Key Note Address By ISPON President At 2018 World Accreditation Day

KEYNOTE ADDRESS PRESENTED BY DR. NNAMDI ILODIUBA, NATIONAL PRESIDENT, INSTITUTE OF SAFETY PROFESSIONALS OF NIGERIA (ISPON) AT THE OCCASION OF THE 2018 WORLD ACCREDITATION DAY CELEBRATION AT THE REIZ CONTINENTAL HOTEL, CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICT, ABUJA ON TUESDAY 12TH JUNE, 2018.

It gives me great pleasure to be in your midst today for the Commemoration of the 2018 World Accreditation Day. I feel highly honoured to be here not just in my personal capacity but also in my official capacity as the National President of the Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria (ISPON) as the Key-Note Speaker at this august occasion. The gesture is a pointer to the recognition of the place of Safety in Accreditation and nothing can illustrate this fact better than the theme of this year’s celebration: Delivering a Safer World. It is a very apt and well-conceived theme.

Accreditation by concept and intent is an instrument for ensuring quality, standard and genuineness. It is in other words a quality assurance instrument and it applies not only to products but also to services. Accreditation curtails quackery of service especially professional service and faking or counterfeiting of products. It checks smart and unwholesome practices.

Accreditation is a tool for inspiring proficiency and effectiveness. This is because the awareness of Accreditation makes the individual or corporate body to sit up. Knowing that he is being watched, the individual does not rest on his oars, rather he braces up and strives for improvement. In this way he achieves proficiency and effectiveness.

Accreditation also instills confidence. It is all about confidence building – confidence in the service provider as well as in the service consumer. When an individual or corporate body is accredited he not just believes but knows that he is doing the right thing. He is sure that he is on the right track since a third party - an external body has certified him so by means of Accreditation. His service or product is therefore up to standard. Accreditation Bodies are Regulatory Bodies at the same time. This means that they are empowered by the law of the land to ensure compliance with set standards in the specific areas. An Accreditation Body is therefore like a Watch Dog.

The latent aspect of the concept of Accreditation/Regulation is the aspect of Safety. All we have been saying so far zeroes down to safety. The key words used so far – Proficiency, Efficiency, Confidence, all point in the same direction – Safety. Ingrained in the idea and principle of Accreditation is the need to ensure safety – safety of theconsumer of the service, safety of the operator of the service system and safety of the system itself. Each is as important as the other. But the most important is the safety of the environment – the generality of the people even if they are not consumers and every other thing surrounding the three earlier mentioned factors. A vivid example of this is cigarette/tobacco smoking where the third party i.e. the passive inhaler of the smoke is said to be at greater risk than the smoker himself. This factor prompted the limiting of cigarette/tobacco smoking to designated areas in public places. Accreditation therefore can be described a legitimate instrument for ensuring safety.

Safety properly defined means freedom from harm or danger. By ensuring that products and services of standard quality are available Safety is engendered. In fact Accreditation can be said to be a product of safety. It owes its origin and concept more or less to the quest for Safety. For the benefit of many in this distinguished audience, it may be proper and pertinent to trace the historical background of Safety in order to bring this address to perspective. In the Industrial Revolution of the 18th Century, when machines were invented and production of goods shifted from homes and farms where it used to be done manually as cottage industries, to factories where it was done faster and in large quantities to meet market demands, several accidents occurred because workers were exposed to contact with dangerous moving parts of machines that had no guards on them and the factories were poorly lit and inadequately ventilated. In addition, the workers were not properly trained to work on the machines. Meanwhile the employers were happy with the returns that resulted from increased production at lower cost, caring little about the suffering of the workers.

There was thus a humanitarian issue of people suffering pain and loss of earnings and families losing their bread-winners. This situation, in which the employer smiled home with gain while the employee cried home with pain, was unacceptable to society. The resulting protests from workers, families and well-meaning citizens stirred Governments of the then industrialised countries into enacting legislations prescribing standards of safety and health to be maintained in factories. The legislations were taken further to requiring employers to provide safe and healthful places of work, pay for medical care, and pay compensation for injuries, illnesses and deaths, resulting from work activities. To ensure effectiveness of the legislations, Factory Inspectors were employed by the Governments of the Industrialised Nations at the time to monitor those first generation factories for compliance. Factories found lacking in compliance were duly sanctioned while those adhering to the legislations were commensurately rewarded.

This, strictly speaking, was the first step towards Accreditation. It set the stage for Accreditation to come up as a legal instrument for the certification of products andservices. The Safety of the worker and the Safety of the work process and work environment ultimately led to the clamour and demand for the Safety of the consumer, through the Safety of the service or product, and by extension, the Safety of the uninvolved public and the environment. All this could not be achieved without the introduction of Quality Control for the product or service. And the age-old adage has it that “Since all lizards lie prostrate, how can anybody tell which one of the lizards has a stomach ache?” This means that the fact that products and services abound in the society does not imply that all those products and services are up to standard and good enough for consumption. There must be a way of distinguishing standard and genuine products and services from non-standard and fake ones. The need for this distinguishing factor formed the basis for Accreditation. Accreditation, however, must not stop at just establishing the difference between the genuine and fake product or service. It should and indeed does go beyond that to the extent of prohibiting the existence or availability of the fake and counterfeit products. This is so as to protect the public and the environment from potential harm from the unacceptable products and services.

Accreditation must be a regular thing. It must not be a one-off thing – once a product or service is accredited it remains so ad infinitum. It is common in Nigeria to see substandard products and services carrying Accreditation Certificates. It becomes more worrisome when the layman on the street can discern this anomaly. Nothing can be so confidence-eroding as this. It is very possible that a product or service which scaled the Accreditation hurdle and got the certification could with time slip back on its quality control mechanism or in some other way lose its once assumed status and no longer be worthy of the Accreditation it had achieved at a time. In such a situation it would be grossly immoral for the product or service to continue to carry on as an accredited one, in other words, living on past glory. This exercise in self deceit if not checked could lead to undesirable consequences just to say the least. Granted that Accreditation usually has a life-span and is subject to renewal thereafter, this worrisome scenario quite often plays out within the Accreditation life-span.

Monitoring is an indispensable tool for Accreditation. In fact every Regulatory Body employs monitoring as its key to success. Without monitoring, Accreditation would be a child’s play, a cat and mouse game. The limitation in monitoring, as always, is the cost implication and of course the logistics. Whenever monitoring is lacking the recurring excuse is lack of funds. And things continue to deteriorate in the society. For how long must this situation be allowed to go on! For Accreditation to be worth its essence serious consideration must be given to the issue of monitoring – regular monitoring at that. One looks forward to a time when within the life-span of an Accreditation Certificate, the product manufacturer or service provider is monitored a lot more times so as to eliminateor at least curtail the practice of hiding under the cover of the Certificate to provide substandard service thereby compromising public safety.

Synergy is one salient key that is yet to be fully exploited in Nigeria. We have the tendency to be working alone. Once a body is established and empowered to operate it assumes a kind of almighty status, shielding itself from external view and not wanting to have anything to do with another body even if similarly established in its own area of coverage. There are even instances of regulatory bodies working against one another. Going it alone has become an obsolete practice in the international setting. Globalisation is the current trend. Globalisation goes with Partnership which is synonymous with Synergy. This is what is being preached in every facet of human endeavour especially when it has to do with the public and the environment. It is a misconception that Partnership is indicative of incompetence. On the contrary, Partnership or Synergy is rather a mark of strength and vision and a precursor to effectiveness, proficiency and ultimate success. Partnership exposes one to other areas and aspects of the work. It presents new frontiers and opens vast opportunities for improvement and possible diversification of service and operation. The advantages of Synergy and Partnership are quite enormous. In this age of Information Technology Partnership helps to launch one into the international environment and eventually to international reckoning. The Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria, ISPON, is always disposed to partnering with legitimate and serious organisations in striving to achieve the set objectives and attaining greater heights. Statutory organisations like the Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria and others especially in the regulatory sector are welcome for such collaboration. We have done it with a good number of organisations and can do it with your organisation too. We have to understand ourselves and our responsibilities better and Partnership/Synergy remains a veritable vehicle for facilitating this understanding. There is a lot we can do for each other and our various organisations and the society in general stand to benefit through our working together. Not to say the least, the goal of national development will be a short while away from being achieved through well conceived and worked out Partnership.

Capacity Building is another necessary ingredient to attaining a higher level of service delivery in Accreditation. There is hardly any establishment that can boast of adequate manpower to execute its mandate effectively. But even where the manpower is available there is still the issue of lack of training and regular refresher courses. This accounts largely for the lack of progress in the system generally since the methods still in operation are out-dated and anachronistic. It is not surprising that some of our establishments still have not gone digital in their operations. They still depend on the analogue system which makes service delivery very slow and cumbersome. If we must make a head-way in ourvarious areas of service and calling we must give serious consideration to capacity building. Individuals must begin to think of self improvement in a situation that the organisation is not forthcoming with the necessary training opportunities. Updating our knowledge not only enhances our performance on the job, it also makes us keep abreast of contemporary trends thereby increasing our value potential i.e. our marketability. Besides, knowledge acquired can never be lost or taken away. It will always belong to the individual.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the time is rather overdue for a paradigm shift in our thinking and perception. From all the foregoing there is no gainsaying that we need to chart a new course, going forward. Safety as we often say in our own domain is everybody’s concern if not everybody’s business. We must come together and work together in order to progress together. This is the only way we can Deliver a Safer World through Accreditation.

I thank you most sincerely for giving me the opportunity to speak at this auspicious occasion and even more for the honour of listening. It is my honest desire that Accreditation as a statutory function attains its desired height in the foreseeable future and I lend myself as well as pledge the support and cooperation of my organisation, the Institute of Safety Professional of Nigeria (ISPON), towards this. I wish all of us a Happy World Accreditation Day and a Safer World.

DR. NNAMDI ILODIUBA FISPN, FNIS, CPP, PCI, DP, CSC, CPO
NATIONAL PRESIDENT
INSTITUTE OF SAFETY PROFESSIONALS OF NIGERIA (ISPON)