According to Wikipedia, standardisation involves the process of implementing and developing technical standards based on the consensus of different parties that include firms, users, interest groups, standards organizations and government. Standardization can help to maximize compatibility, interoperability, safety, repeatability or quality. It can also facilitate commoditization of formerly custom processes.
With respect to the Nigerian scenario, the issue of standardization is one that has received legislative backing with the creation of the Standards Organization of Nigeria. This organisation was established by an Enabling Act, Number 56 of December 1971 which is known as the Standards Organisation of Nigeria Act, cap 412 of the laws of Federal Republic of Nigeria, with a commencement date of 1 January 1970. The Act has three amendments: Act Number 20 of 1976, Act Number 32 of 1984 and Act Number 18 of 1990. SON’s governing body saddled with the responsibility of making policies, supervising and managing its finances is known as the Nigerian Standards Council. The Director General of the Organisation is the Chief Executive and his responsibilities revolve around the day-to-day administration of the Organisation within the broad guidelines approved by the Council.The mandate of the Organisation includes preparation of standards relating products, measurements, materials, processes and services amongst others and their promotion at National, Regional and International levels; certification of products, assistance in the production of quality goods and services; improvement of measurement accuracies and circulation of information relating to standards. The body does not work alone as it operates closely with the police, the courts of competent jurisdiction in Nigeria and other agencies such as the Nigerian Copyright Commission and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control.
As per the role of legal practitioners in promoting standardisation in the country, it goes without saying that the lack of an element of enforceability demeans and weakens the essence of any law, rule or organisation so created to enforce or ensure compliance with set standards. It is to this end that legal practitioners remain a sine qua non within the theatre of standardization in our society. This is so because of the following reasons;
Enforcement: The idea of legal practitioners brings under its contemplation, the bar and the bench alike. To this end, it is the role of the lawyers to litigate in cases where there has been an alleged infraction on standard practices in a particular field for the purpose of ensuring that the aggrieved party or parties are adequately compensated within the civil justice systemand that justice is done in terms of punishing offenders within the criminal justice regime. Also, it falls to the judges on their part to use their wisdom and knowledge of the law in arriving at fair decisions between parties over cases relating to the maintenance of standards in the Nigerian society. For judges and lawyers alike, the need to remain incorrigible and apt cannot be overemphasised as a deliberate or mistaken representation of facts could lead to collateral damage and general deterioration of standards which may involve the loss of lives and property in many instances since standards are generally set for the protection of lives and property. On the other hand, the right judgement will always ensure deterrence and entrench a culture of obedience to these set standards. It will also inform standard organisations on the right approach to regulation in particular instances as evidenced in the case of United Cement Company of Nigeria Limited (UniCem) v the Attorney General of the Federation, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment and the SON. In this case decided on 17 November 2014 at the Federal High Court of Calabar, the court urgedthe Standard Organisation of Nigeria to ensure that it maintains the status quo over the proposed cement standardisation and warned it to halt action on the implementation of the controversial standardisation pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
- Advocacy: This is an activity by an individual or group which aims to influence decisions within political, economic, and social systems and institutions. Advocacy by legal practitioners can come in different forms including media campaigns, public speaking, commissioning and publishing research or conducting exit poll or the filing of an amicus brief, advocacy visits or evenlobbying for legislators to look into a particular area of standardization where there is a perceived lacuna or inconsistency.The aim of this is to facilitate civil engagement and incentivize collective action aimed at creating the right extent of awareness on what standard practices are allowed for adoption by companies and as earlier stated, to draw the attention of legislators to an area(s) of standardization begging attention. This will aid both standard organizations, enforcement agencies and other governmental institutions in their duty as consumers will become aware of their rights and report to the appropriate authorities when any of the standards are breached so that all necessary action will be taken to contain the existing situation and forestall future occurrences.
To draw the curtain on this very essential issue which deserves a place of top priority among legal circles, suffice it to say that law is the bedrock of every society upon which human conduct is predicated and through which order is maintained. To this end, any issue requiring conformity affects and is affected by law and as such, places an obligation on all legal practitioners to do all within their judicial powers to make people aware of the existence of such patterns of behavior and the punishment attached to any deviation from such prescriptive or normative standard. Also, it falls within the purview of the role of legal practitioners to achieve effective standards via the instrumentality of the courts. By ensuring that the desired extent of compliance isachieved and that a default on any such set standards is visited with the appropriate weight of the law, deterrence and a sense of duty on producers and consumers alike will be entrenched and proper standardization achieved in the end.