By Bimbola Oyesola
the shocking revelation that about 56 major companies and over 220 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have closed down due to economic recession in the country in the last one year obviously rattled Nigerian business community. And since the development, stakeholders have not failed to remind Nigerians that substandard products contributed hugely to the death of these firms. This is because most of the adulterated products we brought into the country without any restriction and sold to Nigerians below the cost price.
The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) had on several occasions lamented the inherent damage to the sector and the economy of porous borders and unhindered access at the ports by importers of substandard products.
With over 90 per cent of these substandard products coming in from the seaports, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), said the incidence of low standard products have remained the most challenging task borne by companies in the country.
The MAN President, Frank Jacobs, noted for instance, that such quality products are more available and affordable to Nigerians and this has now led to shut down of many firms, while others still in existence are not doing well.
While addressing media executives and other stakeholders during a two-day capacity development retreat in Lagos, the SON Acting Director General, Dr. Paul Angya, said the country was facing the most supreme challenge of economic downturn, facilitated by continual spread of substandard goods across Nigerian markets.
He noted that the influx of such cheap substandard products, most of which imported into the country by a few cabals in the economic circle of the country, has persistently retarded the development of the local production.
According to him, Nigeria has been rendered non-productive economy and can no longer help itself out of the current economic downturn.
However, despite all efforts to tame the circulation of substandard products, not much has been achieved.
One of the obstacles in the fight, according to Angya, was the policy that sent SON officials of the seaports.
He explained that the policy guiding seaport operation did not provide adequately for SON to operate at the seaport, which is the point of entry for those goods. He maintained that 90 per cent of the substandard goods come into the country through seaports, saying it would have been easier for SON to curb the entry of such goods at the seaport rather than chasing the containers carrying them on the expressways within the country which it is now constrained to do.
Apart from this, the organisation, in its effort to stop importation and circulation of fake products to unsuspecting consumers, has been subjected to various forms of intimidation by those benefitting from the business.
Regrettably, the SON boss said the number of the cabal, perpetrating such act of illegal importation, is about 0.0001 per cent of the entire population of the country.
“The community of those who spoil our economy is very small, about 0.0001 per cent of the nation’s total population. When we were disallowed to inspect goods at the ports, we resorted to chasing containers on the road. Those people still accused us and tried to suppress our efforts through various means of intimidation including blackmail.”
In one of its efforts to curb the importation of substandard goods, especially from China where the bulk of these goods come from, SON established SONCAP, a platform through which those goods could be certified at their places of production. However, the organisation had to shut down the platform due to sabotage.
Again, it tried to sign an MoU with China on Certificate of Free Sell, which allows only certified standard goods to be exported to Nigeria from China, but the country refused to sign the agreement.
Angya, who declared that China is the highest producer of many goods in the world, noted that “out of 10 products in America, eight are from China and they are of the best quality, but out of 10 products in Nigeria, nine are from China and they are substandard.”
The SON boss further identified lack of infrastructure and insufficient workforce as other challenges to the operation of the organisation. He said the organisation only has 1,500 staff members throughout the country to carry out its operation.
He also said that lack of acceptable implementable national quality policy constitute greatest challenge to Nigeria’s economy, as it has led to rejection of many Nigerian products, especially agricultural produce, at the international market.
Angya maintained that Nigeria doesn’t have a national policy that can facilitate development of National Quality infrastructure such as laboratory where the quality of goods produced in the country can be certified for international standard and metrology to ascertain international standard measurement.
Meanwhile, Angya lamented that government has not signed into law the National Quality Policy Act approved by the National Assembly during the last administration.
He said that unavailability of this policy has led to loss of revenue by the country as most of Nigeria’s agricultural produce have to be taken to Ghana and or Brazil for certification and bearing those countries’ mark as if they were the producers of such goods now sold in European countries.
“Our agricultural products are taken to Ghana or Brazil for certification and those products are seen (labelled) as Ghana or Brazil products in Europe including, for instance, our yam produce. So, we lose our benefit to other countries because we don’t have instrument/infrastructure for such certification here in Nigeria.”
Meanwhile, he explained that SON has been strategising on how to surmount the challenges hindering its smooth operation by going back to the seaports, and has shut down the platform, which allowed importers to bring in products without SONCAP. It equally reviewed SON Acts enabling the organisation to prosecute any culpable substandard goods manufacturers or importers and distributors.
He said it has also started standardisation setting for some identified agricultural products at international market as well as those consumed locally, adding that SON has over 200 standards for agric products. The organisation, he stated, is developing an app, which consumers can use to screen genuine products at the point of sale.
According to him, SON is also launching a new campaign against substandard tyres especially during the yuletide.
Angya further revealed that the organisation has been designing identification emblems for tyre dealers and other products across the country to enable the consumers identify where they could get genuine products.
He, however, said the emblems’ campaign, though, would cover the whole country, would kick off in Lagos and move through Oyo, Osun, Ondo to other parts of the country.
Steps to establishing successful wood processing business
By Charles Nwaoguji
The international wood industry has become more complex due to globalisation, production assortment and the development of technologies. Environmental protection also plays a major role in the development of this sector.
Today however, Nigerian manufacturers are competing with the imported Asian products which are cheaper. The industry has responded to these threats by enhancing productivity, targeting niche markets and improving quality, design and marketing. In many companies, the production process consists of the assembly and gluing of particleboard, which is coated with a decorative covering such as veneer. The level of skills involved is not as sophisticated as in craft work.
Nevertheless, the skills are important particularly in respect to the operation and maintenance of computer numerically controlled machines, finishing techniques and in the case of soft furniture, the sewing, cutting and pattern making.
The method of working, however, is as important as the actual skills of the operatives, which Nigeria is far behind when compared to other countries like the USA, China, among others. Specifically, ‘working in cells’ has been shown to be more efficient in reducing lead times and in optimising machine utilisation.
These working arrangements, however, require a high degree of multi-skilling on the part of the production operatives. The development of craft skills is essential for the survival of the Nigerian furniture industry.
Craft skills are necessary to produce high quality, intricate furniture items based on solid wood.
The market for such products is less sensitive to price than the market for mass produced furniture constructed from wood composites and it is a market therefore which can be successfully exploited by Nigerian companies.
The increasing complexity of the industry means that it requires a cadre of university qualified professionals to provide many of the technical, supervisory and management functions.
Design and marketing have become the twin pillars on which any successful development strategy for this industry must be based. There are many companies in the wood sector and 65 per cent of those specialise in the field of manufacture of wood and wood products. Small companies prevail in the sector (the number of staff does not exceed 49 people). The process of enlargement in the companies is ongoing in both sub-sectors. At the moment, the start-up of new companies is more intense in furniture manufacture sector than in the manufacture of wood and wood products sub-sector. Wood sector employs the biggest number of people in the field of processing industry in Nigeria.
It employs about 53,000 people; the majority of them work in manufacture of wood and wood products companies (about 58 per cent of all people). During five years (2003-2007), the number of people employed in the sector was continuously growing, especially in furniture manufacture sub-sector.
The employees who work shorter hours amount to 6 per cent of all the employees in the sector while women amount to 40 per cent.
With regard to the occupational groups, the most popular are highly-skilled and low-skilled worker jobs. Employees of 30-50 years of age are prevailing in the sector; 60 years of age and older amount to 3 per cent of all the employed in the wood processing plant.
Woods are used in making doors, photo frames, toothpicks, furniture, papers, and it is used in constructing buildings, and it is used in almost every production. Woods are classified into two, the hard wood and the soft wood. A type of hardwood is the mahogany. There are different grades and species under this name which vary widely in quality and price. Mahogany is the hardest, strongest and the best quality type of hard wood. It has a reddish brown colour and is perfect for furnishing, mostly used in crafting furniture. A type of softwood is the cedar wood, which has a red-brown colour. Its repellent qualities have made it a popular wood for lining drawers. Wood business in Nigeria is a lucrative one. While it is capital intensive, the demand and rate of turnover is high in the market. Wood business can enrich you quickly; all it requires of you is to be focused. Locate a sawmill As soon as you locate a sawmill (i.e. plank selling market), join their association. There is an automatic and immediate network of potential clients and vendors that will be needed to run the wood/plank business. Be active immediately and find out issues about the business and how you can get involved positively. Inquire on how to buy wood Inquiring on how to buy different types of woods means you have to carefully learn about where to buy your logs of wood.
The most popular place in Nigeria where logs of wood are got is J4 forest/bush, Ogun State or the Ondo forest in Akure, Ondo State.