THE recent interception of over N8 billion worth of substandard electrical cables by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) is one of the biggest seizures of fake products by the agency. It lends credence to the longstanding concern that fake and substandard products are flooding Nigerian markets and posing grave danger to the lives and property of citizens, as well as the economy of the country.
The cables, according to SON, are cloned versions of 20 popular Nigerian brands, shipped from China into the country. Made-in-Nigeria cables are among the best in the world. The counterfeit cables were reportedly discovered in two residential buildings in Ajangbadi, a suburb of Lagos, by the SON enforcement team. sing the names of popular Nigerian brands that are already certified by the agency on their deceptive packages. Director, Inspectorate and Compliance, SON, Mr. Bede Obayi, who conducted journalists round the premises of the company, said that some dubious importers are currently cashing in on the achievements of reputable Nigerian brands to fake their products. However, the agency has assured Nigerians of its commitment to sanitising the nation’s cable market and stopping unscrupulous elements from endangering the lives of the citizens and the economy.
We commend SON for its efforts to check the influx of substandard products into the country. The discovery of these fake cables is one of such valiant efforts. In the present instance, it can only be imagined the danger such cables could pose to Nigerians. According to SON, over 40 percent of goods in Nigeria are substandard. Many of such goods have resulted in the death of many Nigerians and the loss of billions of naira.
It is sad that Nigeria has become a ‘dumping ground’ for all kinds of goods from different parts of the world. The fight against fake drugs and substandard products gained national prominence during the tenure of Dr. Dora Akunyili as Director General of the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). The fakers have not relented despite the efforts of the agency and others like SON.
More troubling, however, is the fact that these fake products are either manufactured locally or imported in collusion with some unpatriotic and unscrupulous Nigerians. Not long ago, SON impounded over 500 expired tyres in a warehouse in Lagos where two Chinese and some dubious Nigerians were in the process of rebranding them. The discovery was facilitated by a whistleblower. Also, last year, some Nigerian markets were flooded with “plastic rice” and gari, believed to have been imported from Asia. This was close to the festive season when the consumption of rice and gari, two major Nigerian staples, were expected to be in high demand. There had also been discoveries of substandard building materials that have resulted in building collapse and loss of lives and property. There have been reports of seized substandard automobile parts and adulterated drugs that have killed many, as well as substandard mobile phones.
In spite of the efforts of regulatory agencies like SON, NAFDAC and the Nigeria Customs Service, counterfeiting of goods remains a constant occurrence. Although poverty, which has reportedly weakened the purchasing power of many Nigerians, and the unpatriotic acts of some merchants, are said to be among the factors fueling the trade in fake products, we cannot afford the irreparable damage that substandard goods visit on the people and the economy.
We think that tougher laws are needed to rein in manufacturers and importers of substandard products. Light jail terms seem a very mild punishment, considering the danger that fake products pose to the people and the economy. Diligent prosecution, stiffer punishments and strict enforcement of the law are required to deter counterfeiters. We also require stringent pre-shipment inspection of goods in their countries of origin before they are brought into the country. There should also be constant monitoring and enforcement of compliance of local industries with stipulated manufacturing standards. Some Nigerian companies are said to be laying off staff because of low sales resulting from the faking and selling of their products at cheaper prices by counterfeiters. Those behind all substandard products should be made to face the full weight of the law. This will deter counterfeiters and promote quality products in Nigeria