The use and sale of substandard mobile phones in the country telecommunications space have been increasing to the extent that it has become a menace as it affects quality of service among other consequence. According to Mrs. Ify Umenyi, director general, Consumer Protection Council (CPC), “a part from the health hazards that consumers of counterfeit products are exposed to, since counterfeit products are usually not subjected to any regulatory authority and thereby not made in conformity to relevant standards and specifications, the country loses a lot of revenue through the activities of counterfeiters. Producers of counterfeit products evade legitimate sources of government revenues like duties and taxes. Also, employment opportunities are lost as genuine producers and employers of labour are hindered from attaining economies of scale and as a result forced to shut down on many occasions. There is also a genuine concern around the world that terrorists get their funding from illegal activities like counterfeiting smuggling, bunkering and so on”. In view of the foregoing, the influx of fake and substandard products has been a source of concern to the federal government of Nigeria. The apex consumer protection agency of the federal government, Consumer Protection Council (CPC), she said has come up with an interventionist programme like the establishment of joint task force, in conjunction with the Standard Organization of Nigeria, National Environmental Standard Regulation and Enforcement Agency (Nesrea) and Alaba Market Association, on fake and substandard electrical and electronic products in Alaba International market, Lagos. She noted that CPC has also partner with some genuine manufacturers to raid some known black spots, with a view to ridding them of fake and substandard products. “In this regard, in the last one year, the council has carried out more than three different raids in GSM village, Lagos, to rid it of fake mobile phones, and carried out several other raids in Lagos metropolis and other states of the federation to remove different counterfeit and unwholesome products from the marketplace,” she added. In spite of all these efforts being made by other regulatory agencies to combat counterfeiting in Nigeria, the trade appears to be gaining grounds at huge costs to consumers, manufacturers and government alike. For instance, the result of a recent research carried out by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) and the International Data Corporation (IDC) disclosed that Nigeria lost more than N19.8 million to software counterfeiting and associated problems. Microsoft Nigeria said that, consumers and companies spend million of dollars each year on counterfeit copies, financing scammers who threaten the integrity of the software industry. But for victims of software piracy, the losses aren’t just monetary. In the telecom market to be precise, apart from the loss of valuable income through the purchase of fake handsets and their frequent replacement by consumers, there is a growing concern that the result of highly hazardous emissions from fake mobile phones may soon begin to manifest. Counterfeit mobile devices are low in quality and do not meet standards. In some situations, the radiation from them is beyond the permissible limits and can cause serious damage to the health of consumers. Scientific study on the levels of radio frequency emissions from mobile phone handsets indicated that several of the sophisticated looking fake and cheap phones in the market emit high levels of radiation, far higher than what is globally accepted as safe. Ironically, manufacturers, and dealers in fake handsets are harvesting bountifully from this illegal business. Timi Bomodi, Public Relation Officer, Nigeria Customs Service, Apapa Area 1 Command, said that the counterfeiting of intellectual property has been a source of worry to governments, and institutions the world over. He said that the behavour of certain individuals and companies in developing countries such as Nigeria has made dealing in counterfeit products very attractive. “The large domestic IT market is buoyant, and developing at an incredibly fast rate. This in an economic sense should be an asset. However, it has negative connotations,” he said. Role of SON The Standard organization of Nigeria has put in place a programme it called SONCAP, which means SON Conformity Assessment Program, designed to protect the Nigerian consumer. The aim of SONCAP is to identify those goods which pose the highest risk to consumers in Nigeria and ensure that their claims of safety are verified before they are exported to Nigeria. This helps to ensure that Nigerians are protected from unsafe and substandard goods as well as ensure that Nigerian manufacturers or brand owners are not subjected to unfair competition from such goods. The extent to which these initiatives by the country’s gate keepers have effectively performed it obligations is open to debate as in spite of these programme substandard mobile phones still find their way to Nigerian markets. Challenges Engr. Adewumi Richard, group head, Electrical and Electronics, SON, said that tracing sellers of counterfeits mobile phones poses a challenge towards curbing the menace. According to him, the sellers don’t have a permanent location as the move from one location to the other to avoid being arrested by law enforcement when first time buyers of the counterfeit identifies that they have been con and decides to approach the police. It is also the responsibility of brand owners to expand their sales outlets, and to make its products more accessible to consumers. Where there is a void in the supply, and demand chain, the counterfeiters are more likely to exploit it for profit. The pricing of original products too is a factor, as research has shown that people are mainly attracted to counterfeits by their lower prices. People in the lower economic strata, are more likely to acquire counterfeits than people in the higher strata. However people with means have been fooled by the external characteristics of counterfeits too. Brand owners should partner with government institutions like Nigeria Customs Service and Standard Organisation of Nigeria. This partnership should be in form of training, and information sharing.