Major industrialists in Onitsha and Awka on Wednesday protested against intimidation, harassment and bribery, by the Standards Organization of Nigeria, SON, accusing it of denial of MANCAP Certificate and deliberate frustration of their industries that refused to part with alleged millions of naira bribe being demanded from SON.
The protesters who own manufacturing facilities in Onitsha and Awka in company of their workers numbering over 250 stormed the SON office at Awka the Anambra State Capital as early as 9.20am, with various placards and barricaded the entry and exit gates of the regulatory agency, chanting provocative songs to mimic SON’s alleged bribery and intimidation which attracted the attention of motorists and pedestrians plying Enugu/Awka/Onitsha Express way.
Road users had hectic moments to get to their destinations as vehicular movement was disrupted due to heavy movement of the protesters which compelled motorists to wait for several hours before they could pass through.
Some of the placards displayed by the protesters had various inscriptions, such as “Standard Organization of Nigeria” (SON) is corrupt, “SON stop frustrating indigenous industries for personal gains”, “With SON as presently constituted there is no hope for successful campaign against substandard goods”, “President Buhari your government cannot comfortably work with the present leadership of SON” among others.
“President Buhari do not allow SON as it is presently constituted to destroy your good plans for indigenous industries”, “Millions of naira are being demanded by SON as condition for issuing MANCAP Certificate”, “Indigenous Industries cannot survive under the present leadership of SON”, “Pay bribe to SON or face frustration of business”.
Some of the protesters who chose to speak on condition of anonymity, however, advised President Mohammadu Buhari to investigate the activities of SON or have his campaign against corruption dragged to the mud.
Some of the industrialists interviewed charged Nigerian industrialists to rise up to their rights and say no to SON’s outrageous extortion
They also accused Standard Organization of Nigeria of being sponsored by foreign companies to destroy our indigenous industries, adding that SON must bring back the industrial machines which it uprooted from various factories belonging to D & K Golden City Investment Limited and Bendusco Nigeria Limited.
Addressing newsmen in front of SON office, spokesman of the companies and Managing Director of D & K Golden City Investment Limited, Mr. Benjamin Nwaizu alleged that a Director of SON came to Anambra State and demanded some millions of naira as a condition for them to be given the MANCAP Certificate, adding that if his company failed to comply that an undisclosed South Korean company which produces same product would take its place and be issued with MANCAP certificate.
“We suspect that our company’s refusal to offer bribe to Standard Organizations of Nigeria is the reason why we are being haunted and intimidated by the regulatory agency”.
“He kept requesting the amount, but I said we cannot afford it, and he threatened that in the next four months that I would see how our company would go down. He also threatened that non-compliance with the payment of the bribe would subject our factory machines being uprooted and evacuated in their next visit coupled with all the raw materials and finished products such as shaving sticks, hair brush, tooth brushes, and other personal effects.
“To my greatest surprise after we failed to pay the requested millions of naira, on 28th and 29thOctober 2014, the same SON Director invaded my factory with some police men number over twenty and evacuated and uprooted all the machinery found in the premises evacuated them to an unknown destination.
Despite the 8th December 2014 Onitsha Magistrate Court ruling that ordered SON to return all the seized machines SON has refused to abide by the court’s decision which stated that it was not in their power to uproot factory machines.
SON attitude to my company became unbearable when despite its disobedience to court’s decision even went ahead to cart away Dorco Shaving Sticks and other goods worth over 190 million naira from my Lagos warehouses and went to some of our distributors warehouses and shops and seized the goods they bought from us, and invited them to come to their office where they told them to stop selling our goods including disposable shaving sticks and once they agree to do that by signing undertaking with them SON, their goods will be returned to them and told them.
“The machinery the court ordered them to return they have not done that, rather the next thing they did was they went to our warehouses in Lagos, broke into them and carted away goods worth Dorco Shaving Sticks and other goods worth over N190 million and went to some of our distributors warehouses and shops and seized the goods they bought from us, and invited them to come to their office where they told them to stop selling our goods including disposable shaving sticks and once they agree to do that by signing undertaking with them SON, their goods will be returned to them and told them.
Mr. Nwaizu who is also the Managing Director of BENDUSCO International Agency Limited which manufactures toothbrushes, shoe brushes, and hair brushes said that what prompted their protest was the same SON Director’s threat after the invasion and breaking into our warehouse in Lagos two weeks ago and his consistent threat to return to Onitsha and remove the remaining products in my factory.
“We have learnt to take his threat seriously these days. He said he would sweep the factory and make sure nothing is produced in the factory, he always make good his threats that is why we decided to protest to let the government and the public know what the indigenous industrialists are facing in the hands of SON because of their selfish interest.
“We want President Buhari to investigate the activities of SON, they are highly corrupt, we have written more than ten letters to the Director General of SON from 2011 complaining about these intimidation, harassment and abuse of office and position, of his officials that are involved in the corrupt demands of bribe before they will do their work and he never replied any of those letters, even last two weeks ago invasion of our warehouse in Lagos, we wrote to him but he did not do anything ” he stated.
Reacting to the protest, some officials who addressed the protesters at the SON gate after they rejected a request to come into the office for them to be addressed, Mr.Omeje Veginus Okwudili, a standard engineer in SON said that “SON does not do anything hideous, this is a public office, and the office is here to serve Nigerians, the office is here to serve you and I, and what is SON we are here to drive standards to ensure that quality of products and services are delivered to Nigerians including myself”.
“From what my friend Mr. Nwaizu is telling me with his staff as alleged in their placards and his speech as alleged, they are protesting that the operations of SON is not in line according to his expectations, I want to assure you Mr. Benjamin Nwaizu, and your staff and others that since you have come here peacefully to register your anger and grievances, SON on her own is ready to listen to you and act according to the enabling Act that established it”.
“I want to assure you that the management of SON will listen to all your complaints. But however, I will assure you that our individual interests do not supersede the public interests, so I want to assure you that what SON is doing is in line with the enabling Act that established it and we have been empowered by the constitution to carry our duties of saving lives and properties”.
I would not like to delve into the allegations and your core complaints about the money being demanded by a staff of SON. It is still an allegation but I will only ask you people to calm down, follow the normal procedure, record your anger and write to the Director, but however I will convey your complaints and allegation to the management of SON and I assure you that justice will be done” he said.
Counsel to BENDUSCO and other companies that participated in the protest, Mr. Chike Onyali said SON appears to have abandoned their statutory roles and decided to resort to blackmailing indigenous industries in Nigeria by refusing to process and issue them with appropriate MANCAP Certifications, because they lack laboratory indices with which to carry out laboratory standardization”.