Farouk Salim; Changing the Narratives of SON

Chris Uba

 Since his appointment as the Director General/Chief Executive of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), late last year, Mallam Farouk Salim has not left anyone in doubt that he is a capable hand for the job of establishing and enforcing quality standards in the country.  In less than one year, since he assumed duties, the trained Pharmacist has achieved so much in his quest to rid Nigeria of sub-standard and fake products. He has travelled the length and breadth of the country to ensure that goods and services consumed in the country meet the international quality standard.

SON is one of the Federal Government agencies under the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (FMITI). The agency   is responsible for standardization in Nigeria. Standardization is the process of developing and implementing of technical standards based on the agreement of different entities that include governments, standard organisations, firms, interest groups, and users. This sums up the job description of the person at the helms of affairs of SON. The person must know his onions to be at the saddle and  the new SON CEO has proved that he is  the right person for the job. He has brought  his Midas touch  to the job and positive changes  are happening very fast in the  policy enforcement agency. Because of  his sterling performance within the short time of his saddle at SON, some people now call him  the Man who the Cap Fits, while others call  him Mr. Quality. Still others call him Mr. Fix It.

Mallam Salim holds a Bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy from the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.  He started his career at the Nassarawa Hospital, Kano as Hospital Pharmacist and worked with Glaxo Pharmaceuticals, Lagos State, as Medical Representative before relocating to the United States in 1990.

 He worked variously with different organizations in Missouri and Illinois in the United States  as a Clinical Pharmacist, Staff Pharmacist and Allergy Specialist, Consultant Partner, Consultant Pharmacist, and lastly as Clinical Pharmacist with Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis, and the US from 1993.

He is a former National President of Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria where he showed commendable management expertise in successfully coordination the students during his tenure.

Before his appointment as the Director General of SON , he  had engaged in various political activities where he held several positions in the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC)including Deputy National Chairman, APC- USA; Member, Mobilization Committee of APC Presidential Campaign 2015; Secretary, Congress Appeals Committee for APC, Kwara State, 2014; Chairman, Registration Committee for APC, Kogi State, 2014; Chief Protocol Officer, CPC (Congress for Progressive Change) Presidential Campaign 2010; and Buhari Presidential campaign in the USA since 2013.

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Since his appointment as the CEO of the apex agency of standardization in the country, Mallam Salim has pledged commitment to ensuring the agency lives up to its mandate; Thisday Newspapers reported that “he has stressed the need for an authentication scheme to empower consumers at the point of purchase.

 He lamented the current situation where the agency is unable to neither carry out quality verification of all its regulated imported products at the points of entry nor accost suspected substandard products outside the ports.

Salim maintained that SON was set up to provide technical assistance and support to genuine local manufacturers as well as protect them from unfair competition from substandard products.

Speaking in Kano State during a working visit to the National Vice President of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), North West Zone, Alhaji Ali Madugu, the SON chief executive, nonetheless, acknowledged the sacrifices on the part of manufacturers through investment in infrastructure, creation of job opportunities and regular payment of taxes as part of growing the country’s wealth and assured them of his commitment and support. Highlighting the need for products authentication system, he said, “We need a symbiotic relationship to succeed without loss of business and relevance.”

 He stated that efficient service delivery remained his focus and invited MAN to pull forces together with SON for collective success in the interest of the nation’s economy and the wellbeing of its people.

The SON DG further urged MAN and other stakeholders to look forward to seamless and robust deployment of information communication technology to enhance the agency’s delivery of efficient services and an appreciable reduction in turnaround time for standards development, product certification and registration amongst others. He also called for partnerships to protect their brands through the deployment of a product authentication scheme to empower Consumers at the point of purchase.

He insisted that SON would not back down from implementing the law by diligent prosecution of standards infractions.” Salim said: “We need to partner with MAN to protect genuine manufacturers and legitimate importers by sharing intelligence to apprehend and prosecute standards infractions. With adequate consequences for actions, most people will follow the rules.”

On African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, which became fully operational in this year, Mallam Salim sees the continental fee trade as having the potential to create a continental free-trade zone with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of USD$3.4 trillion, according to the African Union. This trade agreement, if implemented fully, would become the largest in the world.

 At the African Organisation for Standardisations (ARSO) Council Meeting as part of the ARSO General Assembly in Kigali, Rwanda, Mallam Farouk Salim said in order to reap the full benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, there is the urgent need to harmonise products standards in Africa.

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According to him, standards’ harmonisation would equally go a long way towards checking the activities of unscrupulous importers and dealers on fake and sub-standard products who would want to use the window opened by the trade pact to carry out economic sabotage.

He was quoted in a statement to have said AfCFTA has presented the compelling need for product standards to be harmonised at the regional level in order to promote intra-African trade.

He explained: “Africa is no doubt a big market. The advanced countries know this. Africa must therefore put her act properly together to compete with the rest of the world.

“ARSO needs to brainstorm concerning the kind, type and nature of products and services that could give Africa comparative advantage and value addition at the global market. It is all about global acceptability, competitiveness and regional economic development.”

He stated that ARSO needs standardisation and quality assurance to promote sustainable agricultural and industrial growth, while ensuring food security in Africa, adding that SON has since developed several standards on agricultural and agro-allied products.

The Senate Committee on Industry has called for the return of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to the nation’s ports.

Through the persistent efforts of SON CEO, members of the National Assembly (NASS) are frowning at the lingering absence of the SON from the nation’s Ports since 2011, saying that this is paving way for substandard and prohibited goods to freely enter the country.

Enitan Dolapo-Badru, chairman House committee on industry who disclosed this yesterday when he lead his Committee Members on an overnight function to SON laboratory in Lagos says the members are resolute at ensuring that  the identified challenges are resolved soonest in order to expedite the return of SON back to the ports.

He lamented that the continued absence of SON officials who legally and professionally are more disposed to conducting test and physical examination of goods imported into the country has caused havoc to the economy and the loss of lives of innocent Nigerians who use such poor quality products.

“A lot of deaths from substandard products are recorded on a daily basis in the country. Tanker explosions, building collapses, fire resulting from poor electrical and electronics products, to mention a few.

“It is unthinkable that iron rods, vehicular tyres, gas cylinders, generators, etc. are being imported into the country and SON is being prevented from entering the Ports to certify the goods before they enter the markets. This is so sad, he stressed.

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Badru who insisted that Act2015 made it mandatory for SON to be at the ports, promised that his 18-Member Committee will do everything within their legislative powers to ensure that this anomaly is corrected, saying that; “We cannot substitute ease of doing business with quality or standards of products imported into the country”.

Also speaking at the occasion, Mallam Salim stated that despite the many challenges of the agency, SON is doing everything to ensure goods consumed in the country are of international standards

This according to him explains why SON is entering into strategic partnership with state governments to broaden the reach of its services through the establishment of more laboratories nationwide.

Salim disclosed that majority of the state governors are very keen at the partnership as about eight of them have allocated land and properties to SON in the last one month.

It could be recalled that the minister of industry, trade and investment Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, while commissioning SON office complex and laboratory in Ekiti State recently, lamented that Federal Government was pained over hundreds of thousands of Nigerian lives cut short as a result of substandard and life threatening products peddled around the country.

 Within  the short time of his arrival  Salim  has  constructed more labretories  for testing  and had  them accredited after the successful completion of evaluation processes by the American Association of Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA) following the recognised international standards.

At a meeting ,recently, he urged manufacturers in the country to make use of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria  test laboratories for testing, analyses, and certifications of essential products in the country. He  also made the call following international accreditation awarded to Standards Organisation of Nigeria test laboratories recently.

He  urged the National Assembly to support its quest to establish more laboratories in the country to expand its testing capacity.

Salim said the call for more laboratories became pertinent to enable the SON perform its function maximally, stressing that the agency was inundated with so many goods to certify, monitor and test.He said, presently, Nigerian industries are disadvantaged in exporting, following the agency’s inadequate capacity to test, monitor and certify local products.

“Our work will also protect our people from substandard goods, gas explosions and building collapse,” he said, adding  that the Standards body had recently launched a more secured certification process to address issues of faking and forging of its certificate.

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