The Director General, Standards Organisation of Nigeria(SON), Mallam Farouk Salim has stated that achieving National Industrial Standards (NIS) remains a task that should not be left for government and its agencies alone but rather requires the combined efforts of all stakeholders to arrive at a desired result.
One of such critical stakeholders needed to galvanize the strategic processes of getting the gospel of products and services standards to the understanding of the public and grassroots is the mass media. This perhaps, underscored the importance of a workshopput together by the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) for journalists across the traditional print and electronic media, to the emerging online media in the country, a call that was well responded by the media practitioners.
SON, the government agency saddled with the responsibility of ensuring products standards in the country hosted the workshop with the aim of exposing media practitioners to the rudiments of product and service standards that will help in their reporting. The workshop was packaged so as to help them to not only build more capacity for their jobs in this era of global COVID-19 pandemic, but to also improve synergy among stakeholders in order to promote standardization in the nation’s growing industrial sector.
With the theme, ‘Improved synergy to promote standardization’, government is hoping that the media practitioners would be better equipped with relevant information that will be needed to educate the public (manufacturers, service providers and consumers) on why they should embrace recommended standards in the processes leading to product manufacturing and consumption.
The Director General (DG) of SON, was readily at hand to receive the journalists in Lagos and used the opportunity to felicitate with the media men and equally roll out the score card of SON under his watch in the last ten months.
In his welcome remarks at the occasion held at SON’s laboratory complex in Ogba, Lagos, Salim thanked journalists for their tremendous support in telling the SON’s story and educating the public on the agency’s activities and challenges as they relate to the nation’s economic growth and welfare of citizens.
Describing the media as worthy collaborators in the Nigerian project, Salim says he could not thank them enough but rather request that the collaboration becomes more robust as partners in progress and patriots.
According to him, he is at SON to make it better by building on existing structures and achievements over the years, improve on service delivery as well as relationships with stakeholders, including the media. In this regard, Salim disclosed setting up an independent committee of distinguished Nigerians charged with the responsibility of taking a critical look at operations of SON as well as public perception in order to help develop a template to tackle the identified challenges. The committee has since done its job and according to Salim, “We have since been implementing many of the recommendations of that committee”, pledging SON’s commitment to improving communications with stakeholders at all levels to get greater buy-in into the programmes and activities that are targeted at consumer satisfaction, protection and welfare, as well as the growth of the economy.
Work in progress/Achievements
SON is currently embarking on a number of strategies to achieve the set goals while results are already trickling in within the short stay of the new DG. Salim shared some of the on-going efforts to include massive quality infrastructural developments such as offices and laboratories across the country and equipping them to bring its services closer to stakeholders to stir up diversification of the economy. The capacity of the National Metrology Institute Enugu is currently being enhanced with the acquisition of new equipment for calibration activities in diverse areas of measurement such as flow and volume.
Aggressive marketing of key service offering is also being embarked upon. Such areas include product certification, local and international laboratory services, internationally recognized management training services, among others. There are many other plans in progress. On the other hand, notable achievements under Salim between September 2020 and July 2021 include election of Nigeria into the standards management committee of the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO), completion of 2019/20 ARSO Essay Competition for undergraduates in tertiary institutions in the country, making SON a high performing organization capable of delivering quality services to the clients through renewed commitment and automation services, approval of 213 new industrial standards for stakeholders/industry use. Others are re-equipping of the National Metrology Institute, to promote calibration of weights and promote fair trade, acquisitions landed properties in Katsina, Jigawa, Nassarawa, and Kano states for the construction of prototype SON regional/state laboratory/storage complex and occupation of new SON corporate headquarters in Abuja.
There are many more, this include relocation of state offices to more conducive properties in Jigawa, Kano, Shagamu, while those of Kwara, FCT, AkwaIbom and Ekiti are moved to their permanent sites.
More interesting is the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Katsina State government on support for the development and growth of Medium and Small Enterprises (MSMEs) with the prospect of replicating them in other states. Salim also disclosed SON attainment on international accreditation for three additional laboratories for testing paints, electrical cables and food (for micro nutrients) and the launching of 38 approved NIS for renewable energy in conjunction with relevant stakeholders in the country.
The workshop afforded other directors of SON to showcase the activities of their various directorates that they would want the media to collaborate through communicating them to the grassroots.
Speaking on Nigeria National Industrial Standards Strategy with a focus on stateholders and industry needs, MrsChinyereEgwuonwu, Director,SON standards development, disclosed that the NIS have always tailored towards market needs with voluntary inputs from stakeholders and the plan last for three years after which a review is undertaken.
“SON develops the national standards called the Nigeria National Industrial Standards and we develop them based on the market needs and the voluntary from participating stakeholders in the development process. In actual sense, stakeholders develop the standards while SON coordinate and this has to be approved by a standards Council before it could be implemented”, she stated.
Egwuonwu further disclosed that the national standards strategy (NSS) is based on the assessment of national needs that span over a period of three years for implementation, says the first ever NSS contains about 658 standardization projects in key priority areas that are classified as economic factors.
The priority areas include agriculture, power and energy. The current NIS has already spent a year and Mrs.Egwuonwu says the implementation so far is quite healthy while they are currently undergoing harmonization in line with international standards.
According to her, out of the 274 of the approved standards planned to be implemented within the last one year (2020), a total of 264 (representing about 98% success rate) was achieved. “This performance rate of 98% is quite high despite the COVID19 pandemic”, she posited.
Other presentations at the occasion include those on ISO/Management Systems Certification, Laboratory Services, Inspectorate/Compliance Challenges and Product Registration.
The head of department (HOD), product registration, SON, Engr. Joseph Ugbaja informed that registration is strictly for imported products which must be issued to importers before they are allowed to enter the nation’s markets.According to him, the essence is to protect consumers and making sure they get value for their money, and avoid making Nigeria a dumping ground for poor and substandard goods.