The Director General of Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Farouk Salim, has urged the Federal Government to allow the agency to return to the nation’s ports.
Mr Salim made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Abuja.
He explained that the move would help the organisation to effectively check the influx of substandard products into the country as trading progresses under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The DG’s call is coming after a decade of the eviction of several government agencies from the ports, following what was seen as a proliferation of agencies at the ports.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the then Minister of Finance and Coordinating Ministers of the Economy, had in 2011 announced the eviction of the agencies.
She said the decision was to fast-track port processes at a time the ports were battling congestion, delays in cargo clearing, which were hindering the ease of doing business policy.
Mr Salim said for Nigeria to effectively curb the influx of substandard goods, especially as trading under the AfCFTA continues, the SON workforce should be allowed to return to the ports.
“We are supposed to ensure that the borders and the ports are monitored properly, and in doing this we protect the country from substandard goods.
“One of such ways is to make sure that the employees of SON are in the port of entries in the country, especially the Lagos port where majority of goods comes into this country.
“Our people can be efficient if we are allowed to work at the point of entry of these goods, but right now we are not allowed at the ports.
“They allow us once in a while to check goods but that should not be the way, because SON as an organisation should not depend on the kindness of other organisations to do its work.
“The 2015 Act, Section 7(30b) says the Standard organisation must be at the port of entry into this country,” he said.
The DG noted that although there were other agencies of government at the ports, SON has the statutory obligation and the knowledge to identify substandard products.
He said if SON was given permanent access for inspection and enforcement of standards at the ports, the menace of substandard goods in Nigerian market would be greatly reduced.
He however noted that the organisation was currently enjoying cordial working relationship with the Nigerian Customs Service and other sister agencies at the ports.
“What NAFDAC and the Customs are doing at the ports are totally different from what SON does.
“We get along with them very well but we don’t need to depend on them because we are supposed to be in the ports by right, except if the law is changed.
“One of the problems we are having for not being officially allowed into the ports is the inability to provide ordinary offices for our employees.
“A typical example is in Port Harcourt where our officers are now squatting with various offices, and every now and then the persons they are squatting with have asked them to leave.
“We requested (for) a space to build our office but we were told we will not be allowed, so we could not build a property befitting of our organisation for our staff,” he said.
Mr Salim explained that the SON currently has 42 offices across Nigeria, with 1,700 employees.