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SON: Moves To Blocks Areas Of Abuse In The Implementation Of AfCFTA

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. 

Osita Aboloma: Director General, SON

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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