The Director General, Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Mr. Paul Angya has attributed the increased availability and circulation of substandard products in the country to what he described as the criminal manipulation of the system (EPCC) by some unscrupulous importers in the country.
Angya noted that the EPCC system which was a temporary window introduced by SON to enable importers who had placed their order for importation of some goods before the introduction of the electronic SONCAP certification in September 2015 to enable them bring in their goods was to last for three months.
Speaking at a maritime stakeholders awareness forum tagged ‘Seamless Import: Fostering Trade without Compromising Standards’ in Lagos recently, Angya said the issue of substandard products has assumed a worrisome dimension and promised to cleanse the system in three months.
He stressed in spite of different challenges facing the country, the issue of substandard and fake products has become unacceptable by the government, and maintained that the situation has propelled the Minister of Industry and Commerce to direct the government agency to reverse the trend.
He lamented the attendant risk and loss the country and her citizens are exposed to and he pointed out that valuable properties, including houses, have been destroyed due to the use of sub-standard cables.
Stressing that 99 per cent of the fake and substandard goods are imported, he said the essence of the sensitisation programme was for the regulatory body to meet with key stakeholders involved in importation and make them realise the danger inferior goods pose to lives and property, the economy, among others.
Angya who noted that though the problem was not new, however said the dimension it has taken in recent times was rather new and that government had in 2005 responded to the ugly situation with the introduction of SONCAP to curb the illicit trade activities in the country.
Condemning the abuse of the EPCC system by the importers he said: “And unfortunately the EPCC window is where all the criminal activities have been channeled to.
That is where more than 60 per cent of the import into Nigeria bye-pass the quality assurance system. All kinds of gimmicks are introduced, namely false declaration and concealment”.
He noted that in line with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) standard, the window was to be a temporary measure that was expected to close by December 10, 2015.
He disclosed that SON has the intention to clean up the system in three months due to the deluge of complaints by some stakeholders after the closure of the EPCC platform in February 2016.
He disclosed that his management had reviewed the closure and have decided to reopen the window from April 25 and would be finally closed in July 2016.
“I also intend to clean up this system in three months. This is because I have promised to review the closure. We have reviewed it and alongside with my management we have agreed to reopen that platform but it will last only three months starting from April 25. And so by July it will be sealed because that platform is the route through which Nigeria economy is dying now”, Angya said.
Expressing support for the fight against importation of inferior products into the country, the Zonal Coordinator (West), Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Mr. John Ofobike called on Nigerians, especially those involved in the unpatriotic act to show real change and join force with SON to fight the monster of inferior products.
Ofobike said the agency needs the support of all Nigerians to succeed in its mandate.
He said, “Government has a very important role to play. We have different relationship with different countries. If the Federal Government will help us to tackle this problem by signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with these countries where these goods are coming from, and stating that substandard products are no longer acceptable to Nigeria.”