The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) and the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) have concluded plans to launch a special project termed ‘Product Services Monitoring Program’ (PROSERVE), which entails creating a databank of providers and importers of genuine goods and services with a view to protect both producers and consumers from counterfeiting and minimizing fraud in the market.
The Director General of SMEDAN, Alhaji Muhammad Nadada Umar, while receiving officials of the Council at the SMEDAN Headquarters in Abuja, said that a comprehensive database would be available in the country before the end of the year, adding that he was confident that the initiative would have far-reaching effects on the economy.
Alhaji Umar commended the Consumer Protection Council for bringing PROSERVE to the drawing board but cautioned the tax authorities to be lenient with micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in fixing tariffs on goods, saying high tariffs generate multiplier effect on the general public who make up the final consumers in the country.
He urged the Federal Government to stop remain consistent with policies which affect the development of the manufacturing sector of the economy, adding that Agencies like SMEDAN and CPC should have been in existence since independence so that challenges facing the economy, especially in relation to low-income groups would have been curtailed. ‘’ The over-concentration on politics after the nation’s attainment of political independence made the real sector, responsible for developing the economy, to take the back seat. Hence, the numerous challenges bedeviling the country today’’ , he noted.
In her remarks, the Director General of CPC, Mrs Ify Umenyi, accompanied by the Acting Director, Surveillance and Enforcement, Ms Riftiat Folami and Acting Director, Finance and Administration, Ifeanyi Chukwujekwu, urged SMEDAN to form part of the Stakeholders Forum Advisory Council (SFAC) charged with ensuring that SMEs in the country are registered and manufactured products meet specifications for the overall benefit of the final consumers.
Mrs Umenyi, while thanking SMEDAN for its continued support for the Council’s policies said that PROSERVE would enhance the needed platform for eliminating counterfeits in Nigerian markets and effectively managing consumer complaints.
Throwing more light on the project, PROSERVE Consultant, Mr Steven Dike, said that Nigeria is the only economy where people were offered poor goods and services without the culprits suffering any repercussions, adding that most Nigerians did not even know nor exercise their rights as consumers, while many companies failed due to counterfeiting.
Mr. Dike said Nigeria has a bad culture of prevalence of fake products with its citizens believing that imported products were of better quality than those made in the country, yet not all these products met the international standard that we think they do. According to him, the worst-hit are small and medium enterprises as they serve the poor and are at the bottom line of the business hierarchy.
He said PROSERVE should be dear to SMEDAN and to every Nigerian as it is to the CPC for the reason that consumer protection directly or indirectly refers to SME protection especially in a country like Nigeria, where the justice system is insufficient and is tilted in favour the rich. Without the right environment where impact can be made on the market sector, he said, preventable consequences such as fraud would continue to hinder the goal of a viable and sustainable economy.
Dike said that with careful planning, disciplined execution at all levels, and an effective and widespread information distribution system, consumer rights and protection would be achieved in Nigeria. Consumer passiveness and lack of effective sanctions are costing the economy a lot and paving the way for counterfeiting, which in turn, paves the way for low productivity and lowered competitiveness.
In addition to ensuring that consumers know where to get quality goods and services through listings in Directories, PROSERVE will also serve as a model for the development of African economies as it will foster specialization, raise productivity, increase revenues and improve living standards of artisanal workers and low income groups. Furthermore, a Nigerian Consumer Award that is not purchased will be initiated whereby consumers themselves will determine a winner.
Meanwhile the Director General of SMEDAN, Alhaji Muhammad Nadada Umar has expressed the Agency’s readiness to partner with the Federal Ministry of Health to promote healthcare of Nigerians, especially owners of micro, small and medium enterprises. He made the pledge when he received officials of the Federal Ministry of Health, who paid him a courtesy visit, where they sought for collaboration to promote general healthcare for impoverished Nigerians.
Nadada said while SMEDAN’s collaboration with the Ministry of Health was not new, it needed to be strengthened to improve the discharge of their mandate and to promote the well-being of Nigerians in line with the Vision 20-2020 document.
He emphasized the significance of life, health and poverty reduction, adding that without these, little else could be accomplished in the economy. ’’It is not enough to harp on employment creation as a national necessity for economic growth without a viable healthcare system. That is why SMEDAN partners with other Agencies to ensure the success of its mandate of facilitating the establishment of micro, small and medium enterprises which will enhance sustainable economic development of Nigeria’’, noted the Director-General.
He therefore directed that health issues be incorporated into SMEDAN’s enterpreneural training programmes, just as he tasked other Agencies of government to partner with SMEDAN to achieve greater results for the overall development of the country.
In her remarks, the Director of Health Promotion Department of the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Philipa Momah pointed out that despite the huge sums of money that have been injected into the health sector, only 40 percent of Nigerian women have access to health facilities in Nigeria.
Nigeria and World Bank collaborate to end food contamination by aflatoxins
Nigeria has joined forces with the World Bank to help contain the contamination of food crops by aflatoxins, as the oil-rich nation aims to make agriculture the main driver of its economy.
The new approach, which includes drawing a road map to tackle aflatoxins, is part of the Commercial Agriculture Development Program (CADP) that is being supported by the World Bank, and implemented in Kano, Kaduna, Enugu, Cross River and Lagos states.
“It is a major step by the government towards ensuring food safety and food security,” says A.M. Babandi, National Coordinator of CADP.
Produced by the fungus Aspergillus flavus, aflatoxins are fungal contaminants that hurt trade and people’s health, with studies pointing to them as the cause of liver cancer. In some cases, such as in Kenya, aflatoxin-contaminated maize consumed resulted in several deaths. Poultry and fish are particularly vulnerable to aflatoxins, which influence their productivity.
In Nigeria, resource-poor maize farmers face rejection from the premium food market due to aflatoxin contamination.
The collaboration among Nigeria, IITA, and the World Bank will roll out and make available to farmers a biocontrol product called aflasafeTM that would stop the aflatoxin menace.
“This is good news to farmers because they now have a solution to the problem,” says Ranajit Bandyopadhyay, IITA Pathologist.
“If farmers apply aflasafeTM, they can sell their maize at premium prices and above all it would guarantee the safety of home-grow
n food and health of consumers,” he added.
In on-farm research trials in Kaduna state—north central Nigeria—during 2009 and 2010, farmers who treated their fields with aflasafeTM were able to reduce the levels of aflatoxin contamination by about 80 to 90%. The efficacy of aflasafeTM earned the product a provisional registration from NAFDAC.
Stakeholders including farmers at the meeting in Ibadan discussed efforts to stem aflatoxin spread. They unanimously said that a collective action was necessary to tackle aflatoxins, with Nestle considering supporting farmers with training on pre- and post-harvest handling of maize including storage.
Lucas Akapa, Senior Operations Officer, World Bank, said the meeting was a success as partners agreed “to develop a holistic strategy to help Nigeria fight aflatoxins.”
“At the end, we hope to have a road map which will be driven by Nigerians with the purpose of ending the menace of aflatoxins, enhancing farmers’ income, and guaranteeing food safety,” he says.