The Standards Organisation of Nigeria recently discovered warehouses stocked with substandard electrical cables. Jonathan Eze writes on why Nigerians should pay adequate attention to the kind of cables used in wiring their homes, factories and offices
Behind every wall at home, an office or a building in general, there are cables that channel electricity for daily consumption. It may be visible or buried in conduit pipes. These are housing cables and they connect all electricity-powered items and sockets to the main electricity source.
Often, many Nigerians make the mistake of paying little attention to the kind of cables that wire their homes. A cable is just a cable, some may rationalise. But is it really that simple when there have been many documented incidences of fire, blackouts, short circuits and electrocution caused by unsafe cables?
This brings to fore a recent discovery and seizure of substandard electrical cables by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), under the leadership of Mr. Osita Aboloma. The agencyâ€™s determination to rid the country of substandard products yielded fruit again as it uncovered two warehouses in Lagos filled with substandard electrical cables with semblance of known Nigerian wire brands to deceive unsuspecting consumers.
A team of security agencies, staff of SON and the media were led to the houses in Ajangbadi and Etegbin outskirts of Lagos, where the importer identified with his business name, Extobest Electricals Limited, stored the cables valued at over N8 billion.
Speaking through its Director of Inspectorate and Compliance, Bede Obayi, the DG lamented the damage importers of substandard products is causing not only consumers but also local manufacturers, who had invested and even accessed billions of naira loans in order to stay afloat and produce enduring and quality Nigerian wires which had become a reference point all over the world.
He noted that the agency would not rest until it prosecutes Nigerians who are determined to flood the market with substandard products.
All the rooms, kitchens, rest rooms were filled with substandard cables imported by the importer who is still at large. The most disturbing aspect of this is that the cables were brought in from China but it was being repackaged in Ajangbadi as â€˜Made in Nigeriaâ€™ and this is because Nigerian made wires are reputed as one of the best in the world.
His words: All these cloned cables were made in China, but packaged as made-in-Nigeria products.
â€œYou know we are proud of made-in-Nigeria cables, because they are about the best cables in the world. This illegal act will not be accepted; we are going to go after the importer and prosecute him.â€
He stated that the SON enforcement team would continue to burst dubious importers who resort to bringing in substandard products.
Aboloma added: â€œNobody can imagine someone coming down here to fully stock two buildings with substandard cables. These are purported to be Nigerian brands but made in China.
â€œSome Nigerian companies are laying off staff because of low sales. Because the government has now focused on promoting quality products made in Nigeria, these people now go abroad to fake Nigerian products already certified by the SON and NIS. Those behind it will be made to face the full wrath of the law, because it is a clear case of fraud.â€
The implication of this is that they are destroying the market for genuine local manufacturers who may have accessed loans from banks to do businesses. These unscrupulous elements are indirectly responsible for the many fire outbreaks all over the country due to substandard cables.
In a recent interview, the MD of Coleman Cables explained how they access money to produce cables of different sizes and quality.
He said: â€œWe get loans from commercial banks, 90 per cent of our funds are coming from commercial banks especially working capital. High interest rate today especially with what happened on TSA and dollar crash makes it expensive to borrow money, banks are lending in high double digits and that’s not helping economy at the moment because the higher we are borrowing our cost, the more difficult for us to think of expansion of the current business.
â€œToday Coleman is employing more people and with ongoing expansion we expect to increase our staff base and we have ability to employ over 8,500 people if we run all our factory fully, we are running it around 30 per cent, we can run at full capacity if government is patronising local business.
â€œReal sector can develop Nigeria economy if the government decided to focus on those companies that can create employment and generate more jobs. For real sector to expand and create more jobs, government needs to reduce cost of borrowing, commercial borrowing cannot sustain manufacturing companies because it is very expensive and is not helping us if they cannot find the way of balancing the cost of funds
Aboloma showed to everyone present that the importer cloned over 21 branded cables include Nexams Nigerian wire, Kable mek, Pure chem, Coleman cables, Nocan, Kb Cables, Niger Chem and other unbranded ones among others.
He added that the agency had made some progress in the area of sanitising the nationâ€™s cable market, adding that dubious importers were trying to cash in on that achievement by going overseas to clone Nigerian cables adjudged to be best in the world.
He noted that the importer decided to situate the warehouse in a residential area to avoid the prying eyes of the regulatory agencies.
He added that the SON enforcement team would continue to burst dubious importers who resort to bringing in substandard products.
What are substandard cables?
Substandard cables are cables that are not designed, manufactured or test-approved to meet the requirements in safety standards. The flooding of substandard cables in the market is largely due to unscrupulous manufacturers who skimp on quality and safety to produce cheaper cables.
Some of the features of substandard cables are: Reduced diameter of copper conductor, Metal content does not meet specifications, using copper-clad aluminium or other metals instead of copper conductor, reduced insulation thickness, Shorter length per coil, Fake labels & packaging, even in terms of quality certifications.
Dangers of substandard cables
Cable Over heating: The smaller diameter of a substandard housing cable reduces its ability to conduct electricity effectively, thereby causing the cable to overheat. When that happens, it causes the cable to burn or melt.
Electrical Disruptions: The instability of substandard housing cables may result in short circuits and blackouts – posing hassle for homeowners and danger to young and old in the family.
Electrocution: The reduced conducting ability of a substandard housing cable causes it to lose insulating properties. This leads to circuit malfunction and possible electrocution.
Fire outbreak: Because its generally lacking in quality, substandard housing cables may create sparks which may then lead to outbreaks of fire.
On how these substandard products get into the Nigerian market, Aboloma said: â€œSome of these importers come in with fake documentation, incorrect specification and information on the cables and wires they imported into the country from these Asian countries especially China and India.â€
However, an expert in electrical/ electronics, Dr. Sunday Balogun, told THISDAY that a major factor encouraging the importation of fake and sub-standard cables and wires is the decline in value system in the economy as the system gets easily compromised. He stressed that any system that can be easily compromised cannot be effective. He expressed regret on the inadequacy of consequences for infraction and urged the standards organisation for adequate penalty for offenders.
He said: â€œIt depicts the decline in the value system of the country because the system is easily compromised. Many unscrupulous business people go out there to specifically request for substandard products in order to get something cheap to make a lot of profit. In other climes, if you commit such atrocities and you are caught, you pay dearly for it because there are consequences for infractions. If our system had been such that adequately penalises people that commit crimes, there will be a reduction of such infractions.â€
The agency however brought two trucks that evacuated all the cables and promised to invite the media whenever it decides to destroy it after investigations.