About 15 years after its establishment in 1971, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) achieved a historic landmark recently when its accredited International Standard Chemical and Food Technology Laboratories were commissioned. Coming at a time the country is undergoing extensive economic transformation following the rebasing of its economy in April 2014, the project is highly commendable.
According to the Industry, Trade and Investment minister, Olusegun Aganga, the laboratories would certify products exported from Nigeria to other markets and ensure they meet international standards that would make them acceptable in other climes. This will end the frustrations encountered by Nigerian entrepreneurs who engage in export business and save the country the embarrassment it earns from the failure of its products being rejected in other markets.
Aganga at the commissioning of the laboratories mirrored the pain of the nation regarding the huge financial resources and lost opportunities by Nigerian manufacturers, especially the small and medium enterprises, who commit huge resources to produce export items that would not sell abroad.
To have their products accepted in the international market, manufacturers had to take their goods to Ghana for test. The cost of travelling to Ghana and bringing the goods back if they are rejected does not encourage entrepreneurship. Worse still, the credit for successful test goes to Ghana whose labels the approved goods bear.
Giving details of the scenario, Aganga said at the commissioning of the laboratories: “Prior to the certification of the accredited laboratories, we could not export, for example yam to the United Kingdom because we did not have the quality infrastructure to do that. Those who exported goods from Nigeria went to Ghana to test them and Ghana takes the credit because it is recorded in their name.”
On several occasions, SON Director-General, Dr Joseph Ikemefuna Odumodu, had expressed concern at the non-existence of the laboratories and its negative effect on the organisation’s efforts to fight the importation and manufacturing of fake and sub-standard goods which has threatened the economic development of the country.
In his press briefing to mark the 2014 World Standards Day, Odumodu enjoined consumers to demand quality and insist on improving quality at all times. He observed that the falling prices of oil in the international market should awaken Nigerians to the reality that standardization is “Nigeria’s last ditch effort to avoid becoming a failed economy”.
According to him, “There are areas where we cannot compete with Japan but the industries in which we have comparative advantage, we must weigh in with all powers of standards. By so doing, we create global confidence in Nigeria’s products and services, grow richer, expand our spheres of influence, grow even richer by leveraging our boosted productivity and export trade and have a victory to celebrate”.
As one on the vanguard of relentless fight against sub-standard goods, it is a welcome development that Odumodu-led SON has taken practical steps in building the accredited International Standard Chemical and Food Technology Laboratories. This will ensure that Nigeria’s drive towards industrialization is a reality.
In July last year, the House of Representatives adhoc Committee on collapsed buildings recommended the installation of quality laboratories in Nigeria’s six geo-political zones. The essence is to ensure that Nigerians imbibe the culture of quality and stick to standards. With the commissioning of the SON’s laboratories, the stage is set to widen our production process. It will also impact positively on our choice of economic alternatives. This is capable of taking us to the desired level of development, first by enhancing the competitiveness of our locally produced goods; second by creating jobs and achieving capacity building.
It is on record that the European Union (EU), in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) are working with Nigeria’s Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment to develop the National Quality Infrastructure (NQI). The NQI is aimed to enhance the quality of Nigerian-made products. Other government agencies are also involved in the project.
We urge SON to stick to this initiative that would advance Nigeria’s industrialization process towards aggressive export market. It will enhance employment opportunities in the economy and add value to our productive capacity, as reports reveal. For instance, the recent Central Bank of Nigeria Financial Stability Report for December 2014 shows rapid expansion of the economy, measured by Gross Domestic Product, which is driven by the non-oil sector.
According to the report, the Services, Manufacturing and Agriculture sectors show impressive growth in line with government’s economic diversification agenda. Boosting export market will help in maximizing the growth opportunities in the local economy. With the rapid transformation in world economies, the laboratories will help in making Nigeria’s export products consistently competitive. We urge SON to ensure that the laboratories are manned by well trained personnel with the required level of competence and professionalism. It is also important that the supervising Ministry of Trade and Investment does not allow the laboratories to be immersed in corruption which is common among government employees. As a facility that will attract the patronage of other nationals, managers of the laboratories must carry themselves with the right level of responsibility that will translate to patriotism of unusual dimension.