citizen to invite SON to show that the consignment does not meet the specifications or guidelines despite having Standards Organisation of Nigeria Conformity Assessment Programme (SONCAP). This is the only way we can stamp out substandard products in our society.

“We would also sensitise our members so that whenever they see something, they must say something. We must make sure that they do not clear substandard products out of our ports. We are the middlemen between the importers and trading public so if we assist in clearing these goods, we would not know who will be injured by these goods tomorrow. We encourage our importers to get their SONCAP,” he said.

In his address, the president, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Mr. Increase Uche, noted that combating the preponderance of fake and substandard goods cannot be achieved without the support of all stakeholders.

He pointed out that cooperation must be established between SON and other government agencies, freight forwarders and the importers to stem the tide of influx of fake and sub-standard goods.

He said NAGAFF had always supported SON through its public policy advocacy and information service.

“We are also aware of the menace of smuggling activities predominately carried out through the border entry points which most times hampers the operation of the agency.

“It has always been our view that collaboration, partnership, cooperation and synergy amongst the relevant stakeholders must be sustained in achieving zero substandard imports and other trade malpractices in our seaports, airports, land borders and the overall logistics supply chain.

“Regrettably, the major constraint that hinders adequate check against this nefarious act in the entire system has been the lack of collaboration among critical stakeholders,’’ he said.

He pointed out that collaborations would help to identify and mitigate risk, help to quicken the process of accomplishing inherent task, lead to both timely and appropriate decisions and moral support, as well as promote inter-agency cooperation and reduce overlap of agency functions.

Earlier in his keynote address, the director general of SON, Mr. Osita Aboloma had said that there was no better way to sensitise the industry than to collaborate with key players who have direct dealings with the importers.

Aboloma who was represented by SON’s director, inspectorate and compliance Mr. Obiora Manafa said 80 per cent of Nigerian imports come through the seaports and waterways and “it will therefore be difficult to ignore the maritime sector operators in the quest for zero-import of sub-standard and unwholesome products in furtherance of the federal government’s ease of doing business initiative”

He said collaboration with sectoral operators and stakeholders would help to spread the message in the drive towards zero tolerance for substandard, fake and counterfeit products.

Aboloma said the forum was an avenue for adequate stakeholders’ enlightenment on SON’s regulatory tools and requirements as well as disabuse their mind of negative issues relating to the agency’s enforcement of quality and regulations.

He added that SON’s far reaching regulatory provisions under Act 14 of 2015 gives it powers to arrest and prosecute importers and dealers in sub-standard goods in Nigeria.

“SON’s continued advocacy is to reduce substantially, seizure and destruction of goods, which are injurious to human lives, amount to large economic and financial losses and a threat to our environment. Our greatest challenge with cargo clearance is that of false declaration by clearing agents,” he said.

Aboloma therefore appealed to the stakeholders to desist from false declaration, stressing that steps had been taken to deal with such sharp practices and prosecute culprits.

Also in his remarks, the assistant director of SONCAP, Mr. Pious Maji, said the influx of substandard products could be best controlled by effective collaboration with stakeholders in the industry.

He said key stakeholders in the maritime industry had agreed to work with SON as a team to salvage Nigeria from being a dumping ground for substandard products.

“SON is a key player in trade facilitation in Nigeria. The trade facilitation is initiated by SON based on the import guidelines where you must have SONCAP certificate or an import permit to bring in items into Nigeria. It is our statutory duty to ensure that the health and safety of Nigerians is protected,” he said.

He added that destruction of sub-standard goods brings nothing but economic loss.

He explained that Nigeria loses in both ways where the nation’s foreign exchange is being wasted and the consumers getting no value from the purchase of the sub-standard goods.

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