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Standards Organisation Of Nigeria: Giant Strides At Promoting Standardisation (Part 1)

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SON's Corporate Headquarters, Abuja

Imagine Nigeria, with an absence of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and what would have been obtainable in economic and business sectors of the country in terms of influx of unregulated standards of goods and services either locally produced or imported! The floodgates of substandard, fake, counterfeit and harmful products and services would have been thrown open to the detriment of Nigerians and the economy.

Therefore, the emboldening of SON with the enactment of the SON Act No. 14, 2015, which repealed other previous enactments as far back as 1971 for the purposes of providing additional functions for the organisation, increasing penalty for violation, and for related matters, became a saving grace for the protection of the country against becoming a dumping ground for unwholesome goods and services. This is strengthened with the current dedicated management team led by a workaholic and transparent leadership in person of Barr. Osita Aboloma as the Director General.

As the apex regulator of standards inherent in SON Act No. 14, 2015 as amended, it maintains and enforces Nigerian Standards “that provides, for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for products and services and related processes or production methods, aimed at the achievement of the optimum degree of order in a given context. It may also include or deal exclusively with terminology, symbols, packaging, marking or labeling requirements as they apply to a product, process or production method. Standards, therefore, help to make sure that products and services are fit for their purpose and are comparable and compatible.”

SON’s role becomes very indispensable when viewed from the perspective of provision of standards that form the basis for consumer protection, health, safety and environmental concerns. At present, about 5,300 Nigerian Industrial Standards (NIS) and over 13,000 international standards are maintained by SON.

Its regulation of standards cut across various sectors of the economy including: Food/Codex for the development of standards covering food technologies, food safety, agricultural produce, livestock and livestock products, poultry and poultry product and Codex matters in conjunction with other regulatory authorities like NAFDAC and Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDA) like the Federal and State Ministries of Agriculture and theor agencies; Electrical/Electronics for the development of standards on electro-technology, information technology, renewable energy, telecommunication, etc; Chemical Technology for the development of standards covering soaps, detergents, paints, pesticides, pulp/paper and all products based on chemical formulations; Civil/Building for the development of standards covering civil engineering, building construction, wood technology, etc; Service Standards for the development of standards in the service sector such as Health and hospitality, Financial and insurance, Technical and scientific, Sales and merchandising, Professional and educational, Utilities and communications, Administrative and governmental as well as artisanal services like barbing, masonry, hair dressing etc; Mechanical/Metrology for the development of standards on mechanical engineering, metrology, pressure vessels, motor vehicle parts, pipes, etc;Textile & Leather for the development of standards covering clothing, textiles, leather and footwears, etc; International Standards for handling international matters on standards e.g. standards harmonization, collaboration issues, International Organization for Standardization (ISO),International Electro-chemical Commission (IEC), Codex Alimentraius Commission, Africa Organization for Standardization (ARSO), World Trade Organization (WTO) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); among other standard roles.

Of recent, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) Governing Council approved 168 new Standards for publication and dissemination to various sectors of the Nation’s economy in furtherance of the Federal Government’s economic diversification policy.

Rising from its virtual meeting, Chaired from Abuja by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (FMITI), Dr. Nasir Sani-Gwarzo, the Council also put its seal on the first ever Nigerian National Standardisation Strategy (NNSS) 2020 – 2022, developed by SON to identify priority areas to focus on, based on national needs assessment.

According to Dr. Sani-Gwarzo, the document is accompanied by a National Implementation Plan that gives orientation for national standardisation work within the three years duration. The NNSS identified a total of 658 standardisation projects in key priority areas classified by economic sectors as highlighted in Federal Government’s Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP), the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) and other related national strategic plans.

The SON Council Chairman described the establishment of the NNSS as an outstanding and epoch- making achievement of the Director General, Osita Aboloma and his Management, for which the Council gave a unanimous commendation.

Under the present socioeconomic hazards of Covid-19 pandemic, SON is leading the ECOWAS Harmonisation as it sets out standards in published extract of the international standard AFNOR SPEC-S76-001:2020 for quality barrier masks for producers and users.

The extract of the international standard AFNOR SPEC-S76-001:2020 was made available to the Nigerian Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Sustainable Production and Delivery of Essential Materials. This formed part of SON’s efforts to ensure production and use of quality Barrier Masks by Nigerians and those in ECOWAS sub-region to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Aboloma explained that the 6-page handbill is to serve as quick guide to users as well as makers of Barrier Masks across the length and breadth of the Country, particularly the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises involved in the production. According to him, the document focused on scope, description, coverage, materials, safety features and test of Barrier Masks as well as instructions on the proper usage and disposal of the masks. This became imperative in view of the mass production being commissioned by some state governments, corporate bodiesvas well as smaller units by families across the country.

Further, in the fight to contain the spread and effects of the corona virus pandemic, SON deployed 28 relevant international Standards from the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and one from the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO) on Alcohol based Hand Sanitizers. The deployment was in support of the manufacturing and importation of essential materials to combat the challenges of COVID-19 and to meet emergency needs occasioned by COVID-19 globally. This is to guide local manufacturers as well as provide a benchmark for adjudging all imported products in the category during the pandemic.

Through SON, Nigeria has joined the rest of the world in adopting 16 Essential International Electromedical Equipment Standards as part of continuous measures to tackle the Coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria.

Aboloma noted that there are increasing demands globally for the production and consumption of quality, safe and dependable medical equipment and systems in their varied brands worldwide in response to the emergency demands foisted on medical systems globally which has consequently challenged National Standards development bodies to ensure the availability of standards in order to continuously save lives.

He stated that the development and subsequent implementation and enforcement of the 16 standards when approved by the Standards Council would among others, encourage and support local production of medical devices, equipment and systems; provide the necessary benchmark to adjudge imported medical equipment in the category; assure compliance to medical safety standards in terms of performance, reliability, accuracy/precision, patients’ safety, precise communication protocol with other medical devices as well as handlers’ safety.

The SON Chief Executive enumerated other benefits of the adopted standards as including to support research and developments in the electromedical equipment and systems in Nigeria; create fair playing ground for all related medical equipment produced locally and imported into the Nigerian markets as well as promote greater competitiveness of locally manufactured and imported electromedical equipment.

For ease of testing products and ensuring standards, SON has indicated that plans are afoot to establish laboratories in the six geo-political zones of the country to ensure that products within each region could easily be tested at the regional laboratories, instead of sending them to its laboratories in Lagos, Kaduna or Enugu.

In its deliberate bid to enhance actualization of federal government’s Ease of Doing Business initiative and ensure that all goods coming into Nigeria meet the stipulated minimum industrial standard of Nigeria, SON has entered into partnership with relevant stakeholders in international trade and importation of goods in the country. The partnership, is targeted at enlightening the stake holders on the need to ensure that the activities of their members in the area of importation of goods into the country and clearing of goods at the ports conform to laid down rules and procedures set by the organisation.

Prominent among the stake holders partnering with SON were the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and members of Alaba International Market Electronic Importers, Lagos.

***To be continued next week on another aspects of SON’s achievements

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