NIGERIA - Economy
Director General/Chief Executive, Standards Organization of Nigeria
Dr. Joseph I. Odumodu holds a first class degree in Pharmacy from the University of Ife, Ile-ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, and a Master’s of Science in Pharmacology. He also holds an MBA from the Enugu State University of Technology (ESUT) Business School, which he received in 1996. In November 2008, he was awarded a Doctorate in Administration by the Anambra State University, Uli. He also received the National Merit Award of Member of the Federal Republic (MFR) in 2008. In 1986, he joined Nigeria’s foremost Pharmaceutical Company May & Baker Nigeria Plc. as a Medical Marketing Manager, and later rose to the position of Managing Director/Chief Executive in 1997. He was appointed Director General/Chief Executive of the Standards Organization of Nigeria on February 1, 2011.
SON is a government agency that acts as a national standards group for Nigeria and is also involved in the quality assurance of all products. Our regulatory regime is limited to non-food and non-drug items. We do not handle food or drugs, except at the level of the elaboration of standards. All standards in Nigeria are elaborated in line with international practice. Our role has actually dovetailed into being part of a trade facilitation team. For example, if Nigeria wants to promote exports, the typical Nigerian exporter does not understand the standards in Europe. It is our responsibility to ensure there is enough testing so that when Nigerian products are exported, they are not rejected. All around the world standards are the LCM of business transactions, because standards define what people want. If, for example, there is a standard for cement in Europe, and we lack our own standard, we adopt the standard of the European market, making it easier for us to trade with those nations. We also create so-called Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) between countries allowing them to freely trade with one another. Our role is not limited to the original mandate of quality assurance. Any product entering Nigeria must be certified by us, especially those classified as life-endangering products such as tires, reinforcement bars, or toys. Therefore, standards must define the relevant health, safety, and environmental impacts. There is also a performance role. If a foreign manufacturer has been breaching standards, we have the responsibility to blacklist it from selling in Nigeria. We have not fine-tuned this, but we have created a better base today for ensuring that such manufacturers and their local counterparts are not allowed to deal in Nigeria, from whom we block access to foreign exchange in cooperation with the Central Bank. In 2011 there was a huge volume of substandard products in Nigeria, and we observed that the nation had effectively experienced deindustrialization. Local manufacturers found themselves competing with substandard products. Yet the fight is on, and we are taking it beyond Nigeria in order to set a pan-African standardization precedent.
Firstly, it is essential to improve the competitiveness of Nigerian-made products. Secondly, there is no quality control infrastructure, in other words, no accreditation body. And neither do we have a peer review mechanism with other accredited organizations in other parts of the world. Therefore, our test results are not yet applicable in Europe and America, as a result of which our exports lose substantial value. So we are currently working on establishing quality infrastructure and creating an accreditation body. In another example we have a metrology laboratory, but need to upgrade it to a metrological institute. We also need to harness the private sector through public-private partnerships (PPPs). Thirdly, our agenda is to create awareness by engaging the consumer in Nigeria. To achieve that, we also have media engagement and make certain the media is sufficiently trained and manage to disseminate information about what we are doing. Fourth, aggressive conformity assessment helps us to make sure that products imported from China are tested there by certified companies before being shipped. The system, while improved, is not yet 100% perfect. We are set to conduct a review at the end of the year because, looking ahead, we are keen to deepen our relationship with SMEs, which comprise the bulk of the economy, contributing the most to GDP and employing the most people. To maximize their efficiency we need to engage them in awareness of each other’s particular offerings. For example, a community that assembles vehicles loses out to China if a client wants to purchase engine oil and lubricant, despite the fact that companies just two kilometers away are able to provide them, thus benefitting the local economy. Our responsibility is to create such linkages.
What we are trying to do now is create new penalties, as the highest penalty in place today is a mere NGN50,000. If I were a dealer of substandard products, I would read the law and just pay NGN50,000 on those products. What we have tried to do is rewrite the mandate in the area of infringements and penalties to introduce a custodial penalty. Indeed, the law has gone through the lower house and is currently in the senate, and may be passed before the end of 2014. The SON should also have prosecutorial powers. Right now, only the police and the legal units in government can prosecute people.
We need partnerships in the area of standards elaboration. Some of the multinationals have certain experience in areas where we do not have the relevant experience. And so that is an area of collaboration; they teach us. Secondly, Nigeria has developed an auto policy, but we have not developed the capacity to certify vehicles. We need to be able to build that capacity, to have the knowledge base to be able to certify these vehicles, and to be able to check them against the established standards. Also, we need people to set up testing centers and set up standards development organizations.
In two years we will have an accreditation body and within the next four to five years we should have an efficient quality infrastructure in Nigeria in the areas of metrology, conformity assessment, and standards. Because we do not have this today, it creates challenges for everybody. Our exports do not attract enough international interest. We also have to create stronger collaboration with people within Nigeria—the government and NGOs—in such a way that when a product leaves Nigeria with a mark of quality, it actually can withstand the test anywhere. Also, we are working on products that have value added. For example, in the 21st Century Nigeria should not be exporting natural products in their crudest form. I believe that engaging the SMEs is key in this. I have just made a rule that every standard that is developed must have one SME as a member. We are also involved in certification, but we have decided as a pilot we want to take some SMEs and get them certificated within the next year free of charge. Then we will get them up to standard. Most of the SMEs in Nigeria are food sector-based, and we need to get people into other areas. With the SMEs, it is about quality, and if we can get them up in quality, they will find the markets. And so I will put a lot of energy into SME development.
© The Business Year – December 2014
NIGERIA - Energy & Mining
Group Managing Director, Eraskorp Nigeria Limited
By sponsoring our events you are able to best participate in the discussions that matter to you, as well as gain unique networking opportunities.