The Director General of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Babatunde Irukera, has insisted that businesses in the country must be responsive to consumer grievances and must institutionalize and prioritize complaint resolution policies and mechanism, stressing that this is the hallmark of company and brand reputation.
Irukera noted that the current regime was unsustainable as it is tantamount to government subsidizing business, stating that the CPC should not substitute company customer care as a multi-company customer service desk.
Specifically, he opined that businesses have factored the cost of complaint resolution into their profitability and as such should not outsource it to the government, while underscoring the important role of the CPC in ensuring resolution that is fair and equitable.
The director general made the assertion while a more collaborative relationship with the Civil Society, Consumer Protection Associations (CPAs), Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Community-Based Organisations (CBOs) at a round-table session organized by the Council in Abuja.
He argued that “companies have both commercial and social contracts with consumers. to companies, they customers, not consumers.
On the motive behind the round table forum, Irukera asserted that the Council seeks an effective partnership with the civil society for robust protection of consumers across our vast country.
According to him, “any credible and people-oriented leadership will embrace civil society and as such for me, an engagement with those in civil society is paramount”.
As part of the new engagement, the director general disclosed that the Council was implementing a more stringent registration process for CSOs, NGOs, CBOs and CPAs, explaining that the additional scrutiny is to ensure the integrity and credibility of both the Council and its partners.
Irukera, while fielding questions from reporters after addressing the session, said “the most important thing to achieve from here is to first of all, let the civil society generally know that we believe that the shared burden of consumer protection is something that we must continue to emphasise and highlight and to also create a network where we are exchanging and ideas and direction.”
Also speaking at the event, the representative of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), Professor Abimbola Uzomah observed that the work of consumer protection should not be left to the Council alone, emphasizing that it was the responsibility of every Nigerian consumer to entrench a virile consumer protection in Nigeria.
Uzomah, who said market-place abuse has become so prevalent in Nigeria because of consumer apathy, commended the Council for organising the strategic engagement with NGOs, CBOs and other relevant stakeholders with the aim of extending consumer education to the grassroots.
The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) has assured that it will ensure all interests are balanced in the enforcement of the provisions of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 for the protection of consumers.
CPC’s Director General, Babatunde Irukera made the assertion on Wednesday (July 19, 2017) at the Council’s headquarters in Abuja when a delegation of the Nigerian Tobacco Control Alliance led by the Chairman of the alliance Governing Board, who is also the Deputy Director of the Environmental Rights Action, Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi and the Sub-Regional Coordinator, West Africa, of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Mrs. Hilda Ochefu, paid him a courtesy call.
The Alliance visited the Council’s chief executive to request the organisation to play a pivotal role in the enforcement of the nine provisions of the National Tobacco Control Act, among others.
The Director General, while responding to the tobacco control community’s request, asserted that “we have a responsibility to enforce every enactment for the protection of consumers in Nigeria and so the tobacco control Act falls within our mandate and we intend to enforce that”.
He said as far as the Council is concerned the welfare of consumers in the country remains its primary focus and as such the Council would do all that is necessary within the ambit of law to protect them while preserving their right to choice.
According to him, “as far as we are concerned, the law is supreme, and one of the things we try to convey to industry is that consumer is king and we will continue to treat consumers with the royalty they deserve in whatever it is that we would do.
“There is a national tobacco control policy, which we are quite aware of. We recognise the need to collaborate with other regulators. For instance, we know that the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) is responsible for standards whether it’s the chemical components standards or the packaging and labeling standards. It appears that the Tobacco Control Act makes some fundamental provisions that might affect those. We are studying the provisions and we are looking at what the roles of the Consumer Protection Council should be with respect to them, and what the relationship between what the Act says and what the existing Nigerian National Industrial Standards (NIS) stipulates,” he stated.
Irukera told the tobacco alliance delegation that CPC is quite conscious of its role of protecting consumers “sometimes even from themselves”, stressing that “certainly our role is to protect people in the choices they make and allow them to make those choices, and also to protect those who may be exposed to potential injury on account of the choices that other people make”.
He further clarified the position of the Council as a regulator, which according to him, is to ensure regulations and laws guiding the industry are strictly adhered to for the protection of consumers.
The director general said: “We recognize and respect your position as a civil society organisation and that your role is essentially anti-tobacco, and we respect that. But you must recognize that our role as a regulator is not anti-tobacco. Our role as a regulator is to balance the field and to protect consumers and indeed we will do that, because there are people who consume the product that you are against, whom we also have an obligation to protect.
“We understand all the different dimensions of the obligations that the law imposes on us, but rest assured that with respect to that balanced approach to regulation, you will always have a partner in us. It doesn’t mean we will necessarily always agree, but to the extent that the objective is the same, you can be sure that we will be there to fulfill what we believe are our obligations”, he emphasised.
Earlier, the tobacco alliance delegation had told the director general that Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are ready to partner with the Council to build the capacity of its staff to play necessary roles in enforcing the nine provisions of the Act announced by the Minister of Health.
The delegation also charged the Council to use its structure to drive the enforcement of the nine provisions; to champion the cause of smoke-free Nigeria; to support a quick adoption of the tobacco control regulation by the National Assembly; and to stand for an increase of tobacco taxes to discourage youth initiation as well as to boost government revenue.
The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) and the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) have commenced a process for the formulation of an acceptable Guide to regulate interaction between patients and medical doctors in the country.
The proposed Guide to be known as Patients’ Bill of Rights will identify rights and privileges in a patient-care giver relationship for the protection of consumers.
The Council and the medical association agreed to develop this Guide when the President of NMA, Professor Mike Ogirima led members of his Executive team to pay a courtesy call on the Director General of the Council, Babatunde Irukera, at the Council’s office in Abuja over the weekend.
A Standing Committee, drawing membership from the association and the consumer protection agency, was created at the meeting to immediately advance the finalisation of the document andto expand key areas of collaboration for the promotion of high standards of care and patients’ protection.
Speaking during the visit, CPC’s director general said it is imperative that the two organisations collaborate and jointly disseminate these rights to consumers to promote higher and safer healthcare standards.
Irukera said: “We need to ensure people know their rights - the right to information, proper explanation of their medical situation in a language they understand; the right to control decision-making with respect to their treatment regiment; the right to know when to, where to and how to secure a second opinion, if desired”.
He asserted that the introduction of the Bill of Rights in Nigeria is long overdue, noting that “nothing improves standards more than consumers demanding it and asking questions”.
Irukera and the NMA president underscored the urgency of the need for the Guide when they mutually set a June 2017 deadline for a final draft of the Bill of Rights, just as they also agreed that a short form of the Bill of Rights should be displayed at all public and private healthcare facilities in the country.
Irukera told the visiting NMA’s delegation: “Your industry does not permit any error. The legal industry to which I belong provides successful appeals as many other industries also have built-in redundancies; this is not the case in medicine, which although investigative, requires absolute precision.
He added: “It is tragic that doctors can go on strike. I recognise the fundamentals that are subjects of some of the strikes. However, I have never been able to reconcile the potential and irreversible loss that can and does happen when these strikes occur. One needless permanent injury or death is one too much. We must not trivialize life. I think the rightful partner in reinforcing that message of sanctity of life is the Nigerian Medical Association. For many, saving lives is a motto, but in medicine, it is an obligation”.
The director general also raised the possibility of the association establishing a Victims’ Compensation Fund from which aggrieved patients or their families may receive some succour for professional malpractice.
The NMA President also called on CPC to support re-orientation retreats for the association’s members and other health workers in order to remind them of their sworn oath, which he said “the trends in the society are fast eroding on a continuous basis”.
Similarly, Professor Ogirima also thanked and sought CPC support with respect to the on-going advocacy to make health insurance universal and compulsory.
In a move to provide more succour to aggrieved consumers of beverages and food, the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) and the Association of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employers (AFBTE) agreed to raise a technical committee to develop a mutually acceptable compensation code to address consumer abuse in the sector.
The decision to set up the technical committee was taken during the courtesy call of the association on the new Director General of CPC, Mr. Tunde Irukera, at the Council’s headquarters in Abuja.
Mr. Irukera, while commenting on the decision, observed that the code would modify the attitude and responses of the 100 industries that are members of the association to complaints of aggrieved consumers in the sector.
The director general hinted that “the reality is that we have an aggressive consumer protection agency which frankly we must have, regardless of whatever approach one must take to protect the consumer and we have a responsibility to protect the consumer, to the extent of coming up with an approach that is in the interest of those consumers.
“So having to use a compensation policy as an example, if a consumer were to complain about a product, claiming that it made him ill, we could obviously come together and work with an acceptable methodology that would be fairer and more predictable across the board, rather than when a complaint occurs and gets out of hand... if we work together, we can come up with something that would be acceptable across the board and you can go and percolate it as a kind of voluntary guide, and whoever doesn’t want to abide by it, that’s ok, but at least we should have something that we can work with. And in that regard we will be happy to work with you on mutually acceptable implementations and come up with key issues in respect to consumer protection” he said.
The CPC’s director general said the Council would be willing to collaborate effectively with the association because of its widespread influence in almost every home, noting that “I have found that professional and trade associations like this, when they are very strong, are perhaps the best partners because you can affect consumers far more when you come to some understanding with the association and they go back to enforce it within themselves than dealing with each member”.
While asserting that he would always respect individual brands and their prerogative to protect themselves, he emphasised that “integrity of your brand is also in the interest of Consumer Protection Council because anything that affects the integrity of your brand also affects consumer confidence.
“Certainly, one thing the Council will want to promote is consumer confidence. We want consumers to be confident of choices they make and the products they consume. It will be helpful also when there are issues to work on to recognise that we are on the same page with respect to brand confidence. That flows from the point I want to make with respect to fake products, we can approach that in a collaborative way in the sense that we would like to protect the integrity of your brand so that we are sure consumers are getting the right products”, he added.
On the importance of the association, Irukera observed: “If there is any association that its members are in every home as early as , it is your association. If there is an industry that affects humanity more than any other, it is yours. Every single person in the country is eating or drinking something. So for that reason, I thought it is vital that I immediately prioritise meeting with your association. From a strategic stand-point and from a road-map or blueprint standpoint, your industry is number one”.
He emphasised that regulatory work is more effective when there is collaboration, noting that “the interesting thing about consumer protection is that both the operator and the regulator have the same focus, which is the consumer” and that if the regulator and the operator have the same objective of making the consumer happier, “then we are likely to always have a meeting ground than we have now”.
Earlier, the AFBTE’s President, Mr. Fred Chiazor, had appealed to the Council’s new director general to collaborate with the association with a view to getting faster and deeper enforcement of consumer protection regime in the sector.
According to him, “our major plea is that if there are issues that come up as time goes on, that we be notified immediately through our association. We want to help the CPC to succeed. We are usually very proactive and if there are areas you want us to work with you, we are ready to do that.
“Currently in some agencies, we have a joint committee where we look into issues jointly because we don’t believe in a police and criminal kind of relationship, and we are not saying we want to partner to make you overlook certain key things. No, we will do the right things, and that’s why we said we should come on this visit and tell you about ourselves most importantly, to welcome you on board and we are happy you are here and believe that it’s like divine intervention and God keeping us all alive, we will see that this agency succeeds and does what its mandate is supposed to be” Chiazor added.
The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) are collaborating to seek redress for students of Glisten International College, Abuja, from Turkish Airlines over their delayed flight from Houston, USA, to Abuja.
The Director General, Consumer Protection Council, Mr. Babatunde Irukera disclosed this at a forum with representatives of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) in Abuja.
Addressing journalists in Abuja, CPC and NCAA said they had opened an inquiry into why the airline delayed the students’ flight from Houston to Istanbul by two hours and why it was negligent in meeting its responsibilities when the students had missed their connecting flight from Istanbul to Abuja.
The Director General of the CPC, Mr. Babatunde Irukera, said the 22 students had attended a Lego Competition in the United States and had hoped to return to Nigeria by Turkish Airlines, which was scheduled to do a stopover at Istanbul for the students to take a connecting flight to Abuja. He said that the delay in Houston, Texas, ultimately resulted in the students missing their connecting flight to Abuja, and it was required of the airline, in line with global best practices, to take responsibility of the students’ accommodation and feeding while in Istanbul.
Mr. Irukera asserted that “it was expected that Turkish Airline, as a matter of law and as a matter of responsibility, would take the responsibility to protect these young people and make appropriate provisions but the report we have from Glisten School, which is the school where the students come from, is that when they arrived at Istanbul, Turkish Airline had not made any arrangement in respect to their continued connection to Abuja”.
Speaking further, he said that “Rules required that the airline would have taken responsibility for that, however, that didn’t happen. These minors and their chaperons were asked to pay to secure a visa to be able to enter Turkey, and at some point, every single one of them had to pay a forty dollars fee just to be able to exit the staging area which is the gate area of the airport.”
The Director General stated that the Council was collaborating with relevant agencies to ensure that consumer rights were no longer taken for granted, adding that “one of the things the CPC is coming up with is an expanded interactive complaint portal.”
“Sooner than later we intend to deploy a mobile application that allows you to complain, essentially what we will do is to make sure that expressing your grievances is not only at no cost but at an extremely convenient manner,” Irukera stated.
On his part, the Director, Consumer Protection Department of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Alhaji Adamu Abdullahi explained that an investigation into this incident was underway.
In his words, “it is according to the regulations of the NCAA that this flight terminates in Nigeria so therefore we have jurisdiction over how passengers on that flight are treated so that is their responsibility and we will ensure that we get to the bottom of it, and find out what it is that happened and the relevant compensations when and if they are applicable will have to be paid and sanctions where applicable will also have to be paid by the airline.”
Alhaji Abdullahi said that the NCAA would collaborate with the CPC to ensure that the affected students obtained redress, pointing out that the airline had been notified, enquiries sought and the responses to these enquiries would determine both agencies’ next line of action.
Both agencies reiterated their commitment to protecting consumers in the aviation sector and urged consumers to always complain to the necessary authorities whenever they feel their rights have been abused.
The wife of the President, Mrs. Aisha Buhari has charged Nigerians to always understand their rights as consumers in order to stand up to market abuses which undermine those rights.
Mrs.Buhari said the rights of the consumer must be protected at all times and that those on the wrong side of the law must be made to understand that their rights come to an end where the rights of the consumer begin.
Mrs.Buhari, who was represented by the wife of the Governor of Nasarawa state, Mrs.MairoTankoAlmakura, gave the charge during her investiture as Consumer Ambassador of Nigeria by the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) at an event organized by the Council to mark the 2017 World Consumer Rights Day on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 in Abuja.
Mrs.Buhari thanked the Management of the Consumer Protection Council for investing her, saying that the campaign for consumer rights is a noble cause and assured the Council of her support and commitment towards driving the campaign.
Earlier, the Director General of the Council, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, asserted that ignorance is one the biggest banes of Nigerian consumers.
Mrs.Atoki made the assertion on Wednesday during the flag off of the commemoration of 2017 World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) where an investiture of the Wife of the President, Hajia Aisha MuhammaduBuhari as the Nigerian Consumer Ambassador was conducted.
She stated that concerted efforts of all well-meaning Nigerians would be needed to overturn ignorance confronting the Nigerian consumer, pointing out that this informed the investiture of the wife of the president.
According to her, CPC’s mandate for the promotion and protection of the rights of consumers in all areas of their consumption in Nigeria “informed the decision taken on behalf of the Nigerian consumer community to invest the Wife of Mr. President, Her Excellency, Hajiya Aisha Buhari, as a Nigerian Consumer Ambassador.
“CPC believes that the core of its mandate, which is the empowerment of Nigeria's over 170 million consumers, including women and children, falls squarely within the realm of Her Excellency's passion for women and children empowerment. CPC reckons with Her Excellency as a role model and mother of the nation, who has demonstrated unwavering interest and shown great zeal in the empowerment of women” she added.
The DG lauded the role played by the President’s wife in alleviating the plight of internally displaced persons in the north eastern part of the country, who she said were predominantly women and children, by raising funds through her intellectual property away from government resources to meet their needs.
The CPC boss observed that “incidentally, women constitute the largest consumer block in the economy, by virtue of their innate ability and God-given role of making purchase decisions as well as in catering for the needs of the family”.
She added: “We are therefore convinced that if Her Excellency, Hajia Aisha Buhari, will, as Nigerian Consumer Ambassador, bring her passion to bear on the education of consumers, a large population of our citizens, particularly women, will be sensitised to their consumer rights and responsibilities in a very short time”.
Mrs.Atoki disclosed that CPC has not only drawn up a programme to undertake widespread grassroots sensitisation campaign across the country, but has also identified different civil society organisations, including women associations, as contact groups for the campaign in its drive to improve consumer awareness in the country.
She said the exhibition, which the President’s wife inspected to flag off the 2017 commemoration was designed to “foster interaction between consumers, producers and service providers in the digital technology industry”, adding that “a workshop featuring major players in the digital technology industry will be held at this same venue tomorrow (Thursday) to discuss the impact of digital technology as well as provide the necessary guide to consumers on how to operate safely in the digital world”.
CPC commences investigation into safety of additives in NBC’s Fanta and Sprite
The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) has instituted an investigation into the safety of addictives in Nigerian Bottling Company’s Fanta and Sprite with a view to safeguarding consumers.
The Council’s action came on the heels of a recent court judgment which alleged that consumption of Fanta and Sprite, two products of Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC), could be harmful if taken with Vitamin C, the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) has instituted an investigation into the issue with a view to safeguarding consumers.
Announcing the Council’s position to the media , CPC’s Director General, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, pointed out that the investigation became inevitable in view of the safety issue raised by the judgment.
Mrs. Atoki stated that the Council “is keenly interested and extremely concerned about the questions that have arisen from, and on account of this judgement”, adding that “as such upon the discoveries therein, the CPC is launching a broad and detailed investigation as a matter of urgency”.
She said: “Indeed the judgement only serves as the subject of bringing this information to CPC’s attention, the Council would conduct its own independent investigation. The reason for CPC’s interest is not far-fetched. For years, Fanta, Sprite and Coca Cola have arguably and consistently been the most widely consumed beverages in Nigeria. The spectrum of consumption is also perhaps the widest, with consumption starting as early as age four and far into adult years.
“In addition, Vitamin C is one of the most consumed medications for both children and adults, both as a matter of prescription/ over the counter and, or as dietary supplement. Essentially, both the NBC products and Vitamin C are routinely consumed in Nigeria with absolutely no restrictions to access and availability” she added.
The director general hinted that the key questions in the investigation would include “Is Sprite/Fanta at the time of production potentially harmful to consumers when consumed with Vitamin C? If yes, what is NBC’s obligation to consumers and has NBC fully discharged that obligation?”, adding that “pursuant to the Consumer Protection Council Act, the Council is interested in discovering what steps if any, NBC took after the testing and confiscation of Fanta and Sprite by the United Kingdom’s authorities”.
While fielding questions from journalists at the press conference, Mrs. Atoki asserted that it would be hasty for CPC to make any categorical directive to consumers on the products without carrying out the necessary investigations.
She disclosed that the Council had already engaged NBC in furtherance of the investigation, stating that the bottling company has been given seven days to respond to “us because we asked them for a lot of documentation.
“We want to be free and fair. We do not want to base our decisions on what someone else has analysed. We have given them seven days within which to provide this information. And let me say that this will also involve us inviting experts to testify as to the various components and the effect on the consumers” Mrs. Atoki stated.
On the time frame for the investigation, she said: “To say that it will take two to three weeks or even a month, I may not be able to say so, but because of the urgency, we will fast track all the processes and come to a very quick conclusion”.
The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) has disclosed that the Wife of the President, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, will flag off the commemoration of the 2017 World Consumer Rights Day in Abuja on , to further stimulate the country’s crusade against consumer right abuses in the digital age.
The Council, which made this known in a statement over the weekend in Abuja, disclosed that the wife of the president will be performing the ceremony in her capacity as the Consumer Ambassador of Nigeria.
According to the statement, Mrs Buhari will flag off the Day’s commemoration with the inspection of exhibition stands of businesses involved in the use of digital systems, such as banks, e-commerce providers, satellite television providers, manufacturers/providers of computer hardware, telecommunications providers, among others.
CPC disclosed that the investiture of Mrs Buhari as the Consumer Ambassador of Nigeria will be performed on the World Consumer Rights Day, and that soon after the investiture, the President’s wife will conduct an inspection of exhibition stands of businesses mounted to educate consumers on various concerns relating to products and services involved in the use of digital systems.
The Council hinted that the commemoration, whose theme is Building a Digital World Consumers Can Trust, would involve a two-day programme, consisting of the investiture of the President’s wife, a stakeholders’ workshop and consumers’ inspection of exhibition stands of businesses.
The agency said the stakeholders’ workshop, which is scheduled for , will feature presentations from Google, Microsoft, the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit, among others.
It will be recalled that CPC on Friday, July 15, 2016, named Mrs. Buhari as the Consumer Ambassador of Nigeria, while flagging off its nationwide grassroots consumer awareness programme with the country’s womenfolk as part of its strategies at stemming consumer abuses in Nigeria.
CPC’s Director General, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, made public the Council’s decision with respect to the wife of the President while addressing the National Convention of the National Council of Women’s Societies (NCWS) on July 15, 2016 at the Women Development Centre in Abuja
Atoki, while extolling the virtues of the President’s wife at the event, said the Council’s “initiative to ensure Nigerian women know their rights can find no better personality to identify with its cause than Her Excellency, Hajia Aisha Buhari”.
She referred to the committed efforts of Hajia Buhari in taking on the plight of the internally displaced persons (IDPs), who are predominantly women and children, by raising funds to meet the needs of the IDPs outside government resources as exemplary, expressing her conviction that such commitment would safeguard Nigerian women from malpractices of unscrupulous businesses.
The director general added that “CPC as the apex agency for the protection of Nigerian consumers has respectfully sought the consent of Her Excellency, and she has graciously agreed to serve as Nigerian Consumer Ambassador”, stating that “we are indeed very grateful to Her Excellency, who we trust will assist in taking consumer protection to another level under her watch as Nigerian Consumer Ambassador”.