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Aboloma: Raising SON’s products standardisation in Nigeria

Osita Aboloma, DG SON

Despite the challenge of not being at the main operational entry points (Ports) in the country, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has been vibrant and alive to its statuary function of ridding the country of  sub-standard products since Osita Anthony Aboloma was appointed its Director General and Chief Executive in September 2016 by President Muhammadu Buhari. CHIDI OGBUOKIRI reports


As the four-year tenure of Osita Anthony Aboloma (Esq) draws to close this month, insiders say the agency can look back from where it was when the Aboloma assumed office to where it is now, and say all went well and good.

According to them, the out-going director general brought new dimensions into the activities of the organisation and projected SON as one of flagships of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.

Governed by Act No. 14 of 2015 which Aboloma constantly refers to as a futuristic law, he wasted no effort in putting the provisions to test particularly as relates to the vexed issue of influx and circulation of substandard and life-endangering products in Nigeria.

Focussed on achieving the mandate of the organisation under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (FMITI), the SON Management under Aboloma’s leadership is employed collaboration with sister agencies and stakeholders to the fullest.


Working closely and harmoniously with sister regulatory authorities like the Nigerian Customs Service, Nigerian Ports Authority, NAFDAC, FRSC, NCC, the Security agencies and the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), SON it was disclosed,  is employing an attacking approach to the fight against the influx and distribution of substandard and life endangering products in Nigeria.

This is even as prosecution of offences relating to standards infractions are being undertaken with diligence by prosecutors in SON in close collaboration with others from the AGF’s office to promote the administration of justice.

To prepare the organisation for the daunting task, SON developed a standards enforcement protocol and provided resources to ensure the dissemination of it to officers in all state offices across the country. Lawyers in the service of the organisation were also trained and retrained to sharpen their skills in prosecution while operations and standards compliance/enforcement personnel also benefited from trainings on evidence gathering in the course of their duties.

Consequently, SON has over the last four years initiated about 45 actions on standards infractions in Kano, Awka, Jos, Abuja and Lagos among others. Some of the cases are still ongoing and in the words of the Director, Legal Services, Umaru Kawu “We are committed to promoting the administration of justice on issues relating to standards infractions, to protect consumers and generally improve life through standards”.

The SON war against the influx and circulation of substandard/life-endangering products in Nigeria has covered many sectors/products including tyres, lubricants, cement, iron rods, roofing sheets, shaving sticks, unfortified sugar, electric poles, paints, LPG Cylinders among others.

To further strengthen its machinery to confront the circulation of substandard, life-endangering and counterfeited products nationwide, Aboloma set up a new rapid response squad named “Surveillance, Intelligence Monitoring Unit” to complement the efforts of the Inspectorate and Compliance Department as well the Ports and Borders Operation.

The Unit provides independent intelligence gathering, monitoring, assessment and intervention from time to time on activities relating to stakeholder interactions to ensure transparency and accountability.


In support of the Federal Government’s economic diversification programme, SON has in the last four years churned out about 965 approved Nigeria Industrial Standards by the Governing Council, for use in Nigeria. 237 in 2017, 339 in 2018, 225 in 2019 and 168 so far in 2020. The standards placed emphasis on agro and allied products, those of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the areas of food, cosmetics and African Traditional Medicines in the almost four years of the Aboloma leadership. Among such were five indigenous standards for the following food products:  Standard for packaged Millet flour for pap,  Standard for Corn Pap powder,  Standard for packaged Sorghum powder for pap, Standard for Fonio flour (Acha flour) and Standard for Acha.

Of great significance is the institutional support provided for the Federal Government’s policies on anti-corruption and good governance through the development of standards. The development of the Good Governance Standard and the Anti-Bribery Management Systems Standard was spearheaded by SON with the active participation of relevant stakeholders including anti-corruption agencies.

The Anti-Bribery Standard was completed in 2016 under the auspices of the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) and formally adopted by Nigeria on January 29, 2018. The initiative seeks to complement existing laws through a paradigm shift which adopts a preventive approach in order to avoid crimes from being committed in the first place or to bring their incidence to the barest minimum.

The Good Governance Standard for Nigeria was completed in 2017 and has been approved by the Governing Council of SON ahead of the on-going development of a global standard on Governance of Organisations under the ISO.

Another major milestone in standards development under Aboloma was the launching of four Human Resources Management Standards among those approved by the SON Council in collaboration with the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management in 2019.

NIS ISO 30400:2016 –  Vocabulary in Human Resource Management

NIS ISO 30405:2016 – Guidelines on Recruitment in Human Resource Management.

NIS ISO 30408:2016 – Guidelines on Human Governance in Human Resource Management.

NIS ISO 30409:2016 – Workforce Planning in Human Resource Management.

SON also effectively coordinated the review of the Nigeria Industrial Standard for Cigarettes to prohibit use of characterising flavours, thus joining other countries of the world like the United States, Brazil, Canada, Ethiopia and Uganda as well as the European Union, Turkey and Moldovia that have committed to banning menthol cigarettes from May 2020.
Most recently, the Standards Council (SON Governing Council) approved another set of 168 Nigerian Industrial Standards (NIS).

Aboloma listed them as 64 for Electrical/Electronic products; 53 for Chemical Technology; 47 for Food and Agricultural products; 3 for Civil/Building Technology products as well as the reviewed standard for Hotel and Serviced Accommodation Management System and Rating – Requirements and Guidance for Use.

Aboloma highlighted some of the standards as including: Review of standards for fertilizers, Review of existing and development of new standards for the Tomato and Cassava Value Chains, Adoption of international standards on Environmental Testing, and Adoption of international recommendations for renewable energy and hybrid systems for rural electrification among many others.

Meanwhile, SON has continued to make steady progress in its regional, continental and international standards development engagements. Of particular importance were the renewal of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between SON and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). This is aimed at utilising the resources of ASTM to strengthen SON’s standards development system and promote knowledge of standards development activities of both organisations.

To further promote trade facilitation between Nigeria and the world, SON is actively involved in standards harmonisation processes within the West African Region and the continent through the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO) in preparation for the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA).

The Organisation according to Aboloma, has been working in close collaboration with other Ministries, Agencies and Departments of government, the organised private sector as well as development partners to develop the National Quality Infrastructure (NQI) to cater for the free movement of goods and services in Africa.

According to him, some of the NQI project already delivered by SON as includes; a National Metrology Institute nearing completion in Enugu, international accreditation of SON laboratories, its training and management systems certification services as well as ongoing automation of all services to stakeholders.

Meanwhile, in 2019 SON won the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Award for Global Cooperation spanning over 15years.


Aboloma inherited an 80-85 per cent completed Laboratory Complex Building at the Ogba Industrial Area in September 2016, with some equipment already supplied in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) as part of the Nigerian Quality Infrastructure Project (NQIP) under the coordination of the FMITI. .

But from an almost completed Laboratory Complex building in September 2016, SON under Aboloma now has a world class complex of 35 specialized and functional testing laboratories operating under six broad areas – food technology; chemical technology; electrical/electronic engineering; civil/building technology; mechanical engineering; textile/leather technology.

Some are already internationally accredited like the Food Technology Laboratory, Lekki for Biological and Chemical Testing, by A2LA of America to ISO/IEC 17025:2005 (General Requirements for Competence of Testing and Calibration Laboratories) has been renewed until 2020. Efforts are ongoing to migrate to the new version, 1SO/IEC 17025:2017 upon the next renewal. The Civil/Mechanical Engineering Testing Laboratory, Textile/Leather Laboratory Kaduna and Micronutrients Testing Laboratory, Ogba, Lagos have all undergone pre-assessment audits and are reviewing the relevant documents accordingly for the real assessment towards accreditation to ISO/IEC 17025:2017 Standard.

During his 2019 budget defence, Aboloma disclosed that plans were in top gear to replicate the laboratories in the six geo-political zones with the physical structures already under construction. This is to ensure a more effective testing regime, shorter turnaround time and provide greater access to MSMEs involved in agricultural produce, food, leather and allied products spread across the nooks and crannies of Nigeria.

At the 2020 budget defence, the SON DG stated confidently that almost all the regional laboratory/administrative complexes have been completed and awaiting commissioning in Gudu, Abuja; Uyo, Ilorin, Port Harcourt,  Bauchi and Ado Ekiti. Others are still under construction in Awka and Lokoja.


Nigerian made products are thus certified under the SON Mandatory Conformity Assessment Programme (MANCAP) as provided under the SON Act 14 of 2015, Part III Section 5 (1) (i) under Functions and Duties of the Organisation to “establish a mandatory conformity assessment programme for locally manufactured products in Nigeria”.

Locally manufactured products thus undergo mandatory certification to access the local as well as export markets as obtains worldwide including in other parts of Africa, Europe, America, Asia etc.

The SON Management under Aboloma has however introduced automation to promote greater efficiency in the service by reducing human interference and shortening the turnaround time in the products certification process.
In 2017, over 1027 products of 549 companies were certified under the MANCAP; 1157 products of 622 companies in 2018; 1342 of 618 companies in 2019 and 250 products of 133 companies in 2020. Well over 75 per cent of the companies whose products were certified fall within the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises category.


To ensure greater efficiency and more globally effective coverage, the SON Management has engaged two additional internationally accredited Firms (IAFs) to complement the existing four, undertaking the offshore Conformity Assessment Programme (SONCAP) for imported products into Nigeria prior to export. The programme, which commenced as far back as 2006, has undergone such transformation in the last four years, under the Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme (CISS), with integration into the National Trade Portal.

Late in 2019, SON upgraded its online application portal for the operation of the offshore Conformity Assessment Programme (SONCAP) for processing of imports into Nigeria. According to the Director Product Certification, Mr. Tersoo Orngudwem, the transition of the SONCAP Portal was not only successful but has ensured a necessary upgrade in the system to ensure optimal performance, enhance a seamless operation and more efficient service delivery to customers and stakeholders alike, to guarantee even shorter turnaround time.

He described the process as a reflection of SON’s strict adherence to the Federal Government’s policies to improve on local content and facilitate relevant technology transfer. Mr. Orngudwem described the upgraded portal as a one-stop shop that provides clients opportunity to apply, check status of application, send messages to SON and receive responses as well upload evidence of payments seamlessly.

Other features according to him include: – profile of the work done on clients dashboard – documents used for application are all on the clients dashboard – No more Tax Identification Number (TIN) error – No more mistakes in company name etc.

The SONCAP online application portal has therefore created an easy access to SON’s offshore conformity assessment regime for products imported into the country from the confines of homes and offices of customers without undue interface with SON staff, he said.


SON in 2019 attained International Accreditation for its Management Systems Certification Services offered to both the public and private sectors to promote greater efficiency in management of organisations, safety and the preservation of the environment for sustainable socio-economic development. The accreditation by the National Accreditation Board (NABCB) of India are in the fields of Quality Management Systems (QMS, ISO 9001:2015), Environmental Management System (EMS, ISO  14001:2015), Occupational Health and Safety Management System (OHSMS ISO 18001:2007) and Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS, ISO/IEC 22000:2005). The Federal Government through the Secretary to Government of the Federation has thus directed all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to patronize the services in conformance to the Presidential Executive Order No. 4, on support for local content and in order to save scarce foreign exchange.

Aboloma enumerated benefits accruable from the international accreditation of the SON-MSC as including;
Guarantee of professional approach that ensures that services offered meet clients’ requirements.
Increased business opportunities for clients in view of the global recognition.
Useful feedback to clients with the help of knowledge transfer since accredited certification bodies can be a good source of impartial advice and
Increased and smooth access to overseas markets for companies using accredited certification.


As part of the process of reforms for more effective service delivery, the SON Training Services (STS) Centre, situated at Ogba, Lagos has received global certification from the Chartered Quality Institute (CQI) and the International Registry of Certified Auditors. The scope of the certification covers training in international management systems standards at Foundation, Internal Auditor and Transition as well as Lead Auditor and conversion courses in Nigeria and the West African Region. The Nigerian Army was one of the first beneficiaries of the training on ISO Quality Managements Systems Standard after the certification. Many public and private sector organisations have benefited from the Centre’s accredited training. The public sector organisations include Federal Road Safety Corp (FRSC), Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency (NEMSA), Nigerian National Sugar Council and the Research and Development Department of the NNPC. Among the private sector beneficiaries were Guinness Nigeria Plc, Union Bank Plc, Mobil Oil Plc, General Electric, Axxella (Formerly Oando Plc), Rubber Estate Nigeria Limited, Associated Maritime Services Ltd, CAP Plc, Laser Engineering and Arla Foods (formerly Dano Milk).


The development of a National Metrology Institute (NMI) in Enugu, which Aboloma inherited from his predecessor is still ongoing and nearing completion. The Institute is designed as the reference metrology Laboratory in Nigeria and West Africa for all measurement Standards with highest degree of accuracy instrument, traceable to international standards. Suffice to state that accurate measurements using properly calibrated instrument ensure trust, facilitate trade and promotes improved productivity. The NMI provides these services for length, mass pressure, volume/flow, temperature and force measuring instrument such as rules, scales/weigh bridges, flow meters, gauges, thermometers and load cells etc.
The NMI objectives include to eliminate incidences of inaccurate measurements in trade, manufacturing, export and import, education, health, agriculture, aviation, oil and gas, automotive and mining among many others in Nigeria. It is the engine room for successful diversification of the national economy through huge savings on the hard currencies being paid to foreign NMIs by testing and calibration laboratories in Nigeria. The NMI through promotion of accurate measurements in industry and commerce strengthens the other components of the National Quality Infrastructure like Standards Development, Testing and Conformity Assessment, Accreditation etc in the Country.

One of the main achievements of the NMI in 2018 was the calibration of equipment for the Nigerian Air Force at its Central Avionics, Overhaul and Calibration centre to enhance the Force capacity to test and repair its Air Crafts. Also of note is the successful hosting of distinguished experts and stakeholders from the African Continent, France and Germany in Nigeria for the General Assembly of Intra-African Metrology System (AFRIMETS) to rub minds on the science of measurement, accuracy and traceability also in 2018.

Suffice to state that the equipment supplied by UNIDO under the funding corridor of the European Union (EU) are being installed and put to use.
Some of the major clients of the NMI include Secondary Calibration Laboratories, Research Laboratories, Steel Companies, Dangote Industries PLC, CCECC Co. Ltd, Zungeru Hydropower project, Ladgroup Ltd, Pharmaceutical Companies, Manufacturing Companies, Agricultural Establishments, Dealers and Distributors, as well as Testing Laboratories, etc


The Standards Organisation of Nigeria in the last four years has become a household name going by its unprecedented presence in the mass media as well as social media. Activities of the organisation across the states, like sectoral stakeholders’ engagements, market surveillance, standards enforcement, consumer complaints resolutions are daily features in the mainstream media nationally and at state offices levels.
Aboloma’s management has also gone into massive youth engagement through the inauguration of standards clubs in primary and secondary schools coordinated by the SON State offices across the Nation. Members of the Standards Club are quality vanguards who are constantly educated on contemporary issues on standardisation to serve as SON Ambassadors amongst their peers and families. The programme is designed to catch them young in the efforts to make the Nation imbibe the quality culture.
SON has also been promoting standardisation among the Nation’s undergraduates through an annual essay under the auspices of the African Organisation for Standardization (ARSO) through an inter-ministerial screening committee. SON recently announced the national qualifiers for the 2019 continental competition with the theme “The Role of Standardization in Winning the Fight against Corruption for Sustainable African Transformation”.

To complement the reach out activities at the State Offices and in an attempt to bridge an identified gap in the programme, SON has initiated a nationwide general sensitization scheme that targets key sectors and focuses attention on the economic diversification policy of the Federal Government. Some of the areas of focus include: Dangers of substandard LPG Cylinders, Standards as a Tool of Stemming Building Collapse, Metrology as support for Industrial Growth and Trade Facilitation, SON Act and the Ease of Doing Business, Good Governance and Anti-Bribery Management Standards as support for the fight against anti-corruption
Good Manufacturing Practices/Services for Quality Products/Services, SON Certification of Lubricants for economic growth, Increased awareness on Environmental Management for sustainable Socio-Economic Development
Importance of SON Certification of Liquified Petroleum Gas Tanks/Vessels
The Negative Implications of Circulating Substandard Products in Nigeria
Grains Regeneration for Food Sufficiency and Security, Promoting Agricultural Produce for Food Sufficiency, Security and Export, Stakeholders Understanding of SON Ports and Borders Operations for Trade Facilitation, and SON Calibration Services for accuracy and traceability in measurements.

Aboloma’s tenure has not been without challenges though as the equipping, running and maintenance of its numerous laboratories, metrology services, training and management systems certification services, coupled with the constant provision of required standards to promote trade and commerce are capital intensive endeavours, requiring continuous support in budget appropriation and development partners’ collaboration.

The vexed issues of preventing dumping of substandard and life-threatening products on the nation is a fight requiring strategic positioning of SON at the entry points and the support and collaboration of critical stakeholders in the overall interest of the nation’s economy and the welfare of the citizens. The organization continues to battle with issues of deliberate circumvention of its offshore conformity assessment programme for SON regulated imports, false declaration and forgery of import documents by unscrupulous importers, faking and adulteration of established certified brands amongst other challenges.

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