Protecting the Nigerian consumer

President/Chief Executive Officer of Erisco Foods Limited, Chief Eric Umeofia presenting food materials and cheque for the next-of-kin of late Lt. Col. Mohammed Abu Ali to Air Commodore Olayinka Tijjani at the Mogadishu cantonment, Abuja.
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It is often said that the consumer is king. Yet, in Nigeria, events playing out on a daily basis never cease to project the consumer in any manner near being “chief” let alone being the “king”. What happens mostly are cases of the consumer being shortchanged, conned, cornered and underrated.
Many a time, consumers in Nigeria suffer untold hardship, and waste of scarce resources because they are not in any way protected by the law. Even in exceptional cases of clear-cut evidence of abuse, cost and time of seeking become discouraging.
A case in mind is that of a young female small scale entrepreneur who took a loan to establish a small factory. She contracted a factory equipment company to supply and install the production equipment. Having paid the agreed costs, she was to get frustrated by the substandard quality of the equipment that was supplied. Thus, she was in a double dilemma. One, she had a bank loan to repay, and, she had equipment useless to change. Till date, she is trying to sort out the matter as the supplier feigned ignorance concerning the substandard quality of the equipment installed!
Daily, consumers in Nigeria are at the mercy of producers or the person offering the services being consumed. From goods, products and services, the story is the same. Outdoor advertisement, electronic medium, traditional and social media platforms have become instruments through which consumers make informed decisions on products and services that ought to meet their needs in addition to consumers’ direct persuasion by organisation. In advanced countries, consumer protection is of paramount interest to the government. This is because consumers determine the destiny of the economy of any nation.
It is to this end that they are protected through a multiplicity of laws, through which government agencies, citizens and concerned lobby groups ensure that the market produces fairness and also ensures quality in goods and services people patronise. They further put financial regulations in place to make credit cheaper to access with full understanding of the obligations they have, when securing loans.
One would have expected that Nigeria would adopt policies that enhance the growth of the economy and secure the society from needless waste, insecurity and home of substandard products or services. Rather, the culture here supports the importation of substandard products, to the detriment of the consumers.
Every day, consumers buy products that fall short of the minimum standard and expectation. Not even the seal of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria is sufficient enough to guarantee customers’ satisfaction.
But then, hope seems to be rising for consumers, especially those in Lagos as things may possibly change for the better soon. In view of its concern for consumers, the Lagos State Government recently enacted a law that establishes the Lagos State Consumer Protection Agency. The law, which passed through the state House of Assembly in 2015, has since been assented to by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. Under the law, a convict will be mandated to pay a penalty considered appropriate by the court as compensation to consumers whose right has been infringed upon.
This could not have come in a better time than this. It is no longer news that Lagos State with its huge population is the commercial nerve centre of West Africa and consequently the hub of diverse commercial activities. Sadly, however, in spite of this huge commercial standing, the state has to contend with the highest cases of daily infractions on consumers’ rights.
It is hoped that the agency would live up to its expectations by ensuring that consumers are well- protected. This can only be done if its officials refuse to compromise on the principles undergirding the agency. It is only in doing this that we can rightly affirm that in our own clime, consumers are truly kings.

Bolaji Odumade,
Alausa, Ikeja

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