*Certifies Domino, Flour Mills, Rites Foods, 140 other products in 7 years
* We are dedicated to promotion of Halal (permissible) products, based on Shari’ah – Prof Oreagba
* Why some products fail certification – Dr. Ajani
Many Nigerians buy certain products and find the halal (حلال) logo on them but they barely know the source of this logo.
The Halal Certification Authority (HCA), a faith-based products certification body, is the brain behind the halal logo found on some products in Nigeria.
Having carried out audit operations for well over 6 years, HCA is at the forefront of scrutinising the quality and safety of products, in accordance with the dictates of the shari’ah.
HCA has organised several seminars to increase the awareness of people and raise citizens’ consciousness on halal certification.
In 2019, it co-hosted an awareness seminar on the halal industry in Kano and Lagos, where different scholars dissected the inherent benefits in the industry.
Similarly, in 2020, HCA was part of a roundtable discussion convened by the Halal Compliance and Food Safety (HaCFoS) Limited on the sustainability of the halal industry.
In the last three years, HCA has invited scholars from across the globe to the International Halal Seminar and Exhibition where they dissected the prospects of the global halal industry and the opportunities abound in it for Nigeria.
The foremost halal certification body in Nigeria has continued to take innovative steps to ensure that Nigerian Muslims consume what is halal and safe.
A few weeks ago, HCA revalidated the certificates of the products of a major industry player Rites Foods Limited, manufacturers of varieties of carbonated soft drinks, such as Bigi Cola, Bigi Apple, Bigi Tropical, etc – a development that drew commendations from people both home and abroad. Their new product, Sosa drink was also certified.
In an exclusive joint interview with Muslim News, the Chairman of Halal Certification Authority, Prof. Ibrahim Oreagba and the General Secretary, Dr. Sakirdeen Ajani, revealed that they have built a client base of close to 70 companies within the short period of existence.
Prof. Oreagba, a Professor in the Department of Pharmacology Therapeutics and Toxicology, College of Medicine University of Lagos Idi-Araba, explained the various processes involved in the halal certification, saying the body ensures products are of high quality and safe for consumption.
Introducing the Halal Certification Authority, Oreagba said HCA is a non-governmental organisation dedicated to promoting what is permissible based on the shari’ah.
“We ensure that the generality of the people of Nigeria and outside Nigeria (Sub-Sahara Africa) have access to quality food and beverages, lifestyle and materials. Halal is not only about food and beverages; it’s also a way of life. HCA was set up to ensure that all the products we consume, both the Muslim and non-Muslim communities, are of high quality. That means once HCA certifies a product, then it is safe for consumption. That is in addition to other regulatory bodies (NAFDAC, SON) certifying the product. ”
The president explained that HCA collaborates with organisations and institutions that share similar vision with it, including the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON).
“We also have partnerships with halal bodies outside of Nigeria, like the Halal Food Authority in the UK; Halal Development Corporation in Malaysia, to mention a few,” he added.
Prof. Oreagba said their experience has shown that even non-Muslims subscribe to halal products despite Muslims being the primary beneficiaries.
He said, “The halal logo is a symbol of quality. It shows that the product has undergone the process of halal certification. We certify products in two ways. First is based on the fact that it is of high quality. Second is based on the fact that it does not contain anything that is forbidden according to the shari’ah. So, the product is wholesome and permissible for consumption by Muslims.
@newrestgroup ASL is a multi-sector catering company in #Nigeria specializing in out-of-home food services for the hospitality, aviation, mining and corporate sectors. It is a multi-sector catering company with service footprint in 49 countries around the world. pic.twitter.com/zVrLYItCGG
— Halal Certification Authority (@halalcertng) December 5, 2023
“Muslims are our primary beneficiaries. What we see nowadays, however, is that non-Muslims subscribe to halal, many of them within and outside the country. They prefer to take halal because they know that before the product is certified as halal, it must have gone through additional stringent scrutiny on quality and safety.”
Dr. Ajani, on his part, disclosed that HCA has certified about 140 products in Nigeria, including Flour Mills, Domino’s Pizza, NASCO Foods, Honeywell Flour Mills, Golden Pasta & Noodles, among others.
He also explained the steps involved in certifying a product as Halal, emphasising thorough and diligent investigations.
“We have close to 70 clients now. Each client may come up with about three, four products. So, if we are to look at the product-base, we will be talking of well over 100 products. Take for instance, the Flour Mills which has about nine different products. They have the premium cassava, which produces garri; premium edible oil, which produces vegetable oil, margarine, choco. So, if we are to look at it in terms of products, we will be talking of 140 products thereabouts.
“Now, the processes involved in certifying a product by our organisation is that our clients show their intention by way of writing us. On a more serious note, what has been selling us mostly has to do with the contents on our website and our activities. So, the clients write to us indicating their interest. Then, we do adequacy audit of the documents sent to us.
“We give them a form after their letter, where we request a number of things. Once the adequacy audit is done and it meets our standard, there would be a price quote. The price quote mostly has to do with the number of products. Products that are oil-based and those that are not oil-based have different quotes because of the laborious job involved in the oil-based products.
“So, once we agree on the price quote, we fix the day of the audit. Before fixing, they must have paid. Prior to fixing a date, at times, we do background check on the industry. We look at what they are doing and if they are people we can certify or not. After the background check, we fix a date and the audit proper commences. We are very cautious of new potential clients because many things are going on in our environment.
@halalcertng Halal Certification Authority Team @SherifI48695784 and Mrs Kabirat Ajani with the management and staff of Durante @fish_ltd during a recent #HalalCertification Audit #Halal #HalalCertified #halalfood pic.twitter.com/NqGzejdtvW
— Halal Certification Authority (@halalcertng) November 17, 2023
“Basically, what the audit proper entails is that we have an opening meeting with the client, do a facility tour, check their various documents and collect samples for analysis. At the end of the day, there will be a closing meeting to provide feedback on the audit exercise. A detailed report will also be submitted thereafter to which they are expected to return what we call corrective action plan because we must have observed so many things in the process of the audit, which bother on the quality of the product and more importantly the Halal critical points which make the Halal logo to be worthwhile.
“We also do analysis of the product. In a final product, many additives go into it. The origin of such additives need to be known. It is these additives that make the final product.”
The HCA Secretary said they have had to disembark from certifying certain products after failing to comply with the recommendations of the Halal body.
“We have had times where the product is not certified. We won’t mention names. We had a client from one of the south west states whose product had quality issues. When our report was sent to them, they were asked to look into the areas bothering on quality. But they insisted that is what they could do. So, we had to return their money to them.
“We have major and minor non-conformances. In their case, it was a minor non-conformance. But they insisted they wouldn’t take care of those little things. So, we didn’t put our certification logo on their product. We had one or two other cases like that,” he said.
Halal encompasses tourism, fashion
Prof. Oreagba further said Halal certification goes beyond food and beverages, adding that it encompasses tourism, packaging, fashion, pharmaceuticals and other services.
“Apart from food and beverages, we also certify packagings of the final product. When you package food for example, you are already trying to guarantee the safety of the food inside. So, the packaging must be of high quality and permissible since there is a direct contact with the food via the packaging — cartons, plastics and all of those kinds of materials that we use as containers for food and beverages.
“Then, apart from that, we also certify the hospitality industry like tourism, guest houses, hotels etc where people can go in and consume what is Halal and also have an environment of Halal. In a Halal guest house for instance, you can find in the rooms, the qibla direction, a praying mat, Qur’an to mention a few. Halal has keyed into the hospitality industry many years ago in several countries. But in Nigeria, this is a big gap and great opportunity for investors. I think we only have one or two hotel owners that have applied for Halal Certification and we are working with them.
“In the pharmaceutical industry, we have Halal pharmaceuticals too. We have worked with a few clients in Nigeria to certify their pharmaceuticals. There are certain pharmaceutical ingredients that are not permissible in Islam based on the Shari’ah. Our duty is to ensure that Muslims are aware of these pharmaceuticals and are able to find alternatives. So, we take extra care when it comes to pharmaceuticals to ensure that we guarantee their products halal.
“We also have Halal fashion which promotes modest and yet elegant dressing style. This has positively influenced the lifestyle of both male and female individual. If you have a sample of what people wear nowadays, you realise that a lot of people are trending towards the Halal fashion than the conventional fashion because of the advantages and benefits inherent in Halal fashion.
“We also have Halal services like logistics. When you transport products from one area to the other, it must be certified Halal because along the value chain, if you are not careful, you may break that chain of quality. When you have a Halal product, transferring it form one place to another, you must maintain its integrity. Therefore, we also have halal logistics. These are a few areas one can key into for Halal certification.”
— Halal Certification Authority (@halalcertng) November 14, 2023
Building on the explanation of the Chairman, Dr. Ajani, a Deputy Director (Packaging Technology Division) at Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi, listed a prominent player in the hospitality industry as their client at HCA.
He said, “We have clients in the area of tourism such as the Oasis Executive Lounge, the lounge is where you have nationals of different countries come around. We need to look at the processes, the services rendered there, how do we make it in tandem with the requirements of Halal.”
He also identified some eateries that are in the client base of HCA, like Domino’s Pizza, explaining that the pepperoni in her Pizza is not a product of pork as wrongly assumed by many people.
“We have eateries, for example Jay’s Diner who produce food from 6pm to 6am. Burger Kings under allied food and confectionery are also coming up.”
Govt’s involvement in the Halal industry
Speaking on the involvement of Nigeria’s government in the Halal industry, Prof. Oreagba acknowledged that the previous administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari was building a policy framework for Halal which went as far as the validation stage. He said HCA was one of the major stakeholders invited to be a part of the process.
“Under Halal, you’ll be talking of standards, which is under the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON). SON is under the Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment. The ministry saw the need for a policy framework. There is a National Committee on Road Map to Halal in Nigeria. We were invited to it based on our activities. We are one of the members of that committee. We put various policies in place, and it went as far as the stage of validation under the last administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Now, we have a new administration and a new minister who may not even be looking in that direction. That’s a challenge. Halal is big business. We are not looking at food alone. We are talking about halal finance, halal pharmaceuticals and the likes.
@halalcertng Auditors Dr. AbdulAzeez Ajala and Sherif Ibrahim today conducting a audit at @dominosng
After a successful #HalalAudit of production process, @Dominos Pizza Nigeria would be recertified #Halal#halalfood #HalalCertified #eathalal pic.twitter.com/H1W5Jc4mY7
— Halal Certification Authority (@halalcertng) September 26, 2023
“The involvement of government in Halal is at the infant stage because Halal ecosystem itself is very young (about six to seven years) HCA is at the forefront in the area of certification in the country. The only thing I think came up a few months back was the formation of a technical committee to put in place standards on Halal foods, which we started last month. It is a fallout of the earlier policy I mentioned.”
Prof. Oreagba advised the Nigerian government not to be directly involved in Halal certification but rather play a regulatory role. He is of the opinion that the sector should be left to private players like HCA who can drive it better.
“Government wants to be involved in Halal certification itself, but members of the committee are saying it may not be worthwhile. Government should leave it for private players who can drive it better. Those are the areas I think we may be facing challenges, but we are still on it actually. They say government has no business in business. This is for them to allow businesses to grow. HCA is a business; if the government gets involved in certification of products, they are likely to have conflict of interests. But we have been working together with government. As it is, we are trying our best to ensure that the said policy sees the light of the day.”
Low awareness among Muslims
Dr. Ajani meanwhile lamented the low awareness of Muslims on Halal certification, noting that HCA has been organising several awareness programmes to keep the Ummah informed.
He also expressed concerns on the trend of Halal logos that are not traceable to any organisation, calling it a deceit the people must watch out for in patronising products.
“We are also concerned about the issue of awareness. There is very low awareness about Halal amongst the Muslim Ummah. If the Ummah has the right understanding of Halal, then they must demand for Halal products. When they demand for Halal, then the manufacturers will subscribe to Halal. The awareness is getting better in the northern part of the country. But there is still a lot of ignorance concerning Halal in the country generally.
“The second aspect is that there are certain Halal logos that are not traceable. People just put them on the products, and they are not traceable to anywhere. It is a form of deceit. So, if people are not aware that a logo must be traceable to a Halal certification body, then they may be buying something that is not really Halal. Those are the few challenges we are looking at.
“We have been doing a lot of training and awareness campaigns. We partnered with a Afrexpo and Islamic Chamber Halal Services (Turkey) at Landmark event center in Victoria Island Lagos recently, to organise a Halal conference and exhibition tagged “Halal EXPO Nigeria 2023” where we served as resource persons and showcased Halal. We are also planning our fourth international Halal seminar and exhibition next year as a way of educating the people and convincing them on why they should subscribe to Halal both the Muslims and the non-Muslims.”
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