The Department of Weights and Measures in the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment has sealed 32 petrol and gas outlets in Abia for various infractions, including operating without certificate.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that a team from the department was in the state for a weeklong surveillance and enforcement of compliance in the usage of accurate weights and measures.
Saka Gafar, an Assistant Director in the Ministry and Head of the team, said on Saturday that the mission of the team was to ensure accuracy of equipment for stations and markets that used weights and measures.
Gafar told NAN in Umuahia that the team visited 92 petrol and gas outlets in addition to an abattoir during the exercise that ended on Friday.
He said the team sealed five stations in Umuahia and 27 in the commercial city of Aba and its environs.
He alleged that the stations were operating without certificate from the agency for their weights and measures and failed to pay statutory fees.
He added that some of them were committing errors in measurement.
He said it was mandatory for prospective operators to obtain certificate for their weights and measures before opening to the public.
Gafar said: “Many petrol and gas dealers as well as butchers do not have our certificate.
“They are serving the public without certified weights and measures.”
He added that some of them were under-dispensing products to unsuspecting customers.
He said: “Before going into any business that uses weights and measures, dealers should apply to the department for us to visit and inspect their equipment to know whether they are approved for use in Nigeria.
“When we have confirmed their equipment as appropriate and accurate, then approval will be given and certificate will be issued after they have paid the statutory fees.
“In Abia, we observed that some paid but many did not, and after they were notified, they continued to give excuses, thus evading tax payment to the Federal Government.”
Gafar said some defaulters claimed to have paid the fees but showed no evidence.
He said: “Once they are able to show proof of payment, we will unseal their outlets.”
He said the department would first invite defaulters to its office, where they would be cautioned and educated on the right things to do.
“If they fail to come, then we prepare a memo to the legal department to start the process to prosecute them,” he said.
Gafar further said the team observed that butchers at the Waterside Abattoir, Aba were selling meat without scale.
“Some customers said they preferred to negotiate price for meat rather than use scale, which usually have a fixed amount,” he said.
The South-East Zonal Coordinator of the agency, Cordelia Nwachukwu, said findings showed that the zone was lagging behind in the use of measures for business transactions.
Nwachukwu said: “Here, measures are not standardised.
“We want to ensure that if you are buying grains in Aba with measures, the standard will be the same in Umuahia or Ohafia.”
She regretted that although the Abia State Government introduced the policy a few years ago, it failed.
“It is the duty of our agency, in liaison with state governments, to enforce the Weights and Measures Act, 2004 (item 65) as amended,” Nwachukwu said.
She promised that the zonal office would carry out quarterly inspection in the five states in the zone to create more awareness about its operations.
“We want Weights and Measures to become a household name in the zone,” she said.