Osun’s Antidote for Dishonest Traders

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The Osun State Government recently launched standardised weighing scales known as ‘Osunwon Omoluabi’ to prevent buyers from being shortchanged by traders. Yinka Kolawole writes

As part of its road map to make Osun a sub-regional trade hub, the Osun State Government recently inaugurated the use of standardised weighing scales in all its markets across the state. Governor Rauf Aregbesola said the move was to make the state the preferred destination for commercial activities in the sub-region. The governor noted that his administration will not relent on its goal of developing economic activities in the state.

The unveiling of the ‘Osuwon Omoluabi’, was held amidst a huge crowd of market men and women who thronged the Nelson Mandela Freedom Square in Osogbo, venue of the inauguration.

Aregbesola who said that Osogbo ‎in the 60s and early 70s was a great centre of commerce because of the railway that passed through the city‎, emphasised that Osunwon Omoluabi policy is backed by law.
According to him, weights and measures constitute item 63 on the Exclusive Legislatives list of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

He noted that the laws made in this regard include Weights and
Measures Act CAP W3LFN, 2004, Pre-Shipment Inspection of Export Act CAP P25 LFN, 2004; Weights and Measures Standardisation of Indigenous Measures Regulations, 1992 and the Weights and Measures Fees Regulations.

He stressed that all hands must be on deck to revive the economic status of the state, adding that the state had in the past attracted sellers and buyers from neighbouring states as far as Akure in present day Ondo State, noting that only Ibadan was greater in trade and commerce than Osogbo in the region.

‎According to Aregbesola, the launch of standardised weighing scales is in continuation of the provision of the infrastructure of the mind which began at the inception of his administration, when it re branded Osun as Ipinle Omoluabi.

‎Aregbesola stressed that Osunwon Omoluabi policy will eliminate cheating and other underhand practices that have become the hallmark of trading in most markets.

He averred that the use of standardised scales in markets across the state will give rise to a chain of economic benefits, adding that market expansion for dealers in weighing scales is assured as the programme will increase the demand for the products.

Aregbesola assured that jobs will be created for service providers in the areas of maintenance and repair of scales, adding that 178 OYES cadets have been trained in the maintenance and repair of scales in the first phase of the Train-the-Trainers Empowerment Scheme which is an integral part of the Standardised Weighing Scales Programme.

“In the quest to be competitive and make more profit, which is greed traders now devise varying means of short-changing buyers. Measures are deliberately reduced through cutting, filling with candles and wax, and sleight of hand.

“Scales are tilted fraudulently while husks, chaffs, barks and other rubbish are included in goods sold, with the intention of reducing the actual value of what the buyers take home.

“One of the tragedies of this immoral practice is that foreigners began to distrust our export because, for instance, cocoa graders put top grades at the top of the sack, leaving poor quality at the bottom, and in the process, collect money for the top grade.

“Those who are in the business can tell you what loss they suffered because the foreigners distrusted their products and classified all cocoa coming from our land as inferior, irrespective of the grade.”

The former Commissioner for Industries, Commerce, Cooperatives and Empowerment, Mr. Ismaila Adekunle Jayeoba-Alagbada, in his opening remark said the standardised weighing scales across markets in the state became necessary to mitigate challenges noticeable in commercial transactions.

Jayeoba-Alagbada said in order to erase cheating in the process of exchange of commercial goods and checkmate other market forces challenges, government decided to formally introduce the standardised weighing scales.

According to him, training workshops had already been conducted in the markets all over the state on the effective use of the scales.

He stated that the Ministry of Industries, Commerce, Cooperatives and Empowerment is saddled with the responsibility of monitoring the day-to-day administration of the programme.

“I need to emphasise that market women and men had been fully mobilised to key into this emerging commercial revolution.

“Both the leadership and the followership of the associations of market women and men had agreed, not only to comply with the right use of the scales and measures but to continuously carry out peer reviews with a view to ensuring flawless implementation of the standardised weighing scales and measures programme.

“I want to place it on record that, but for the grace of God and the dogged determination of Mr. Governor, this launch and indeed the entire standardised scales and measures programme would have been a mirage,” he said.

Jayeoba-Alagbada during a recent interaction with journalists stated that equity and justice is lacking in the continued usage of existing measuring bowls such as Kongo, Kobiowu, Denge and others adding that there is a great variation in the weights and measures used in different localities; and even at times, in those used by different individuals in the same locality.

While describing it as aberration, Jayeoba Alagbada noted that the three religions that the people of the state are practicing also frown at the use of unjust and inaccurate measures in exchange in commercial transactions.

According to him, “the use of inaccurate measures often leads to chaotic situation in most market places. Consequently, commercial transactions become laborious, unhealthy and with the attendant high transaction costs, ultimately hindering the pace of growth of trade and commerce.

He noted that the use of standardised weighing scales is backed by law and constitute items 63 on the Exclusive List of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria and being made active in the state.

He hinted that the state government had consulted widely with stakeholders in trade and commerce in the state including opinion and religious leaders in the state for its use adding that the existing mode of open air display and sale of most edible items in the market places constitute grave hazard to health and wellbeing of consumers.

According to him, “most items are openly exposed to dusts, flies and many other agents of diseases. Most of the communicable diseases are as a result of the exposure of edible products to vectors carrying the causative germs. Sometimes, nursing mothers after cleaning up their babies still use the unwashed hands to measure food items.
“Furthermore, the existing measures are based more on rule of thumbs than any degree of accuracy and consistency. The existing measuring standards are not accurate and full of inherent shortcomings often observed by the market men and women themselves.”

He enunciated the gains of using standardising scales saying it will however eliminate all inherent shortcomings, mistrust, incessant arguments and disagreement that are currently common place in commercial transactions.

According to him, standardised scales and measures will positively impact on the economy of the state by bringing unprecedented ease to trade and commercial transactions in the state.

“This will no doubt increase the pace and volume of transactions among traders and consumers, thereby increasing the volume of commerce. It will also attract consumers from neighbouring states who will want to to take advantage of the novel programme of standardisation of measurements in the state.

“The programme will create large number of business and employment opportunities for citizens of the state as large number of unemployed youths would acquire vocational training in repairs and maintenance of scales.

“People in the state will spend less on health maintenance since the new measures are health promoting, not allowing for exposure of goods to flies and dusts.”

He further explained that the fear that majority of market men and market women are illiterate and may not be easily susceptible change and accurate reading of the scales have been taken care of by the state government adding that wide sensitisation and enlightenment have been carried out.

While appealing to market men and market women and other stakeholders to key into the emerging commercial revolution in the state, the former commissioner disclosed that special weights and measures unit have been established in the ministry saddled with responsibility of monitoring day-to-day administration of the standardised weighing scales and measures programmes.

He said that 178 OYES cadets have been trained under the train the trainer programme on the use, maintenance and repairs adding that they would also man some control posts in all the market to serve both as repair and challenge-mitigating centres.

The President General of Osun State Market Women Association, Alhaja Awawu Asindemade, said the standardised scale became necessary owing to imbalance in measurement and fraud in commercial activities.

Asindemade said the Kongo measurement introduced to the market in the old Oyo State became the standard measurement in Osun when it was created.

According to market leader, the old measurement was gradually subjected to abuse and fraud to the extent that individual seller used his or her yardstick for measurement, thus the need to re-standardise and unify it.

She however warned that the introduction of the standard scale should not translate to increase in commodity price system in the market.

“It is in a bid to correct the anomaly in measurement and scale that the Government of Osun introduced the standardised weighing scales in markets in the state so as to forestall fraud and cheating in measurement.

“As we welcome this innovation, I call on my constituency – market men and women – to cooperate with government to make this a success.

“Besides, introduction of this weight and measurement does is not and should not lead to increase in price of commodities in our market,” Asindemade said