Francis Ezem

The Standards Organisation of Nigeria SON, has warned that it would not succumb to cheap blackmail orchestrated by non-compliant importers and their agents, insisting it must performing its statutory responsibilities, which include checking the influx of fake and substandard goods into the country.

National Public Relations Officer of the organisation, Bola Fashina, who spoke in Abuja, was reacting to a statement credited to the Vice President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents ANLCA, Kayode Farinto on a phantom server breakdown of SON Conformity Assessment Report SONCAP, in which the industry allegedly lost over N6billion on demurrage payment due to delays.

He noted that only recalcitrant importers and their agents, who in their impunity and desperate bid to circumvent the laws of the land would turn round to blackmail the organisation, warning that the organisation owes the Nigerian nation and its citizens a duty to ensure that the country is not flooded with all manner of substandard and fake goods no matter whose ox is gored and would therefore not yield to such cheap blackmail.

He alleged that Farinto brought in over 182 containers of SON-regulated products, none of which came into the country with the mandatory SONCAP certification, which is a pre-shipment document and therefore ought to have been obtained by the importer or his agent before the consignment leaves the country of origin and had to resort to cheap blackmail to hoodwink the organisation to allow such illegality. He insisted that SON must do its job at all times no matter how much any one tries to blackmail it.

“I think the whole thing is all about the impunity of some Nigerians to circumvent the law. The subject matter is not about the Standards Organisation, the subject matter has to do with agencies of government who have responsibilities to enforce regulations of the government and because some of don’t do that, that is why all these people could open their mouth and be talking rubbish.

“And for the avoidance of doubt, anybody who thinks he can intimidate officials of government, you are just wasting your time because they have their statutory responsibility to enforce regulations. All these trumped up allegations are so inconsequential to the operations of the ports. The subject matter is compliance.

“If you have a transaction and it is not going through with intent to cheat or circumvent regulations, is that the temerity you have to turn to blackmail?

“Ask me, if SON is upgrading its system to give Nigerians better service, is that the noise we are making? And this thing makes no issue as it were for the fact that it did not take it time even when that was on, a proviso was made to ensure speedy clearance of cargo. I think some of us, when we have something to hide and when we are not able to hide it further, we turn to blackmail”, he said.

.He also warned that for the avoidance of doubt, anybody who thinks he can intimidate officials of government is just wasting his or her precious time because they have their statutory responsibility to enforce regulations, adding that all these trumped up allegations are so inconsequential to the operations of the ports and that the subject matter is compliance.

He also argued that if it was for a genuine purpose, Farinto has access to SON an agency of government up to the level of the Director General and other operational officers and so had the opportunity to complain officially so that the matter would be resolved rather than resort to blackmail.

On the allegation of bribery leveled against some enforcement officers while on duty on the road, noted that all service charge payments to SON are doe through the Single Treasury Account TSA and that no member of staff is authorised or directed to collect any payment other than service charges that are fixed.

He therefore challenged anyone making such allegations should come forward with proof and that appropriate disciplinary action will be instituted against any staff found culpable.

While reiterating the fact that SONCAP is an offshore procedure to promote fast clearance of goods and prevent dumping of substandard and life-endangering products into the country, he enjoined importers to endeavour to complete the procedure before their consignments leave the countries of origin instead of attempting some shortcuts after the consignments have arrived Nigeria.