Tickling us with Standardisation

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By Frank Meke.

If there’s a country where strange things happen and they are accepted as norm, certainly Nigeria ranks first. Here, everything that is filled with heaps of rubbish is thrown at consumers, and we must clap for such development.

In our tourism sector, it’s benubbing if not genocidal to see how we prant about ranking goods and services with any known metrics, and we are so proud about it.

Some businesses are registered as “gbogbonse,( all things possible) ” all satisfactory, all curing, and all life-giving remedial organisations with foreign addresses in Alaska or India, depending on their target ecosystem.

Years ago, Nigerians were dying from the effects of fake drugs and consumables imported from strange places until NAFDAC under late Dora Akunyuli intervened.

That battle to saved Nigeria and Nigerians from being a dumping ground of expired, fake, and dangerous goods, particularly consumption of fake drugs. That war was fought from alI fronts in the presidency, national assembly, state assemblies, government houses, and the marketplace.

Even our security agencies, particularly those which man our border posts, were strategically brought into the larger picture to avoid sabotage of the entire efforts.

Did that advocacy succeed? Yes and No, depending on the parameters of argument. Essentially, Nigerians became enlightened and, became wary and would ask questions and, to an extent, blew whistles on the drug barons and their accomplices.

Have we eradicated the menace despite the NAFDAC intervention? The answers still stir us in the face as the naira struggles up to recover, with dangerous, cheap, fake and expired drugs and consumables flooding our markets as alternatives to original and genuine drugs or goofs produced under international best practices.

Now, that brings us into the roles and intervention of another critical agency of government, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria ( SON).

Like NAFDAC under Akuyunli, SON wants us to take them seriously in their operational mandate to stamp out certain genocidal attitudes to production and presentation of goods and services.

From registration, quality assessment ecosystem, and certification, SON under one ifeanyi Okeke as Director General is set to weed the system, that’s the hospitality and tourism industry of its burden of service delivery tuberculosis.

On Friday ,May 2nd , in Lagos, the agency, in partnership with Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria and Lagos State Government, sat across the table to share ideas on how standardisation works and its overall benefits, locally and internationally.

I listened with rapt attention and prayed to make sense out of the goodwill messages and key presentations by Chidinma Ewuzie of SON and one pretty brilliant lady, Dr Ebikaboere Seiomdei .

As usual, our hospitality training citadel, National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism ( NIHOTOUR), was missing in the place, but Nigeria Tourism Development Authority was in the house.

Certainly, these agencies are supposed to be senior advocates on this issue, but again, it took the focused leadership of FTAN to seek a truce, a direction to save the nation from the genocidal services delivery ecosystem in the entire gamut of the tourism, and travel industry.

I don’t want to bore you with long essays on global standardisation history and ecosystem, but must submit quickly on two fronts that standardisation in the registration, assessment, production, packaging, and distribution of goods and services is the flag proudly flown by most serious tourism nations in the world but here in Nigeria, standardisation is a rattling irritation to our industrialists, pot bellied importers and exporters and portfolio hospitality operators.

That SON with FTAN meeting on standardisation left me thinking very hard. I also heard that ECOWAS has a blueprint on standardisation and; looking at our 36 states, independent owners of tourism and hospitality approval landscapes, how to navigate the standardisation challenge becomes worrisome.

Folarin Coker literally restrained himself from knifing through SON’s standardisation mandatory ‘ infraction’ in an industry where his agency has ” authority” to register and NIHOTOUR with powers to ‘train’ us on how to cook and eat rice.

His latest avowed commitment to shake hands across all bridges surely gave some stakeholders goose pimples as he was a known unapologetic lord of the tourism minor.

Nkereuwem Onung, FTAN president was focal on the need to have an industry run on the expectations and guidelines of international best practices, unfortunately his message of the unification of industry deliverables and performance metrics appears like a sermon in parables.

He advocated for a “forced” gathering and hands shaking all relevant stakeholders, states governments inclusive, but I worry about the revisit of the Presidential Council on Tourism.

Why? Egocentrism of self-appointed yes, men in the system, could tagged yahoo white lion agencies heads, will reduce us to nothing in the eyes of the president and the governors, not with a minister struggling to survive performance expectations.

Just imagine a mere arm of Nigeria Economic Summit Group mandated by a blue-eyed minister of tourism out of fancy to go revise the Nigerian tourism policy and master plan put together by notable tourism experts with global experience to farm tourism road maps.

How I wish someone would encourage the minister to spend more time interacting with the private sector stakeholders. The SON and FTAN workshop certainly deepens the call for collaborative engagements, and it is in such an environment that tourism can actually define its characteristics and gains. I believe that each government agency has a right to fly off the handle to protect perceived encroachment of its mandate, but it is more enduring after the shove to find and agree on common grounds for the sake of the country and the people.

SON has done what our two agencies have been dodging to do all the time, and that is the opportunity to know what and how they want to pilot industry projects in collaboration with the private sector. SON has fingered the yahoos in the system, and that’s what standardisation would do to eliminate fakeness and quackery when we are ready.

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