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SONPAM: FG set to battle substandard products

Launches product authentication scheme

The Federal Government of Nigeria, through its agency, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), is set to battle substandard products with the introduction of a product authentication scheme known as Standards Organisation of Nigeria Product Authentication Mark (SONPAM).

SON Director General, Mr. Osita Aboloma disclosed the development in a statement obtained by ElombahNews.

Speaking, Mr. Aboloma said that the SONPAM scheme when effected will protect Nigeria’s over 200 million population from substandard products.

According to Aboloma, SONPAM will also protect Nigeria from being made a dumping ground for imported substandard goods.

He, however, emphasised that Nigeria must launch the 281 Product Certification Code ahead of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA).

SON Director of Conformity Assessment Programme, Mr. Tersoo Orngudwem confirmed same to The Fact Nigeria in an interview.

He said SONPAM will save consumers a lot of troubles when implemented.

See excerpts of the interview below:

In preparation for AfCFTA, your Director General has been speaking about a product authentication scheme, SONPAM aimed to empower the consumers. Tell us more.

Yes, we would like for this concept to be out before the AfCFTA because most of the East African countries are doing it. Kenya has done it for over 4 years now.

Malawi and South Africa are also doing it. Ghana is on the verge of starting it. Liberia is about starting too and we are the main market, so to us, it is one of the ways to check dumping.

If you go to China as a Nigerian and say just produce it, they have no way of finding out but once the masses who are buying know, and they go to the shop and check, they will leave it there for you and next time you will not order it.

We are hoping it will start off before the commencement of AfCFTA, so that with our population of 200 million, we don’t become a dumping ground for all the substandard products from around the globe.

For the understanding of our readers, what is SONPAM?

SONPAM means Product Authentication Mark. It is a mark in form of stamps placed on SON certified products to enable the consumer ascertain that he is buying a product that is of quality and it will give value for money before buying it. The checking can be done using SONPAM app on a smart phone to scan the mark or by sending a code on the mark by SMS to a short code 281 to obtain confirmation.

What will SON achieve with the Product Authentication Mark scheme?

Like the name applies, it is Product Authentication Mark. SON has Standards Organization of Nigeria Conformity Assessment Program, (SONCAP). It also has Mandatory Conformity Assessment Programm, (MANCAP) which is for the local one. SONCAP is for the imported goods, and these are products regulated by SON. The ones regulated by NAFDAC are not covered.

So before now, what happened is, the local ones have MANCAP mark on them, so you can identify, but the imported ones, even me, who is at the head of Certification, if I go to the market, there’s nothing to show me that this product is certified.

So we want a situation where products certified overseas by our partners when they come here, they carry that mark so that consumers can identify the products before buying.

Moreover, we are very few in number. The SON staff population nationwide is about 2,000, and out which about 1,000 are technical staffs, including me.

So field work to monitor the influx of substandard goods is very difficult even with the support of Security agencies.

So we are of the idea that if we introduce this Mark in which consumers themselves can verify the quality of products before they buy, it will serve as a tool for checking the influx of substandard goods in the markets.

If you bring the one that doesn’t have the mark and you keep it on your shelf, and the consumers check and they don’t see the Mark, then they will not buy, it will remain there for you.

If you as a consumer check it and you deliberately decide to buy it, maybe due to pocket forces, it is you that is taking your destiny into your hands.

The program is aimed at assuring the Nigerian consumers of quality products certified by SON and they should be able to determine that on their own before they buy.

The Mark is such that when a product is certified by our partners abroad, and it comes in here, it then assures us that certificate, already, the partners have shown us that certificate, we know the exact number of quantities you are bringing.

The Mark is placed on the product, and it’s for individual products so even if you have two of the same products, each of them will have a different Mark because the code on A and B will not be the same so if you have an android phone, you can scan because there is an App we are creating.

We call it SONPAM, so when you download it with an android phone, once you see that Mark, you pass your android phone over it, it will indicate to you if it’s of good quality, certified by so and so.

The one that has an expiry date, it will also show it to you, then you are free to make an informed decision. If it is not okay, it will say, ‘not certified’ so as a consumer, you can quietly drop it there.

As you scan it, it will also send a message to our server because it is coming with some GPRS system.

To some approximate extent, we’ll know where the product is located, if you as the consumer doesn’t want to call us to report. That is number one.

Number two, you may ask, what about the consumer who doesn’t have an android phone? We have partnered with the Nigerian Communications Commission, (NCC) and they have given us a short code, 281 for SON.

That is also part of what is delaying the process because we don’t want the identification Mark to be only for the elite.

We want at least, every Nigerian that has a phone to be able to use it, even if he is in the village as far as there’s network.

Even if you don’t have an android phone and you can at least read, which is also a problem because some have phones but they can’t read.

So you can look at the code number on the Mark, you send a text to 281 and within 5 seconds, it will reply you, ‘goods certified’ just as you’ll see if you use an android phone.

That way, you will take the decision to buy or not.

The short code has not fully materialized because we are still working with the telecoms companies, to ensure that they integrate it into all their systems.

So out of the four, only two have achieved that. We are hoping that the other two will achieve that before the end of this month.

Once that is done, to an extent, just like I told you at the beginning, we are now sure of the concept. We will now test-run it to see how it will work before we go public.

See SON tweet introducing SONPAM as well as procedures for obtaining PAM and Application of PAM on Certified Products:

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