• SON, customs in alliance to fight against the threat
Industry professionals have once again sounded the alarm over the influx of substandard materials into the building materials market. They said the threat is not abating and could worsen instances of structural failures across the country. The incident is prevalent in iron rods, paints, lighting system, door handles, electric cables and toilet accessories.
Substandard steel products are poorly manufactured and the consequences include poor durability and hazards to construction sites. There are also economic effects, as this could easily lead to increased insurance, repair and replacement costs.
Basically, iron rods are needed for reinforcing concrete in buildings including high-rise buildings and for enhancing the ability to withstand huge loads. It also ensures that buildings are resistant to humid conditions, temperature extremes, fire, corrosion and natural disasters.
The Guardian investigation found that a good number of rods on the market do not comply with Nigerian Industrial Standard (NIS) 117 for steel products. The regulator recorded a breakthrough in the fight against the malaise last year, when more than 13 steel rod companies were closed for producing substandard products.
Experts say the availability of substandard building materials has contributed to many instances of building collapses in recent times, with Lagos accounting for the highest instances being the busiest construction site in the country.
Recently lamenting the situation, the Director General and CEO of the Nigerian Metallurgical Development Center (NMDC), Linus Asuquo, said the import of rods produced from scrap is responsible for the collapse of buildings in the country. . He said construction materials should be analyzed in the laboratory and certified before the end user takes them to construction sites.
The president of the Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN), Aliyu Wamakko, told the Guardian that the association is concerned about the development. He said developers have a hard time telling the difference between lower-grade materials and standard products.
“We believe that the bulk of this issue lies with the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON). If they do their job, as they should, substandard products will not flood the market,” he said.
The president of REDAN said he registered complaints with SON and advised members not to use substandard materials in projects. The outgoing president of the Nigerian Institute of Construction (NIOB), Mr Kunle Awobodu, said the agencies supposed to regulate the influx of materials such as SON seem overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenge.
According to him, Nigeria remains a dumping ground for substandard construction materials due to the weak naira, ignorance and difficulties in enforcement. He said this was an area where SON faced a Herculean task, battling the relentless and clever manufacturers and dealers of substandard building materials.
Awobodu called for better collaboration between SON and associations like the Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG). He said the SON should be expanded and empowered to carry out its statutory role effectively.
He advised builders, construction professionals, craftsmen and users of building materials to alert SON officials whenever they come across such materials, while the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) should be strict and use a scientific approach to prevent the influx of the products. in the country.
Reacting, the Public Relations Officer of the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), Rilwan Fasina, revealed that the agency had been at the forefront of sanitizing the markets against life-threatening products such as than iron bars, through a working group.
He said the organization carried out unscheduled inspections on local iron bar producers; took samples from markets as well as consumer complaints for testing in its lab.
“We have unique markings on all locally manufactured and imported iron rods in Nigeria for traceability. We had reason to shut down the facilities of local iron rod makers and order the overhaul of huge shipments under our supervision and levy heavy fines for confirmed violations.
“The paints subsector is more complicated due to ease of production and packaging, as well as consumer apathy. We rely more on consumer complaints and reports from patriotic Nigerians to stop suspect locally manufactured substandard paints.
“We have implemented a mandatory Conformity Assessment Program (CAP) for the certification of all locally manufactured SON regulated products, including paints and lighting.
“As far as imports are concerned, we have implemented an offshore CAP for all imported products regulated by SON. This is to ensure the quality of the original imported products before being exported to Nigeria.
“However, many unscrupulous Nigerians and their foreign collaborators circumvent the process and our absence from the ports since 2011 has made random verification difficult.”
According to him, SON’s 45 offices in all states and in Abuja carry out regular factory inspections leading to certification of locally produced products under MANCAP, adding that he conducts weekly market surveys to identify new products. markets and subject them to the MANCAP process.
“We have a fully-fledged inspection and compliance department responsible for the enforcement of standards, a monitoring, investigation and control unit under the office of the general manager and a strong legal department for the prosecution of breaches of standards. standards under SON Law No. 14 of 2015. and penal codes. Many cases of breaches of standards are being prosecuted across the country with several convictions over the past year,” he said.
He added: “Over the past two years, we have also increased our engagement and outreach with stakeholders, including industry groups and market associations to promote self-regulation. We also have toll-free telephone lines and an interactive website to encourage the sharing of information with us about suspected substandard products for regulatory action.
Fasina said SON has set up a joint committee with the NCS to fast-track its integration into (NICIS II) and to tackle substandard imported products at all entry points in Nigeria.