NIGERIA: NAGAFF queries SON's competence ... Calls for 'accreditators' to break regulatory agency's 'monopoly' .. Freight forwarders threaten strike over agency's 'sabotage'

If the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has its way, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) may just not be the sole organisation regulating the quality of products manufactured in Nigeria or those imported into the country.

In an interview in his office, the NAGAFF National President, Chief Eugene Nweke, questioned SON's competence and the monopoly it enjoys in the execution of its brief.
"There is need for independent product conformity assessment bodies, also known as 'accreditators'; these are professional bodies or associations of industries in the private sector," Nweke said.

He said that the proposed accreditators were a necessity "against the backdrop that the trading and consuming public seem to have lost confidence" in SON's Conformity Assessment Programme (SONCAP) and the Mandatory Conformity Assessment Programme (MANCAP).

SON's conformity assurance system, according to him, called to question the organisation's competence.

The NAGAFF boss said: "This is so because most products bearing SONCAP/MANCAP certification littering the market are obviously substandard products failing the national standardisation. It is the right and duty of national legislation to accredit standardisation body acting naturally with it.

"Recall that product testing and certification is aimed at evaluating the quality of the product itself which the assurance system by a professional body is aimed to assuring the purchaser that the manufacturer of such product has in place a viable and effective system that is capable of producing product of consistent quality with little or no variation."

While noting that, ideally, the trading public relies on the manufacturer's declaration that the product so purchased meets standard, Nweke said that the relevance of standardisation cannot be overemphasised, because, according to him, standards depend greatly on the level of confidence reposed in the manufacturer's statement that the product meets a particular standard by the trader.

In a related development, NAGAFF has expressed angst that the meeting scheduled by the Nigerian Shippers' Council (NSC) to hold at its Shippers' Towers head office in Apapa, Lagos, between the various registered freight forwarders associations and the SON Director-General, Dr. Joseph Odumodu, on September 29, 2014, had to be put off indefinitely, at the instance of Odumodu, who sent his regrets that he is not able to attend the meeting.

In a press release, the NAGAFF Management Headquarters stated that, in the aftermath of the abortive meeting, the NSC may meet and decide what step to take. 

NAGAFF said: "It is sad and regrettable the impunity with which SON as an agent of the government is in breach of rule of law in our country. It is an illegality for SON to lay siege and arrest containers on the city highways of Lagos State. We consider this as an act of sabotage to the transformation programme of the President of the Federal Republic, which is built around rule of law, integrity and development. 

"The freight forwarders shall meet in due course to consider other options to stop this illegality against international trade in Nigeria. Withdrawal of services from the ports may receive popular opinion of freight practitioners, because we are not in a banana republic or Somalia. The mandate of SON is limited to warehouses and factories of manufacturers of goods."