Crusoe Osagie

The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has stated that it plans to introduce stricter measures on erring steel and iron producers, who fail to meet the minimum requirement of the Nigerian Industrial Standards (NIS).

The acting Director General, SON, Dr. Paul Angya, explained that after carrying its enforcement exercise to monitor and evaluate the level of standard compliance of steel products in the country, the agency found out that steel producers have begun to cut corners in producing steel products falling short of the minimum requirements of the standards.

Angya during a stakeholders meeting with the association of steel manufacturers, said SON is reading the riot act to steel producers, maintaining that the steel producers have the options to shape up or shape out.

“We are here today to meet with the steel manufacturing group to inform them about the new vision of government and also to let them know the problems we have found in our survey of products in the market and also read the riot act to them in order for them to shape up in view of the critical nature of their products not only to protect the lives of Nigerians, but also for the economy,” he said.

According to him, “We are going to be taken stricter measures on non-conformity. I am going to give him an infusion of blood which will make the inspectorate and compliance directorate to aggressive to carry out their operations. So this is to tell you not to put your legs in the wrong place. We have a very limited time to prove this point. Starting from today, we have reconstituted our task force to go out to ensure conformity of standards to our requirements.”

He noted the group formed by the SON in 2011 to address the challenges faced by steel manufacturers in the country saw some level of improvement in the level of quality of steel bars, but stated that due to the economic downturn, most steel manufacturers have begun to drift by doing business the wrong way.

“Recently in the last one year, we have discovered that they have started to drift going back to old practices of not conforming to standards. We have begun to see steel products that do not meet our requirements. Because of the downturn of the economy, they have been trying to cut corners to remain in business. In view of the new drive and vigour of the federal government, we have decided to infuse that vigour in the steel manufacturers to energise them to push them to do the right thing. We have a new law that gives SON power to deal with this kind of situations. We are using this medium to tell them to shape up‎ or be dealt with severely. We are also going to be encouraging our government contractors to buy products that are made-in-Nigeria so that our money can be ploughed back into the country,” he said.

The Coordinator, Steel Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Prince Felix Oba Okogie, said the Nigerian steel industry is in comatose, pointing out that the industry is faced with a very bad market with no demand for locally made steel products.

“We are producing but not selling. Even during production, we do not have enough power and the cost of things are getting higher particularly gas and electricity. We are producing but we are not selling because there is no demand,” he said.

He said SON has played a major role to try to reduce the challenges faced by the industry by enjoining steel manufacturers to work with the standards, calling on the government to patronise locally made goods to increase productivity and boost employment opportunities in the country.

“If we are producing at full capacity, the steel industry will employ over 300,000 people, but we currently employ about 40,000 which is a far cry compared to what the industry can employ. If the industry does not improve I am afraid to say it would lead to an enormous job loss in the steel sector,” he said.

A representative of Landcraft, Prakash Gupta, said boosting the steel sector is the right step in the right direction, which will also create a lot of employment opportunities, saying that the government must protect local production.

“Currently, we are manufacturing more than the demand because the local content is not protecting us. What is being imported is the same as what is being produced locally. We as a group promise to adhere to SON standards and extend our full cooperation to SON. The industry has been going through a tough time due to lack of demand. This is affecting the real sector of the economy and this is why the growth is moving slowly. We want government patronage and we also want some local content law to be passed,” he said.