6 February 2018

Nigeria: Imperatives of the Product Authentication Mark

With the introduction of the Product Authentication Mark by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria, Jonathan Eze writes on the sensitisation carried out on the initiative

The long awaited Product Authentication Mark (PAM) aimed at checking locally produced items and imported products has taken effect and to stakeholders, it is a death knell on products adulteration and the activities of cheats and fraudsters who are unrepentantly flooding the country's market with unwholesome materials in spite of the concerted efforts of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria.

Announced last year, the agency's helmsman, Osita Aboloma, engaged stakeholders and intimated them of the imperatives of PAM. According to him, PAM is a mark of quality that would be fixed on all finished products to demonstrate their conformity to approved standards.

He said: "It will be issued as a sticker with security features and quick response code, which can be scanned by a smart phone. It is applied on each product to ensure traceability and track imported and local products.

"Certain items such as food products, drugs, machineries of manufacturers, among others, are exempted from PAM, which will tentatively take effect from February 1, 2018."

According to him, PAM will raise the patronage of made-in-Nigeria products and boost the country's economic diversification drive from oil to non-oil sector and check substandard products.

On its website, the agency gave reasons for this initiative. "In line with Section 5 of the SON Act No. 14 of 2015 to ensure the authenticity and traceability of products certified to have met the requirements of the relevant Nigeria Industrial Standards or other approved specifications in Nigeria, the SON hereby notifies the general public of the introduction of PAM on all locally manufactured and imported products into Nigeria from beginning of the second quarter of 2018.

"The objectives are to among others provide assurance to Nigerian consumers on products and guarantee value for money, to ensure effective control of non-complying products in the Nigerian Markets, to promote a level playing field in the market for both locally manufactured and imported products and to protect genuine manufacturers and Importers from faking and product adulteration by ensuring that only certified products are in the markets in the long run"

Speaking at the stakeholders' forum in Lagos, Aboloma said that PAM would reduce counterfeiting of products which had become a clog in the wheel of the progress of local manufacturers, adding that it was one of the federal government's initiatives targeted at improving businesses.

"We started it because counterfeiting is an age-long menace that has burdened us, leading to the influx of substandard goods in Nigeria. It also makes it difficult for local manufacturers to be competitive,".

"It is our opportunity to deploy technology and authenticate products shipped into the Nigerian market," he said.

Also, the acting Director, Product Certification, SON, Tersoo Orngudwem, said the PAM is important to manufacturers as it will enable them to sell their products and easily trace them in the market.

Orngudwem said the agency's initiative would reduce the cost of changing logos while ensuring that consumers buy products that gave them value for their money.

On his part, DG of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Babatunde Irukera, said that the agency supported the PAM as it would protect consumers from buying counterfeits and cloned products.

Irukera expressed the regret that people were dying in Nigeria due to substandard products in the market but added that the new initiative of SON would help reduce that to the barest minimum.

"I believe that the federal government should declare a state of emergency on the counterfeiting sector," he stressed.

Last week, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, sanctioned the initiative, noting that it is germane to actualising the federal government's diversification efforts towards increasing patronage of made-in-Nigeria goods and services as captured in the Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP), Executive Orders 001 and 003.

The Minister of State, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Aisha Abubakar, explained that other countries have adopted such measures to protect their domestic market. She stated that the introduction of PAM is part of the measures being adopted by SON to guarantee the quality of products on sale in the Nigerian market.

Abubakar stated this during a stakeholders' meeting organised to introduce PAM to members of the Organised Private Sector (OPS).

"We shall continue to provide the necessary support needed for parastatals under our supervision to ensure their effective delivery of their mandate to Nigerians in furtherance of ERGP," she said.

She however, commended SON and National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) for organising the stakeholders' sensitisation forum, which she said serves as an avenue to receive feedback from critical stakeholders towards the smooth take off of the PAM.

"We believe that the PAM would complement the existing Nigerian quality mark (NIS), Nigeria Quality Award (NQA), MANCAP and SONCAP in ensuring that consumers are protected from the menace of substandard, cloned and counterfeited products," she said.

At the event, Aboloma added that the major challenge hindering the sale of goods in Nigeria is the issue of cloning and faking of successful products.

"We had to think outside the box to tackle this menace headlong. Cloning has exposed the lives of Nigerians to serious health and commercial trauma. It has also discouraged a lot people from investing in Nigeria. We had to bring the PAM to harmonise the existing products we have, it is also an attempt to accelerate technological innovations in effective service delivery so that our MANCAP and SONCAP can be codified and made simpler for the consumers to identify the genuineness of a product before purchase."

President of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Frank Jacobs, commended SON for the initiative, underlining some of the benefits they would derive from it.

"We are aware that this mark will further improve patronage of made-in-Nigeria products, clearly identify original products, further safeguard the health of consumers, provide unambiguous means of authentication and heavily reduce grey trade activities such as smuggling and counterfeiting," Jacobs said.

In the same vein, the National President, NACCIMA, Iyalode Alaba Lawson, said standards give manufacturers a competitive edge for their products while to consumers, she said it gives confidence on the quality of the products consumed.

She said NACCIMA anticipates that the introduction of PAM would enhance the authenticity of locally manufactured goods, promote export and effectively curtail the influx of substandard products into the Nigerian market.

According to her, the PAM initiative is also another step in supporting the rising interest in healthy living through ensuring consumables meet acceptable local and international quality standards thereby stamping counterfeit products from the Nigerian markets.

The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) also threw its weight behind PAM.

NAGAFF, who said PAM is the SON'S initiative to "knock-out" sub-standard products from the Nigerian market, gave the commendation in a letter addressed to SON Director General, and which a copy was made available to journalists in Lagos.

Sign by Fred Akokhia, Legal Adviser of NAGAFF, the letter read in parts: "NAGAFF wishes to send this letter of commendation to you and your entire management on the proposed introduction of the Product Authentication Mark (PAM) which is SON'S initiative to "knock-out" sub-standard products from the Nigerian market. This proactive and novelle initiative we believe will in no small measure ensure that the Nigerian market for both locally manufactured and imported goods conform to standards that will go a long way to safeguard the lives and properties of the people of this country.

"We also commend you for the gestation period you have given before this initiative kicks off. This we believe is very critical to enable all concerned to adjust to the initiative of best practices. We implore you to carry out a lot of sensitisation to Nigerians especially the importers, manufacturers and end users of these products so that they will be aware of this innovation during this grace period. We believe that with the sustainability of this initiative you would have taken a giant step to as you put it knock-out substandard products from our markets."

NAGAFF charged Nigerian importers to ensure that sub-standard and fake products are completely wiped out from the country. "Once again we congratulate you and your management for this brilliant idea. Nigeria must work and sub-standard and fake products must be completely wiped out from our country."

Stakeholders are optimistic that the effective implementation of PAM will further safeguard the economy from saboteurs.

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