June 12, 2015

A new Nigeria is born. However, beyond the success of unseating the incumbent are huge challenges greater than the battle for change. The immediate challenges, as presented in President Muhammadu Buhari’s Inaugural speech, are insecurity, the power shortages, unemployment, and for the long term, improving the standards education, health care and upgrading our dilapidated physical infrastructure.

However, setting and maintaining standards and quality culture would arguably be among top priorities that would have a direct influence on addressing the immediate and long term challenges.

National Quality Infrastructure (NQI) is fundamental for the economic growth of every nation. NQI ensures safety, integrity and marketability of goods and services, and the removal of technical barriers to local, regional and international trade. The new Nigerian administration needs to consider an innovative and comprehensive approach in providing Quality Infrastructure within the context of the National Quality Policy. There is dare need for investing on establishing and promoting standards and quality of goods and services for national development.

With the help of European Union (EU), Nigeria implements the National Quality Infrastructure Project (NQIP) aimed at supporting the improvement and establishment of missing standards and quality control bodies, which are needed to improve the quality of products and services exchanged in Nigeria’s domestic and international markets.

A National Quality Policy (NQP) was developed to facilitate trade, enhance export, accelerate economic development, and protect environment, health and safety of the consumers, improve competitiveness and diversification in the non-oil-related sectors of the economy.

The activities for NQP implementation plan are carried out by designated Government Agencies and non-Governmental Organizations to facilitate enforcement of regulatory control measures. These activities include Mandatory Conformity Assessment Programme (MANCAP) for locally manufactured goods, Confirmatory Assessment Programme (SONCAP) for imported products, Product Certification and the National Metrology Institute (NMI) that ensures calibration of instrument and traceability of measurement to international standards. Some significant, achievements have been made through these Programmes and agencies particularly MANCAP, in efforts to ensure that locally manufactured products in Nigeria give the required degree of satisfaction to consumers through compliance with Government policies on standardization and conformity assessment. Similarly, goods imported into Nigeria are being evaluates by the SONCAP to ensure that they meet the minimum requirements of Nigeria Industrial Standards or any other approved international standards.

Despite the ongoing NQI project, and the remarkable achievements made through MANCAP, SONCAP, NMI and Product Certification, low quality of made-in- Nigeria goods is still a major challenge in Nigeria’s drive towards industrialization. The widespread use and application of sub-standard products and services in the local market is a serious threat to the health and safety of its consumers. There also appears to be some impediments on the road to policy implementation to ensure supply of safe and quality products in the market. Some gaps exist in the effectiveness of the regulatory mechanism as well as the accreditation of some laboratories facilities used by the certification bodies and inspection agencies to control the supply and use of sub-standard products and services in the market.

The Nigeria’s Quality Infrastructure Programme seems to have some implementation challenges that may need to be addressed to achieve to desired goals. The National Quality Policy is yet to be translated into strategic plan with measurable indices, defined goals and activities as well as monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. The first investment should therefore be setting up a National Quality Policy Strategic Plan Committee to develop a strategic plan with measurable indices, defined goals and activities as well as monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. This would give a sound platform for functional administrative and operational structures for providing quality infrastructure.

There was also limited involvement of consumer in the quality policy formulation and inadequate consumer education on the standards and quality infrastructure. This results in a limited public ownership and policing in the policy implementation plan. The strategic plan should therefore include specific activities on consumer education and rigorous public awareness campaign on the principles and values of quality infrastructure and consumer rights. This would facilitate community ownership and public policing in the implementation of the NQP. Adequate involvement of the public as stakeholders should be made when next the NQP is due for review. On the other hand, low level of awareness on some vital policy components such as Standards, Metrology, Conformity Assessment and Accreditation (SMCA) among stakeholders, including producers and importers is another impediment on the policy implementation. Educating the stakeholders on these vital quality policies would be helpful. This may be achieved through defining and enforcing a minimum benchmark for knowledge and awareness on quality policies as a requisite for the renewal of manufacturing, importation or exportation license.

Lack of autonomy of the Standard Organization of Nigeria coupled with weak coordination and collaboration among stakeholders appears to create limited efficiency and service coverage. The new administration needs to strengthen and expanding the mandates and coverage of SON activities by making it an autonomous agency operating all over Nigeria including ports and boarders would enhance the Organization’s potential for huge revenue generation. Similarly, vertical approach in the operational activities of Government agencies results in duplication and waste of limited resources. In some other programmes, particularly some disease control activities, integrated approaches in service delivery prove to be more efficient and cost effective. Implementation of an integrated model for supervision, logistics, monitoring and evaluation of activities together with a strong and effective coordination mechanism and collaboration among stakeholders would be helpful in the policy implementation.

There appears to be a weak implementation of the legal and regulatory framework in the policy with weak penalties for violations, which makes some illegal manufacturing and importation practices prevalent. This is compounded by the low level of awareness on the local producers and importers on the NQP and the inadequate consumer education and awareness. The new administration therefore needs to invest on strengthening the legal and regulatory framework within the policy and enforcement of appropriate penalties for violations accordingly. Proper implementing the recently signed Bill for an act to repeal and re-enact the SON Act Cap LFN 2004 for the purpose of providing additional functions for the Standard Organization of Nigeria and increasing penalty for violation and for other related matters would enhance NQP implementation.

Finally, inadequate incentives to local producers for the manufacture of quality products lower the morale of these producers. The new administration needs to invest more in the provision of moral incentives to local producers through providing platforms for interaction and showcasing the potentials of production and the quality of locally manufactured products. The forthcoming African Organization for Standards (ARSO) president’s forum to boost Inter-African trade would be a very good moral incentive for our local producers and exporters.

In conclusion, the National Quality Infrastructure (NQI) is fundamental for the economic growth of every nation. The new Nigerian administration therefore needs to invest on providing Quality Infrastructure through establishing and maintaining standards and quality of goods and services within the context of the National Quality Policy for National Development.

Faruk Sarkinfada Ph D
Bayero University Kano,