By Stephen Ubanna
Inspite of the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari ahad described the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, AfCFTA, as a threat to the country’s economy as the rules may be abused, the Standard Organisation of Nigerian, SON, appears to have taken the bold initiative to protect Nigerian and African manufacturers in general from third parties.
Osita Aboloma, the Director General, of the agency had enumerated some of the projects been undertaken by the Organisation to protect the African Manufacturers which includes a National Meterology Institute in Enugu, south east , Nigeria.
Aboloma was said to have also alluded to efforts currently being made by the agency to facilitate the international accreditation of the its laboratories, , training and Management systems certification services and ongoing automation of all services to stakeholders.
The SON, boss, who could not hide his feelings disclosed that the actualization of the projects would go a long way at promoting the government policy of trade facilitation and the ease of doing business in and with Nigeria.
Note that SON under the close watch of Aboloma had been at the vanguard in the harmonization of product standards in the African Continent, particular, the Economic Community of West African States , ECOWAS, sub-region through the African Organisation for Standardisation, AFSO.
The agency may have Collaborated the President’s views that the Agreement may be abused through importation of substandard and life endangering products into the country from other African countries that it was said to have deployed ‘’ new strategies of intelligence gathering and Compliance monitoring of products traded within the African Continent.
Given that there may be cases of abuse in the implementation of the Agreement by some countries , which still have strong link with their Colonial masters, particular, the French –speaking countries, the agency , according sources had initiated a working relationship with other agencies and departments of government , particular, the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, which has a mandate of implement the country’s fiscal policies.
As a prelude towards the implementation of the Agreement, Buhari and Patrick Talon, President, Republic of Benin had already signed a Trade Pact, described as a welcome development by Segun Awolowo, Executive Director, Nigerian Export Promotion Council, NEPC. This is because of the anticipated boost in the country’s export drive to take over the ECOWAS sub-regional market which are currently dominated with imports from Asia countries, particular China and India.
O Maritime watchers believe that ne of the major problems , which the Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel, led NCS, had faced over the last three and half years , with the support of SON and LCCI, was the challenge of combating possible dumping of substandard products through unapproved routes into the country by smugglers. The Customs anti-smuggling war may have been very effective in the southern part of the southern part of the country but not so in the north. The smuggling situation was so bad in the north west geopolitical region that Ali, the Customs Comptroller General was forced to speak out about his worries , urging the Land Border Commands Area Comptrollers in the region to sit up to ensure that the dare –devil smugglers did not make nonsense of the AfCFTA.
T many belied that with the improved working relationship between SON and the other government agencies , departments , including the relevant ministries may have emboldened SON, which has the responsibility of guaranteeing the quality of imported goods into the country to develop a National Quality Infrastructure, NQI. ‘’The NQI, would cater for the free movement of goods and services within the African Continent’’, Oboloma had said. He cited the development of standards for artisanship such as Carpentary, fashion design, painting among others.
Recall that the Katsina state born Nigerian President had alluded to the several advantages AfCFTA would bring to the country with the creation of a single market, followed by free movement of goods and services as well as a single currency union. He gave the assurance when he met with the officials of the Lagos state Chamber of Commerce,andIndustry, LCCI at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. He may have given the LCCI leadership the assurance to encourage the members that they have nothing to worry about being outsmarted by third party manufacturers from the Asian countries of China and India.
It was not very surprising why he has thrown his weight behind SON which could bark in the past without biting to do their job as it ought to be done without fear or favour. But the fear being expressed in certain quarters was that the agency officials may be Compromised by importers. This is because of the flooding of the Nigeria market with substandard goods from China despite have having agents overseas to monitor the quality of products shipped into the country from these Asia. The case of electric cables and bulls shipped from China and pushed into various markets across the country speaks volume.
Aboloma, the SON, boss may have given Nigerians hope that the agency is full prepared for the implementation of AfCFTA and therefore , have no cause to worry about Nigeria being turned into a dumping for substandard goods or life endangering products.
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