04/Dec/2016 // 701 Viewers
As fake and counterfeit products continue to flood Nigerian markets, despite the presence of the regulatory and security agencies at the nation’s gateways, Igbo traders who have been accused of going to China to import fake products, say they go to the Asian country to import cheaper products and not fake.
The traders told Sunday Telegraph in separate interviews at the weekend that their effort is to ensure that they import goods that are affordable to the millions of poor Nigerians, while the expensive ones are always there for the rich.
Most of the traders stated that before they discovered the Chinese market, most products imported to Nigeria were made in Great Britain and other European countries, “but unknown to many of us, most of the goods were produced in Asia, including China; but the final packaging was normally done in Britain before exporting to Nigeria with added cost.
Chief Hyacinth Uzoeshi, electronics appliances importer based in Alaba International Market, Lagos, said unlike what people think, “Our discovery of the Chinese manufacturers brought down the cost of goods in the market and made it affordable to millions of Nigerians.
There is high level of poverty in the country, so as a trader, I look for products majority of the middle and low income people can afford. If you enter the market today to buy umbrella, you will find the ones sold at N500 as well as those that go for N2500.
If you are a businessman, you will find out that the turnover on the N500 umbrella is higher and profit margin is equally higher.” He stated that the N500 umbrella is not fake, but not of the same quality with one of N2500.
“That does not imply that the cheap umbrella is fake or substandard; it is just a function of price.” He further said, “If you go to the market to buy shoes, you can find shoes of N5, 000, N10, 000, N50, 000, N100, 000 and above.
What we are doing is to ensure that it is not only the rich that can afford everything, we look for things that are affordable. Standard is the business of SON, ours is to comply with the set standard,” he said.
Chief Uzoeshi, who is the Managing Director of Zimax Electronics Limited, admitted, however, that the Chinese produce fake and substandard products on demand.
“It is a big challenge to traders; because we are required by the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to produce our SONCAP certificate before our goods leave the port. The documents are also one of the requirements for you to to clear your goods at the ports.
So, the fake products are either coming in through our ports when the regulators compromise or through unapproved border routes. It is a problem which only the Federal Government can solve, using its security agencies and regulatory institutions.” He said those importing fake and counterfeit products are not genuine traders.
“They are the get rich quick people who exploit the inadequacies of our system. They are ungodly,” he said. Legal Adviser to a group of 24 tomato importers, Mr. Ikenna Amaechi, in reaction to the allegation that they are importing fake, substandard and cancercausing tomato paste from China and India, said that the allegation is misleading and lacking in substance.
According to him, the importers have submitted their products to the House of Representatives Committee on Healthcare Service, Drug and Narcotics for laboratory analysis.
However, Chief Martins Egbeyiugo, electrical appliances importer and former Chairman of Electrical Dealers Association of Nigeria (EDAN), said he is aware that every businessman sets out to maximize profit, including looking for cheaper products.
But the onus is on the regulatory authorities to set standards which the importers or the manufacturers should comply with. He said though his association has put measures in place to ensure that customers get value for their money, customers must also note that the price also determines quality. “But what is paramount is standard,” he added.
The Chairman of the Fancy and Furniture Dealers Association (FFDA), Emeka Mozoba, who is also the President, Alaba International Amalgamated Traders Association, admitted that, Nigerian market is flooded with fake and substandard goods, but noted that no genuine trader worth his onion will go to China and tell them to make fake or substandard products for him to sell in the Nigerian market.
He blamed the scourge on smuggling and corruption, saying those who bring in those dangerous goods are not the regular traders in the market “because we have a taskforce in place which is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that customers are not defrauded by any trader, either by selling fake or substandard products or cheating.
“Where any case of fake or substandard product is reported to us, it is thoroughly investigated and if anyone is found culpable, such is not only made to pay for the right product for the customer, but he is further sanctioned by the association. Such sanctions do not exclude expulsion from the market.”
He said, “If SON respects the SONCAP and its officials do not compromise along the line, fake and substandard products in our markets will be reduced by 50 per cent.
The remaining 50 per cent comes in through our porous borders, through smuggling. The Nigerian Customs Service has to ensure that our borders are water-tight against smuggling.
“For your information, the activities of smugglers is threatening our source of livelihood. But for the drastic fall in the exchange rate of the naira, you would have seen that the rate of trafficking goods across our borders is very alarming. Anything can enter the country, including arms and ammunition.”
He warned that unless the Nigerian borders are properly manned to prevent smuggling, the country will never have control over what is imported “fake and substandard products will remain with us.”
Sunday Telegraph learnt that SON, as part of its continuous efforts to protect Nigerian consumers from unsafe and/or substandard products, has introduced an off-shore ‘SON Conformity Assessment Programme’ (SONCAP) since September 2005.
The programme is to ensure that regulated imports comply with the approved technical and other specifications acceptable in Nigeria. But this seems not to have stopped the influx of fake products into the country.
It is against this backdground that the new Director General of SON, Osita Aboloma, said the agency will redouble its enforcement efforts, adding that, SON will more than ever before, ensure that no importer circumvents SON “While SON will continue to inspect products and issue SONCAP certificate to those that meet standard at the point of export, we will redouble our oversight functions at our ports, markets and importers’ warehouses.
This is because it is obvious that some of the importers manage to beat the checks by our agents abroad. “Despite our efforts, importers of fake and substandard products find a way to avoid the inspection abroad, thereby breach the set standards.
I started visiting the ports and border stations to forge a common synergy with sister agencies to ensure that those fake products do not enter our country again. “I also believe that if we are at the ports, it will be easier for us to ensure that all consignments that do not meet standard are seized right in the port and taken to where we will destroy them,” he said.
Meanwhile the National Public Relations Officer (PRO), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Wale Adeniyi, has said that the Service invites SON, NAFDAC and NDLEA when necessary during examination of cargo, saying, normally, the bodies issue certificate of examination to the consignee before the Service allows the consignment to exit the ports, adding that, NCS does not allow any good out of the port without ensuring that the regulatory agency that has interest in it okays it.
“NCS does not approve any consignment without SONCAP and whenever there is cargo examination, SON and other regulatory agencies are invited, if the goods fall under their regulatory function,” he said.
Credit: Sunday Telegraph