Maritime Operators Back SON in Fight against Counterfeiting, False Declaration

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Jonathan Eze

Key stakeholders in the maritime industry have pledged their support to collaborate with the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to address the issue of false declaration of cargoes at the nation’s points of entry.

The stakeholders said false declaration by unscrupulous importers has been one of the ways through which substandard goods find their way into the shores of the country.

They said this at a one-day national stakeholders’ sensitisation forum, for maritime operators in Port Harcourt, entitled: ‘‘Collaborations as tool for zero sub-standard imports.”

They pledged to work with SON to reduce the influx of substandard products

The vice president, ANLCA, Kayode Farinto, said ‘‘We are going to say ‘no’ to clearing of substandard goods. For instance, if your bill of lading is containing fridges and at the point of examination, we realise it is not carrying fridges.

“It is my responsibility as a patriotic citizen to invite SON to show that the consignment does not meet the specifications or guidelines despite having SONCAP. This is the only way we can stamp out substandard products in our society.’’

According to him, the renewed collaboration was critical towards ridding Nigeria of substandard products, saying that to reduce the level of substandard importation into the country, there is need to work closely with SON.

“We would also sensitise our members so that whenever they see something, they must say something. We must make sure that they do not clear substandard products out of our ports. We are the middlemen between the importers and trading public so if we assist in clearing these goods, we would not know who will be injured by these goods tomorrow. We encourage our importers to get their SONCAP,’’ he said.

The president, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Mr. Increase Uche, added that combating the preponderance of fake and substandard goods cannot be achieved without the support of all stakeholders, pointing out that cooperation must be established between SON and other government agencies, greater cooperation between the agency, freight forwarders and the importing public.

He assured that NAGAFF has always thrown its weight in support of the activities of the SON through its public policy advocacy and information service.

‘‘We are also aware of the menace of smuggling activities predominately carried out through the border entry points which most times hampers the operation of the agency.

“It has always been our view that collaboration, partnership, cooperation and synergy amongst the relevant stakeholders must be sustained in achieving zero substandard imports and other trade malpractices in our Seaports, Airports, Land Borders and the overall Logistics Supply Chain. Regrettably, the major constraint that hinders adequate check against this nefarious act in the entire system has been the lack of collaboration among critical stakeholders,’’ he said.

He emphasised the need to increase the level of collaboration with the (SON) and other stakeholders towards stemming the influx of fake and sub-standard goods into the country.
‘‘We are also aware of the menace of smuggling activities predominately carried out through the border entry points which most times hampers the operations of the agency.

“It has always been our view that collaboration, partnership, cooperation and synergy amongst the relevant stakeholders must be sustained in achieving zero sub-standard imports and other trade malpractices in our seaports, airports, land borders and the overall logistics supply chain. Regrettably, the major constraint that hinders adequate check against this nefarious act in the entire system has been the lack of collaboration among critical stakeholders,’’ he said.

He pointed out that collaborations would help to identify and mitigate risk, help to quicken the process of accomplishing inherent task, lead to both timely and appropriate decisions and moral support, as well as promoting inter agency cooperation and reduce overlap of agency functions.

Earlier, the Director General, SON, Osita Aboloma, stated that there was no better way to sensitise the industry than to collaborate with key players who have direct dealings with the importers.

Aboloma who was represented by the Director, Inspectorate and Compliance (ICD), Obiora Manafa, said 80 per cent of Nigerian imports come through the seaports and waterways and it will therefore be difficult to ignore the maritime sector operators in the quest for zero-import of sub-standard and unwholesome products in furtherance of the Federal Government’s Ease of Doing Business initiative.

Aboloma said SON’s collaboration with sectoral operators and stakeholders would help to spread the message in the drive towards zero tolerance for substandard, fake and counterfeit products.

He further described the forum as an avenue for adequate stakeholders’ enlightenment on SON’s regulatory tools and requirements and to disabuse their minds of negative issues relating to the Organisation’s enforcement of quality and regulations.

According to Aboloma, SON’s far reaching regulatory provisions under Act 14 of 2015 gives it powers to arrest and prosecute importers and dealers in sub-standard goods in Nigeria.

‘‘SON’s continued advocacy is to reduce substantially, seizure and destruction of goods, which are injurious to human lives, amount to large economic and financial losses and a threat to our environment. Our greatest challenge with cargo clearance is that of false declaration by clearing agents”.

The SON chief executive appealed to the stakeholders to desist from false declaration, stressing that measures are in place to deal with such sharp practices and prosecute culprits.

Mr. Pious Maji, Assistant Director, SONCAP, said the influx of substandard products can be best controlled by effective collaboration with stakeholders in the industry, pointing out that key stakeholders in the maritime industry have agreed to work with SON as a team to salvage Nigeria from being a dumping ground for substandard products.

In his words, ‘‘SON is a key player in trade facilitation in Nigeria. The trade facilitation is initiated by SON based on the import guidelines where you must have SONCAP certificate or an import permit to bring in items into Nigeria. It is our statutory duty to ensure that the health and safety of Nigerians is protected.’’

According to him, destruction of substandard goods brings nothing but economic loss, saying that Nigeria loss in both ways where the nation’s foreign exchange is being wasted and the consumers getting no value from the purchase of these goods.