In this piece, AROWONA ABDULAZEEZ xrays the activities of the Standard Organisation of Nigeria, (SON) and the Nigerian Customs Service, (NCS) amidst serious fears of probable economic sabotage.

Nigeria’s economy has been facing avoidable crises of poor managment, misappropriation, aiding and abetting corrupt practices among other social vices thereby posing serious threats on the future of the acclaimed ‘giant of Africa’.

However, while bad governance and misappropriation of public funds has over the years hindered the desired growth and development in some sectors of the nation’s economy, masses are still fighting hard to have their shares in the abundant natural endowments therein.

Although, the current adminstration of President Muhammadu Buhari has no doubt expressed interests in ensuring economic recovery, prudent spending of public fund, glorification of the principles of equity, justice and fairness among all and sundry as a measure towards ameliorating the numerous economic woes.

Unfortunately, there exist many saboteurs who places personal interests far above National interest not minding its negative effects on the nation’s economy. While saving of the scarce foreign exchange and significant increase in the import duties generation remain strong catalysts to quick economic recovery, there exist ‘cartel’ working against national interest in this direction.

Indigenous manufacturers have been made ‘scapegoats’ suffering in the hands of the Standard Organisation of Nigeria, (SON) and the Nigerian Customs Service, (NCS) due to poor performance in their operations.

In order to protect local manufacturers, federal government had imposed 45 percent duty on all imported goods with the Nigeria Customs Service as the monitoring and enforcement agency while SON is saddled with the responsibility on ensuring that all goods imported into the country meet the required standard for usage.

In the recent time, Nigeria government has lost multibillionaire dollars to lack of adequate attention to pre-shipment inspection of imported items while substandard goods also snake into the nation with strong connivance between dealers and government monitoring agencies (i.e Customs and SON). Among items illegally imported to the country are; galvanised roofing sheets, aluminium, rice and frozen chicken among others.

In its reaction to the unwholesome act, the Galvanised Iron and Steel Manufacturers’ Association, (GISMA) has urged the authority of the Standard Organization of Nigeria, (SON) to address the germane issue of curbing the importation of substandard galvanized roofing sheets into the country.

GISMA also alerted the Federal Government that if in 30 days’ time, SON and other security agencies failed to abate the menace of substandard roofing sheets in the market, its members may be forced to offload about 20, 000 workforce into the labour market.

The Spokesman of GISMA, Mr. Lateef Bello, in a statement issued on Wednesday, 3rd July 2019 advised SON to always compliment the strides of President Muhammadu Buhari in the fight against corruption in compliance with the Industrial Roadmap Revolution, (IPR).

He noted that despite the presence of State Coordinators of the agency nationwide, “It is saddening that the nooks and crannies of the country are flooded with substandard roofing sheet products.”

According to him, “We are aware that the Standard Organisation of Nigeria, (SON) held a press conference last week and unveiled its successful seizure of substandard aluminium sheets worth over N200 million from various aluminium companies in Uyo.

“SON in its address further confirmed that the minimum thickness of aluminium roofing sheets is 0.4mm. The substandard products with the quality of 0.25mm were however imported into Nigeria at the detriment of unsuspecting members of the public.”

Mr. Bello however condemned SON over its attempt to divert the attention of Nigerians away from its responsibility of providing holistic atmosphere for Steel and Iron Manufacturers stressing that Aluminium roofing sheet is a smaller fraction of the total market. SON has been silent about the illegalities going on in the endemic smuggling of galvanised plain and coloured roofing sheets in Nigeria.

“While we commend SON for the efforts made in the seizure of the goods, we are categorically requesting that names of perpetrators of such unpatriotic acts should be made public in order to reflect transparency and accountability in their operation. It is our expectation that SON should censor some of its officials suspected to be collaborating with smugglers of substandard products by mounting surveillance and detective operational techniques across its branches nationwide.

“Importation of substandard products is tantamount to waging war against the Federal Government’s policies of discouraging the supply of illicit items capable of causing havoc and short-charging the citizenry.

“Sparing anyone involved in this dastard acts amounts to aiding and abetting corruption and exposing the nation to ill-infrastructural deficit and challenges.

“There is need for the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and SON should investigate if the fine imposed on the offenders is commensurate with the weight of the offence committed. Questions begging for answers: Was the fine imposed in accordance with to the statutory permission or was the fine imposed after the arraignment of culprits before a competent court of law for gross economic sabotage and flagrant contravention of Nigerians laws against substandard products?

“Also, why the imposition of fines on substandard goods which should be confiscated and later to be destroyed?

“We hereby request that SON should not only announce the seizure of the items but rather make arrest and parade the suspects before the general public and prosecute them adequately. Publish their ownership details, business names and contact addresses in the media.

“This will further serve as a deterrence to others who venture into unlawful businesses. This will also break the jinx of ‘cartel’ which exist within the system.”

GISMA however urged the Federal Government to adequately monitor the lonely ports and private jetties and check the influx of substandard products into the country.

He said: “We hereby give the Federal Government through SON 30 days ultimatum to solve this lingering menace, otherwise, GISMA members will have no other choice than to lay-off 20,000 of their workforce nationwide to embark on the same trade.

“The implication of this is that the Industrial Revolution Plans, as well as the Backward Integration Policy respectively, must have failed woefully.”

“This assessment will also assist security agencies in the check against illegal smuggling of dangerous items which has made it difficult to end the ongoing insurgency in some parts of the country.”

Similarly, as part of moves towards expressing concern on the nation’s economy, a group, Social Integrity Network has warned that, Nigeria’s economy is on the verge of collapse.

The group argued that, Nigeria’s economy is heading to a severe point of collapse, which it blamed on what it called ‘the many havocs precipitated’ by some Government Monitoring Agencies, especially those who are directly involved in the economic and security sectors.

During a press conference addressed by its National Coordinator, Jubrin Abdulmalik at the weekend, Social Integrity Network said, its investigation into the nation’s port management and pre-shipment management has revealed that, the nation’s security has been exposed to abuse, gross misconducts, undue connivance as well as aiding and abetting illegal importation of substandard products into the country at the detriment of the country.

He however stated categorically that, the security challenges bedeviling Nigeria cannot be defeated if activities of such monitoring agencies are not checked, as fire arms maybe finding their ways into Nigeria through such means.

According to him, “Nigeria remains the economic giant of Africa as evidently revealed by statistics and recurrent circumstances. The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari had over the years shown serious concerns and attentions towards ensuring that rapid economic recovery is achieved thereby graduating to sustainability through the support of stakeholders in the various sectors of the nation.

“As we all know that no nation can develop without taking bold step towards resisting all avoidable neo-colonialism tendencies capable of enslaving her citizens and relegating the economic fortunes as well as pride investments of the nation to its lowest ebb.

“While corruption can only be perceived as a problem biting hard in all sectors of the nation, accomplices of such act are nothing but rebels and saboteurs who are hindering the laudable initiatives of Federal Government through its monetary and regulatory agencies.

“However, it is saddened to note that Nigeria’s economy is heading to a severe point of collapse due to the many havocs precipitated by some Government Monitoring Agencies especially those who are directly involved in the economic and security sectors respectively.

“Our investigation into the nation’s port management and pre-shipment management has revealed that the nation’s security has been exposed to abuse, gross misconducts, undue connivance as well as aiding and abetting illegal importation of substandard products into the country at the detriment of the masses.

“To our dismay, the unpatriotic moves have over the years significantly affected the Textile Industry in the past and most recently, the nation’s steel industry because smugglers had enjoyed the protection of the Standard Organization of Nigeria, (SON) and the Nigeria Customs Service thereby channelling all manners of goods into the nation.

“It would be recalled that the federal government had imposed 45 percent Import Duties on foreign products that are successfully being manufactured locally, in order to protect local manufacturers but unfortunately, findings have revealed that little or nothing paid by dealers who have successfully flooded the nation imported items that are even substandard and dangerous for usage in Nigeria. This is condemnable, frivolous, unwarranted and uncharitable to the present administration. There is a deep hole in national security. There is a big alarm required to close massive revenue loss, threat on economic activities as well as, the future of Nigerians.

“Surprisingly, smuggled substandard steel products are freely traded in all markets in Nigeria thereby subjecting local manufacturers to serious economic and social investment misfortune. A silent question is, where are agencies like the Nigeria Custom Service, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), the Nigeria Customs Service despite the efforts of the Presidential Committee on Trade Malpractices and Department of State Service (DSS)?

“Our investigations have showed clearly that given the grave dangers of the smuggling of steel products, the Federal Government of Nigeria should act fast and now. The nation must immediately enforce all investors protective policies that will put a stop to the activities of these economic saboteurs.

“Although, the Standard Organization of Nigeria, (SON), had reacted to an allegation of non-performace leveled against its officials by the Galvanized, Iron and Steel Manufacturers Association, (GISMA) clearing the air that some manufacturers usually escape its scrutiny through other agency i.e the Nigeria Customs Service due to its lack of security enforcement operational technique.

“There exist a cartel of economic saboteurs who import huge volume of containers every week valued at about $5m which were never captured under the correct HS code 7210.30.00.00 – 7210.50.00.00 of Nigerian Customs Service portal, making the Federal Government of Nigeria to lose an estimated revenue of about N1billion monthly on these smuggled items due to the neglect of pre-inspection of any container coming into the country which was hither-to the practice in Nigeria prior to current administration emanating from wrong declaration and conspiracy with Releasing Customs Officers and non-proper monitoring of the usage of private jetty and lack of security in lonely ports.

“According to a newspaper report, “Business Day of May 1st 2019” it was disclosed that this has however led to the untimely collapse of the Western Metal Products Company (WEMPCO) which has 700,000tons capacity while 14,000 people lost their jobs being one of the major players in the steel manufacturing ventures. GISMA said as a body under the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has been battling for some time with what he called this dismal economic sabotage which may lead to the collapse of up to 60 per cent of manufacturers in the production process while its members may soon lay-off about 20, 000 workers nationwide.

“There is urgent need for the federal government to put in place mechanism that will allow for adequate inspection, clearing, loading and releasing of consignments with genuine identification numbers and codes in order to reduce to the barest minimum, the smuggling of dangerous weapons posing threat on the peace and security of the nation.

“It is therefore a statement of fact that the activities of smugglers have largely dented the noble objectives of the Federal Government Economic Growth and Recovery Plan for the steel sector of the Nigerian economy and it our strong advocacy for reformed and proactive Customs Service Operation under the leadership of Col. Hamid Ali (rtd) because such dastard acts started in 2016 under his watch and continue to gain prominence since then.

“Finally, BEFORE NIGERIA’S ECONOMY COLLAPSES there is need to emphasise on the fact that the local steel manufacturers in the industry have the required potential and capacity to meet the nation’s annual demand, which predicated on Central Bank of Nigeria and Bureau of Statistics placement of galvanised and coloured corrugated roofing sheets and wire nails under the 41 items restricted for Foreign Exchange with the support of Budget Office.

“We hereby appeal to the authority of the Nigeria Customs Service and the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON), to assist President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, GCON and the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, to succeed more in the economic policies aimed at driving industrial revolution in Nigeria.”

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