Lawmakers Prescribe 5yr Jail term for Substandard Life-endangering Products
*Pass bill to increase judges numbers to 150
Udora Orizu in Abuja
Members of the House of Representatives at the plenary, Wednesday passed through second reading a Bill which seeks to repeal the Standards Organisation of Nigeria Act, No.14 of 2015 and enact the SON Act, 2023 for the purpose of providing additional functions for the organisation, creating new offences and increasing penalties for offences relating to standardisation.
The lawmakers also passed through second reading a Senate Bill seeking for an act to amend the federal high court act, 2004 to provide for the increase in the number of judges from 100 to 150 and to make provisions for the regulation of the award of prejudgment in relation to claims bordering on commercial transactions in Nigeria.
Leading the debate on the Bill for the repeal of SON act, the sponsor, Hon. Julius Ihonvbere, said the key amendment is to criminalize the production, importation, distribution dealing in substandard life-endangering products and impose a custodial sentence of 5 years without an option of fine on persons convicted.
He also said the bill seeks to mandate the Organisation to publish annually, products deemed as life-endangering, and also proposes a 50% increment across board for all fines under the old act to align with current economic realities. The fines under the bill are set in the minimum to allow for flexibility.
The lawmaker lamented that some sections in the previous act affect the rights of people such as the reduction in the duration for which the Organisation can seize and detain hazardous goods without an order of Court from 90 days to 45 days.
Another, he said is the power granted to the Organisation under the old Act to destroy hazardous goods without an order of Court has been expunged.
Ihonvbere said, “Some of these challenges range from inadequate penalties for standards-related offences to create sufficient deterrence for offenders, to limited resources for the funding of the ever-increasing cost of standards development and conformity assessment activities. The instant proposition for the repeal of the SON ACT NO.14 of 2015 is necessitated by the need to reposition the Standards Organisation of Nigeria to attain its full potential in areas of standardisation and quality control;
“SON being the National Standards Body. The proposed amendments will checkmate the threats posed to the national economy by the importation and manufacturing of substandard products that lead to avoidable deaths and monumental economic losses in the Country. The journey of quality, as often said is without end. An analysis of the trend amongst substandard products peddlers is that the imposition of fines no matter how steep, barely acts as a deterrence to them. The idea of a mandatory custodial sentence for certain offences especially those relative to life-endangering products is the most effective tool to deter likely offenders.”
Meanwhile the lawmakers during consideration of reports at the Committee of the Whole, approved the Bill for an act to repeal the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, Cap. A.18, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and Enact the Arbitration and Mediation Act, 2023 to Provide a Unified Legal
Framework for the fair and efficient Settlement of Commercial disputes through Arbitration and Mediation, make applicable the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign
Arbitration Awards (the New York Convention) to any award made in Nigeria or in any contracting State arising out of International Commercial Arbitration.
Also approved were the reports of the Conference Committee on a Bill for an Act to Establish the National Centre for the Coordination and Control of the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light
Weapons in Nigeria. and that of the Committee on Public Accounts on a Bill for an Act to provide for Establishment of an Independent Office of the Auditor General for Area Councils in the federal Capital Territory and provide for the Audit of Area Councils Public Accounts.
While Hon. Adeogun Adejoro explained that arbitration has been an issue in the country, hence the need for a unified framework for handling arbitration issues, Hon. Wole Oke on his part said the bill for the audit of area council public accounts is important because FCT area council have their own auditor general, but their operations is not governed by any law.