SON And Customs In A War Of Words Over Influx Of Substandard And Fake Products In Nigerian Markets

By Stehen Ubanna

Between 2012 and now, past and present Director Generals of the Standard Organisation of Nigeria, SON, have made several efforts to be returned to the nation’s seaports, airports and land border areas to participate in the 100%  examination of cargoes  instead of waiting for invitation from Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel led , Nigerian Customs Service, NCS.

The agency, according to informed sources was said to  have done everything within their powers to blackmail the NCS personnel in order  to be allowed to open officces at the seaports, like the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration , NAFDAC, and the Nigerian Agency for Food and Drug Administration, NDLEA, have done. The agency officials have their reason for doing so.   This is because more than 90% of the nation’s imports come through the seaports to be able ‘’to checkmate the influx of substandard and Fake products  into the country killing the local industries.

The campaign for SON, to open offices at the nation’s seaports appears to have become more pronounced over the last four years. Indeed Farouk Salim, the incumbent Director General of SON, who has not his intention to ensure that the agency is returned to the ports , according to industry stakeholders  is using his contacts at the Presidency and the Federal ministry of Finance , Budget and National Planning to do so.

Salims: DG, SON

The SON Director General was said to have told those that   cares to listen that ‘’Customs personnel are not trained to detect substandard products easily at the port but to ensure that appropriate duties are paid for imported consigments compared to SON personnel who are trained on how  to identify substandard and fake products with ease  from the source of imports.

The SON, Chief Executive Officer, CEO, may have resumed the campaign to be returned to the seaports with the recent destruction of seized some imported electric cables , engine oil, Liquefied Petroleum Gas, LPG, Cylinders , stuffed new tyres, unapproved Cigarettes and low grade roofing sheets worth billions of naira believed to have been imported  from the Asian country of China  .

Nigeria imports from the Asian country most of its goods.    In 2021, according to a United Nation’s data base on International Trade, the country imported goods worth $12.88 billion. There are indications   that the country’s imports from the Asian economic giant rose by 83.91% from N530.98 billion in the first quarter of 2018 to N1.51 trillion in the first quarter of 2022.It was not surprising why there is an influx of substandard and fake product imports into the country as most of the importers have resorted to patronizing recycling companies to affordable price.

Salim, the SON, Director General, was said to have Alluded recently to the arrest of a trader at the popular Auto Spare parts and Machinery Dealers Association, ASPAMDA at the Lagos Trade Fair complex. ‘’The suspect who is still in detention and would be taken to Court soon’’, he had said.

The SON boss stop short at saying that Customs personnel at the Lagos port of Apapa, Tncan Island, Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML, Kirikiri Lighter Terminal, phases I and II including the south east ports of Port Harcourt Area and II as well as Calabar and Delta ports connive with importers  to bring in substandard and fake products into the country.

He believes that if Customs personnel at the terminals have been alive to their responsibilities at the seaports, it would be difficult for such products to have found their way in the Nigerian market.

Ali, the Customs Comptroller General may not have found Salims. The SON, Director General, emotional outburst funny .  In apparent reaction to his emotional outburst over the alleged proliferation of substandrd and fake products into the Nigerian market which he had declared passed through the nation’s seaports, into the Nigerian market. Timi Bomodi, a Deputy Comptroller and Customs spokesperson, had described SON Director General attack on Customs as  a deliberate blackmail to win public support to be returned to the ports.

Given an insider information of its operations at the ports, he disclosed that the service is ‘’fully cognizant that strategic cooperation among the security and regulatory agencies of government, which includes , SON, NAFDAC, NDLEA, Port Qurantine,Police, Department of State Security, DSS,  lies at  the heart of national security . He was emphatic that the NCS,  works in tandem  with these other security and regulatory agencies  to achieve national goals’’.

He noted that ‘’under  the Nigeria Integrated  Customs Information System, NICIS II, SON, and other regulatory agencies  are linked directly  and frequently makes inputs in reference  to items  of significance  to their operations’’.  He noted that ‘’ at no time has NCS refused to oblige SON with any of its requests’’, stressing that the service without SON intervention had repeatedly on its own ‘’directed suspicious items bordering on brand and intellectual property right to them’’.

The Customs spokesman, at the instance of Ali, may has released some documents to expose the lies of SON’s Authorities that the agency has no access to Customs NICISII, systems and are never informed or fully invoved  in cargo examinations as well as taking  product examples where necessary  during examinations for  their investigation’’. One of such document was a recent certified provisional release of an LPG  cylinder. Another was a break breaker in  a  Container with B/L, NO, after examination on June 6, 2022.

He asserted that even in the field inspection process chart on the agency official website, it shows the involvement of the government agency at the seaports, airports and land border areas. According to him there are channels of communication between officials of SON and Area Controllers at the seaports across  should the need arise’’ for clarifications and intervntions’’. 

The Consignment, according to a Statement issued by the Customs spokesperson  has a SONCAP Certificate with NoIMP, Which was said to have been released to the importers’s warehouse located  at Apap-Oshodi Expressway.

There were also another documents of provisional release  of Block Gasket in a Container  No.with B/L No  and SGD No. with a SONCAP Certificate with No.Sc , released to the importer’ warehouse at the Oshodi-Apapa Express way on the advice of SON Authorities. The NCS spokesperson, was said to have also released other documents of provisional release of Consignments with SON CAP Certificate to the importer  at the instance of SON Authorities and wondered why the agency should resort to blackmail.

Many believe that SON Authorities may have resorted such black to win the heart of President Muhammadu Buhari to be returned to the seaports.

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