Nigeria: AfCFTA – SON Seeks Return to Ports

The Director General of Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Malam Farouk Salim, has urged the Federal Government to allow the agency return to the nation’s ports.

Salim made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Abuja.

He explained that the move would help the organisation to effectively check the influx of substandard products into the country as trading progresses under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The DG’s call is coming after a decade of the eviction of several government agencies from the ports, following what was seen as ‘a proliferation of agencies at the ports.’

NAN recalls that Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the then Minister of Finance and Coordinating Ministers of the Economy, had in 2011 announced the eviction of the agencies.

She said the decision was to fast-track port processes at a time the ports were battling congestion, delays in cargo clearing, which were hindering the ease of doing business policy.

However, Salim said for Nigeria to effectively curb the influx of substandard goods, especially as trading under the AfCFTA continues, the SON workforce should be allowed to return to the ports.

“We are supposed to ensure that the borders and the ports are monitored properly, and in doing this we protect the country from substandard goods.

“One of such ways is to make sure that the employees of SON are in the port of entries in the country, especially the Lagos port where majority of goods comes into this country.

“Our people can be efficient if we are allowed to work at the point of entry of these goods, but right now we are not allowed at the ports.

“They allow us once in a while to check goods but that should not be the way, because SON as an organisation should not depend on the kindness of other organisations to do its work.

“The 2015 Act, Section 7(30b) says the Standard organisation must be at the port of entry into this country,” he said.

The DG noted that although there were other agencies of government at the ports, SON has the statutory obligation and the knowledge to identify substandard products.

He said if SON was given a permanent access for inspection and enforcement of standards at the ports, the menace of substandard goods in Nigerian market would be greatly reduced.

He however noted that the organisation was currently enjoying cordial working relationship with the Nigerian Customs Service and other sister agencies at the ports.