The newly appointed Director General/Chief Executive Officer of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) Dr Ifeanyi Chukwunonso Okeke has been upbeat on the rapid industrial and economic development and growth of the country. He has therefore decided to roll out a working template in tandem with the Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration’s home – grown, inclusive growth economy. Speaking shortly after his inauguration and reception of handover notes in Abuja last week, Dr Okeke made it clear that he has decided to hit the ground running, arguing that governance remains a continuum.
“We are not allowing a lull in activities; we are not having any transition break or period. Work continues for proper consolidation and sustainability,” he declared.
The SON DG disclosed that his work-action plan is geared towards rapid economic and industrial growth of Nigeria. He listed areas of priority attention to include: re-invigorated nationwide campaign against sub-standard products, growth and sustainability of Micro, Small, and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs), development and proper utilization of SON metrology services and test laboratories across the country, as well as stakeholders engagement and collaborations. Others are staff welfare and development, local products competitiveness in African Common Market, exports/ trade promotion, increase in the tempo of standardisation activities across the country, among others.
Dr Okeke was appointed as the Director General/ Chief Executive of SON, a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on October 13, 2023. He succeeded the immediate past Director General of the Organisation, Mallam Farouk Salim.
As the SON DG/ CEO, Okeke, a chartered accountant, would now be in charge of implementing and enforcing standards and quality assurance and discharging the mandate and statutory duties of SON as stipulated in the amended SON Act 2015. The new SON boss would also represent the agency and Nigeria at local and international levels in all matters relating to standardisation and quality control.
He would advise the SON Governing Council in the formulation, elaboration and implementation of national policies and programmes pertaining to standardisation, products quality, metrology, Nigeria National Quality Policy, Nigeria’s Quality Infrastructure Development, among others.
Okeke is also responsible for co-ordinating the activities of SON Directors and Directorates, Heads of Units and Departments, as well as initiating and approving every investigation, enforcement, prosecution to be conducted by the agency in pursuant of enabling powers as contained in the SON Act.
The SON helmsman has therefore disclosed that under his watch the campaign against products counter – feiting and sub- standardisation would witness renewed commitment, adding that inferior products kills the economy and endanger lives and property.
He declared; “We are renewing our commitment to sanitize the country of fake and injurious products. They cannot be allowed to circulate. We cannot allow economic saboteurs and merchants of death to have their way; we are sending warning to those who bring or produce sub-standard products to desist from doing so any longer; before the long arm of the law catches up with them. We are embarking on increased seizures, testing and public destruction of bad products, arrests and prosecution of offenders.”
Dr. Okeke also maintained that in order to put in place the government’s home-grown economy agenda, the agency would double its efforts to ensure the development, growth and sustainability of MSMEs across the country. With over 40 million SMEs in Nigeria, the SON helmsman re-stated that local industries, that is the manufacturing sector, remains the priority of the agency.
He said with standardisation and proper compliance, the nation’s ailing and comatose industries could be revamped and more local and foreign direct investments would be attracted.
“We want to grow industries, bring about massive job creation and employment, while creating emerging market for certified Made-in-Nigeria products. With standardisation, we want to ensure industrial growth, SMEs are critical, they constitute the industrial engine room of growth; we need to make Nigeria emerge as an investment destination and hub in Sub-Saharan Africa. I believe that with solid industrial base, Nigeria could become the next global economic power house, following the footsteps of the Asian Tigers. Empowering and strengthening the growth of SMEs are very important,” the SON DG emphasizes.
According to him, increased focus on MSMEs development would in turn lead to the setting up of SMEs hubs and clinics across the country, while advising operators to always work with SON. Dr. Okeke said continuous sensitization programmes with stakeholders in the various sectors and sub-sectors have proven so effective towards assuring improved public – private partnership.
To him, Nigeria has the biggest chances and potentials to ripe fully, the benefits of the implementation of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) a.k.a African Free Trade Zone. He promised to ensure that local products are highly acceptable and competitive in African and global markets.
“We are carrying the gospel or message of adherence to standards and best practices to the doorsteps of industry players and operators. Standards, he stressed, grow businesses and bring better life. The SON DG further stated that the agency under his leadership would increase public awareness and education on the benefits of standards and standardisation.
To him, standards transform businesses into large enterprises, help MSMEs and small-holder businesses to compete with blue-chip companies, unlock door to fresh customers or clientele and more importantly, open up export markets for local goods and services, among other numerous values of standards adherence.
On development of facilities such as laboratories and metrology including mobile calibration labs, the DG said he would ensure that SON’s test laboratories across the country-in Lagos, Kaduna, Enugu and others, receive high patronage by operators within the public and private sectors. He also promised to develop regional laboratories across the geo – political zones which his predecessor was pursuing. These would help in making SON services available to operators in the hinterlands and suburban areas across the country.
Among Okeke’s action- plan is also giving improved attention to staff welfare and development. He has pledged to improve staff welfare and working condition while regular trainings are to be conducted to build staff capacities and competences meant for improved performance and productivity.
Observers, stakeholders and analysts have averred that with extensive experience and track record, Dr. Okeke is well- equipped to lead SON towards becoming a vital force among National Standards Bodies and International Standards Bodies across the world – with working experience in governmental and private circles spanning over 18 years.
The new SON Director General holds a Ph.D. in Accountancy from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria, as well as other academic and professional qualifications.