Auto policy: SON’s involvement bottleneck to trade facilitation

By Andrew Airahuobhor  –  Correspondent, Lagos


The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) is in the eye of the storm over its intention to begin a new pre-shipment verification of conformity to standards on used vehicles coming into the country. Some operators have criticized the move,  and described it as inimical to trade facilitation.

SON recently appointed three companies; Cotecna Destination Inspection Limited, Quality Assurance Projects Limited and Medtech Scientific Limited for the purpose of carrying out conformity to standards on used vehicles.

Apart from constituting additional bottleneck to the country’s import trade, it is also seen as a new strategy by government to frustrate further importation of used vehicles after suffering embarrassment from opposition to its imposed 35 percent levy, which implementation date has been shifted twice already.

Registrar of the Nigerian Institute of Freight Forwarders and Custom Brokers (NIFFCB), Ifeanyichukwu Joseph, described the move by SON as “inimical to trade facilitation’ and constitutes bottlenecks  to  free flow of goods and services across ports and inland container terminals (ICDs).

He told Daily Independent within the week that the Nigerian Shippers’ Council have frowned at the move in a recent meeting, saying that there is a policy of Pre Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) being implemented by the Nigerian Customs Service on cargoes coming into the country.

“We insist that SON is going overboard in what they are trying to do,” he said, adding that his organization and other stakeholders have been trying to make representations to SON on the issue.

The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has also kicked against the move. They particularly condemned the introduction of charges, adding that issue of standards has already been taken care of by manufacturer.

Founder of the Association, Dr. Boniface Aniiebonam said NAGAFF and the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) as well as other bodies will soon issue a joint statement on the development.

Director-General of SON, Dr. Joseph Odumodu, the move by his organization was part of efforts aimed at ensuring the successful implementation of the new automotive policy of the government. He said since the Federal Government had decided to make the automobile industry a key component of the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan, the sector had been identified as a strategic industry group.

“We have decided that as part of the SONCAP regime, a separate pre-shipment verification of conformity to standard on used vehicles be implemented by the organization,” Odumodu, said shortly after the signing of an agreement for the implementation of the conformity to standards of used vehicles.

According to him, some measures of progress have been recorded in the fight against the scourge of low quality imports to Nigeria over the years, but said there is general consensus that the absence of a regime to determine the quality of used motor vehicles imported into Nigeria has not achieved the desired effect.

He said this has resulted in the situation where many vehicles that have exceeded their permissible and useful life span continue to dominate the motor vehicle imports into the country. Thus almost making Nigeria to become a dumping ground for substandard vehicles, because the focus since the inception of the SON conformity Assessment Programme has been skewed in favour of products other than motor vehicles and other heavy duty equipment, he said.

The accreditation, according to him, will cover vehicle structural, mechanical and safety inspection; vehicle emission testing; valuation and appraisals of vehicles; odometer inspection and verification; and regulatory documentation, verification and authentication.

Odumodu said that the inspection firms should not allow or inspect vehicles from countries that had suffered radiological contamination. He said that fees chargeable by these companies before they inspect imported used vehicles in the country would not exceed N20,000, saying that competent laboratories would be established by the Federal Government across the nation to ensure that all imported used vehicles coming into the nation were inspected.

But some stakeholders who spoke on condition of anonymity insist that activities of SON as regards conformity to standards revolve mainly around revenue. “Once you pay them the desired fees, you take your consignments whether substandard or not. The money is what they are after and this is part of the reasons why fake and substandard products are more in our markets,” said an importer.

Source : Independent

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