The perceived poor quality of products manufactured in Nigeria, as well as those imported from countries in Asia, has raised serious questions regarding the regulatory performance of the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), a body charged with ensuring that goods meet industry standards.
The Act No.56 of 1971 establishing the SON, which was reviewed in 1976 and 1990, stipulates the responsibilities of the organisation to include: undertaking investigations as necessary into the quality of facilities, materials and products in Nigeria, and establishing a quality assurance system, including certification of factories, products and laboratories; compiling an inventory of products requiring standardisation; registering and regulating standard marks and specification; and ensuring reference standards for calibration and verification of measures and measuring instrument, among others.
In spite of these clearly stated responsibilities of the SON, products imported from Asia, particularly China, ranging from household to industrial, have a dismally short lifespan. Industry analysts are equally perturbed that local manufacturers themselves are consistently reducing the quality of their products, as a survival strategy, in order to enable their prices compete favourably with those of imports.
The consequence of this is that the average lifespan of goods manufactured locally and imported ones is about six months, quality assurance experts say. They add that this implies that Nigerians are paying much for little. To these analysts, this raises questions as to whether the SON is overburdened with regulatory responsibilities or is short on capacity or the will to pursue its full mandate.
“I see this as an oversight on the part of the SON, though some may say the body is overburdened. I say this because SON gives importers and local manufacturers an easy pass,” said Samuel Oyigbo, a lawyer and quality assurance expert.
“I am not sure whether the organisation carries out periodic tests of local products to see if there is an alteration to standards. Again, Nigerians keep paying more for Chinese products that last for an average of six months,” he added.
Findings have shown that there is a drop in the quality of locally-made goods when compared with what was obtainable in the 1980s, 1990s and up to the 2000s. The more worrisome part is lack of strong quality control measures for imports from China and its neighbours.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently highlighted the danger of Nigeria’s exposure to China, underlining that the country would be worse for it in situations of economic exigency in China.
But Guo Kun, Chinese consul-general to Nigeria, recently blamed Nigerian entrepreneurs for imports of substandard goods as they move to his country to tell manufacturers to reduce products quality so as to make gain.
“These host factories do not want to produce for them. But Nigerians would go to many factories, at least they can find one or two factories to make for them sub-standard goods and they bring them back to Nigeria,” he said at an interactive session with the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA).
But economic players see this as sabotage, saying Chinese manufacturers are deliberately doing a lot of harm to the Nigerian economy, in collaboration with their Nigerian counterparts, as they cannot export such products into countries with strong regulatory bodies.
“They cannot do this in many African countries. But this place is an all-comers affair,” said Ike Ibeabuchi, chief executive officer, MD Services Limited, who lived in China for 12 years.
Recently, the issue of cement quality generated much fuss in the media, with some analysts blaming low cement quality for building collapses. But Dangote and other major manufacturers came out to dismiss the insinuation, stating that their products meet international standards; that they produce 42.5 grade cement rather than 32.5 as being alleged.
But experts say the SON should wake up to its responsibility, even if there are indications that the country’s cement industry has remained strong.
“It is the role of the SON to ensure that manufacturers meet the standards. They can go in there, take samples, test and report back. But I expect that cement manufacturers should give certificates of consignment, specifying the strength of cement, given that we have different classes of cement,” said Victor Oyenuga, former president, Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers, in an interview with BusinessDay.
By: ODINAKA ANUDU