SON at 50: The journey to working quality control

Nigeria’s journey to standardisation effectively began in 1971 with the establishment of the Nigerian Standards Organisation (NSO) as a department under the Federal Ministry of Industry. Birthed by Decree No 56 of 1971, tagged, The Standards Organisation of Nigeria, cap 412 of the Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, SON had commenced operations on January 1, 1970 as Nigeria’s foremost standard regulatory body.

With its foremost office located at Onipanu, Lagos, the organisation had basically only two major departments, including The Standards Department and Quality Assurance Department, which included the laboratories. It was in this location that the development of standards occurred between 1971 and 1975. The organisation was, at the time, saddled with the responsibility to develop, coordinate, and come up with a road map for a sustainable quality management framework for effective standards formulation and enforcement.

Before the early 1990s, enforcement activities were primarily focused on local manufacturing companies. It was in the early 1990s that the organisation commenced inspection of imported products. It did this by joining the Customs Agency to carry out Customs examination. Regardless of its weak functional structure at inception, the organisation managed to pull through, leaving traces of positive milestones.

More than 50 years later, the organisation has endured a series of changes, including name change to Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and amendments that have positioned the organisation to withstand and function effectively, despite the fast-evolving regulatory challenges and needs of the industries they were created to regulate. These changes, which were necessitated by a series of teething challenges faced by the organisation, have earned SON a place of pride in the class of global regulators of note.

Brig. General (rtd) Anthony Etukudo, the first substantive Director General of SON, relieved some of the memories of the challenging past of SON in an interview. Etukudo who served from 1985 to 1990 said, “At the time, the officers of SON were not up to ten. This made dealing with the powerful industries that flouted standards in the past difficult.”

Reflecting on how they managed to navigate some of these problems, Etukudo said, “The offices that SON officials go to inspect in the past undermined them simply because they did not go out with the insignia of office. So, I would put on my military regalia and drive in my old Peugeot 505 car during such inspection. So, because of my uniform, we would be allowed to conduct inspections.”

A look at SON today would seem such problems never existed in the organisation, as it has been structured to handle current and emerging standardization challenges, especially to lead every process that relates to the preparation of standards for products, measurements, materials, and processes among others, and their promotion at the national, regional, and international levels.

SON turned 50 in 2022, a milestone the organisation has celebrated even into the year 2023 with a sequence of activities including the launching of a Historical Compendium, exhibitions and landmark awards to deserving industry players to highlight the journey of SON from being a directorate to an agency of international repute.

The Director General, SON, Salim Farouk used the occasion of the 50th anniversary celebration to chronicle SON’s evolutionary journey in time. He said, in over the last 50 years, SON has collaborated with industries to provide consumers with products fit for their purposes. Going down memory lane, Salim said, “The quest for quality within the industry left staff faced with stiff challenges, including unavailability of utility cars, rundown cars, and traffic jams to undertake factory inspections which have been totally upturned with the provisions of conducive work environment, mobility, and equipment most especially for the state-of-the-art laboratories.”

In apparent appreciation of the task before SON, the DG said, “Quality is a journey with no destination,” and therefore called upon the stakeholders in the regulated sector to undertake the journey of quality with SON in order to industrialize Nigeria, create jobs as well as wealth which will in turn reduce poverty, restiveness and minimize threats to National Security.”

The Minister of State Industry, Trade and Investment, Ambassador Mariam Y. Katagum, who gave credence to the SON DG’s position during the celebration of SON at 50 in Abuja acknowledged that the organisation is a useful tool in the delivery of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investments mandate of facilitating trade and the growth of the Nigerian industrial sector adding that the steady growth of the organisation from its humble beginnings to becoming the apex standards body in Nigeria, with constitutional responsibilities is remarkable and worth celebrating.

While congratulating the organisation, Ambassador Katagum said “in acknowledgment of its consistent implementation of reforms aimed at making its services more easily accessible to the public, SON has been ranked first in the Ease of Doing Business by the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC).

With the benefit of hindsight, the SON DG, Salim has said his vision for the Organisation in the coming years is for it to be the foremost standardisation body in Africa and among the top-ranking globally. Salim’s call to action was re-echoed by the Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, who commended the management and staff of SON for fifty years of golden delivery of standards to Nigerians of all works of life. The minister said SON plays a vital role in ensuring that local goods compete favorably in the international market by guaranteeing quality is maintained throughout production, most especially with the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) policy now in full swing.

Speaking through the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr. Mrs. Evelyn Ngige at the Lagos leg of SON at 50 celebration, he said that the organisation must play its role in ensuring standards to support industrial development, facilitate trade and promote investment in the Nigerian economy most especially being the chairman of the Presidential Economic Business Enabling Council (PEBEC) he was impressed by the regular high ranking of SON by PEBEC as an effective trade facilitator.

In readiness for the future that is ICT-dependent, Salim said SON, in late 2019 upgraded its online application portal for the operation of the offshore Conformity Assessment Program (SONCAP) for processing of imports into Nigeria. The transition of the SONCAP Portal has enhanced a seamless operation and more efficient service delivery to customers and stakeholders, within shorter turnaround time.

To boost its operation, SON under Salim has established a training Institute to provide an increased range of training beyond the management systems standards for private and public sector organisations and institutions with regional branches for easier access by stakeholders and reduced costs. However, industry watchers and stakeholders are still of the view that more could still be achieved if the right steps are kept steady and new initiatives are taken.

Umegboro is a public affairs analyst and social advocate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button