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Determined to address the lingering issues in the cement industry as well as check the incidence of building collapse in the country, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), has insisted on pursuing its 60-day ultimatum on product labelling and traceability requirements.
Primarily, the new guidelines mandates the manufacturers to, within the stipulated period, indicate on product bags, the manufacturing and best-before dates, product application information as well as the batch numbers of the products.
The cement manufacturers - Dangote Cement Plc, Lafarge Nigeria, Unicem, Ibeto Cement, Ashaka Cement and Sokoto Cement - had appealled for a review of the initial proposed 30-day deadline to enable them implement the changes in their processes.
The move, which is expected to enhance traceability in case of product default, also places a responsibility on cement manufacturers to ensure that their products meet required guidelines on health and safety.
Cement manufactures are also expected to submit their product advertisements and commercials for pre-approval by the SON before they are sent to the media, while processes should be initiated to ensure that products are properly stored by distributors and retailers to avoid a compromise of the product’s integrity.
Addressing cement manufacturers and journalists in Lagos, recently, the Director-General of SON, Dr. Joseph Odumodu, noted that the agency, in line with its mandate of protecting consumers from products that may harm them, has taken into consideration a lot of factors and has decided to address the growing concern.
According to him, manufacturers have an ethical role to play in ensuring that products meet consumers’ expectation and are properly applied by users.
“It is necessary to observe that none of the courts has so far made any declaration to suspend the implementation of the new standard NIS 444-1:2014. Moreover, the yawning communication gap of the last two months in the public domain regarding the sector, which is currently being exploited by the stakeholders, does not augur well for the same reasons we came up with the new standard," he said.
He added: “SON is not interested in killing any business. We want to celebrate industries with best practices. Cement is a chemical product and has a life span. It is disheartening to know that cement produced in this country has no batch numbers. We won’t wait for six months before we commence implementation of these new guidelines.
“Every sector regulator has a responsibility to make sure that products are properly regulated. We want to collaborate with manufacturers to address this ugly trend. The blame game should stop and we should live up to our responsibilities."
He revealed that SON has perfected an arrangement for the certification of block moulders in the country, adding that "NIS 587 of 2007 would be enforced to check the yield and composition of blocks. A process has been initiated and implementation would commence on it."
“Also, sellers of building materials would now be certified to ensure that standards and due process are aligned to aid traceability in the event of an incident, while testing centres are also being established to test the integrity of cement and concrete mixtures," he pointed out.
Group Managing Director of Dangote Cement Plc, Devakumar Edwin, said the decision to embark on the high quality grade was to help Nigeria stem the tide of collapse building. He commended SON for the bold move, pointing out that Dangote was ready to support the regulatory body in the onerous task of ridding the nation of structure failure.
“We implore SON to move ahead with the implementation of the regulations in accordance with its mandate. Dangote Cement in the past two years has held several trainings and demonstrations with blockmakers across the nation to educate them on how to achieve premium results using the 42.5 cement grade. This has become a permanent feature in our operations," he added.
General Manager Industrial Performance, Lafarge Nigeria, Lanre Opakunle stated that his company was not going to comment on issues relating to concerns it raised in its litigation against the agency but noted that it was ready to partner SON in ensuring that lives and properties are protected with products produced under best practices.
“Agencies have the right to implement actions and if stakeholders are not happy, they can seek redress in the court of law. We are not ready to stand the contempt of court but would collaborate with the agency on other issues to drive the growth of the cement industry, especially initiatives involving the building of capacity of block moulders," he added.