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Achieving Consumer Rights Protection In Nigeria

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On March 15 every year, global attention is drawn to the issues of consumers’ rights and responsibilities. Known as World Consumers Day, it provides an opportunity for consumer rights advocates to raise awareness and demand that the rights of all consumers are respected and protected and also protest against market abuses and social injustices which undermine these rights.
The celebration which dates back to 1962, was inspired by US President John Kennedy, who on the 15th of March that year, sent a special message to the US Congress in which he formally addressed the issue of consumers rights thereby becoming the first world leader to do so. The consumer movement first marked that date in 1983 and now uses the day every year to mobilise action on important issues and campaigns.
In Nigeria, some of the rights of a consumer according to the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act, 2019 include: Right to be given information in plain and understandable language; right of disclosure of prices of goods and services; right to adequate trade description and to have products labeled; right to disclosure of second-hand or reconditioned goods; right to be given adequate information of every transaction; right not to be given a condition before making a purchase; right to cancel advance reservation, booking or order; right to reject goods before completing the transaction; right to goods corresponding with samples and descriptions; right to reject goods; right against unfair prices and terms; right to quality service; right to safe and quality goods and others.
The law also provides that a consumer whose rights have been breached can file a complaint with the apex consumer protection body, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC). The consumer also has the option of seeking redress in a court of competent jurisdiction.
The FCCPC, on the other hand, has the power to investigate and resolve complaints, carry out surveillance and enforcement, consumer education, as well as research and strategy.
Other regulatory agencies like the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), the Nigeria Electricity Regulation Commission (NERC), the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) are all involved in the duty of safeguarding buyers of products and services and the public against unfair practices in the marketplace.
The big questions are, how many consumers are aware of the existence of these rights and how they can leverage on them to address their numerous plights? Is the FCCPC and other sister agencies living up to expectation in their mandate of ensuring the wellbeing of the people especially in view of the numerous issues that consumers in the country have to grapple with constantly. From poor service by telecommunication providers to poor electricity supply and distribution; fake and adulterated products both edible and otherwise; low quality goods and others, the list of their travails is endless. A couple of days ago, a warehouse loaded with expired products worth billions of Naira was discovered in Kano by the Consumer Protection Taskforce in the state. But for the rare, exemplary character of two policemen attached to the taskforce who rejected a N1million bride offered them by the suspect to circumvent the law, these products would have found their way into the markets and various homes, causing havoc in consumers lives.
The Acting Zonal Coordinator of FCCPC, South-South, Mr. Johnson Uche Osi, told The Tide that the Commission is very up and doing though there is still room for improvement. He said despite some challenges faced by the body, it carries out its mandate of sensitizing and educating of the public through various ways like workshops, streets and markets sensitization, including the use of electronic and print media, adding that his office also carries out surveillance and enforcement during which low quality and fake products are ceased in the states within his jurisdiction.
Mr. Osi noted that considering the enormous responsibilities of the commission, other tiers of government, companies and influential persons should aid the federal government in funding some of their programmes. “State and local governments, well-to-do individuals, private companies, organisations like the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) should come to our aid and fund some of our programmes, sponsor seminars and workshops.
“We are not saying you should give us cash. Just meet us, we will tell you what to do for us. Here, a community may be like Mile One area, we will advertise that people should come that we want to teach them their rights and responsibilities. They will come. We will come and talk and teach them”, he said.
The Zonal Coordinator advised consumers to be environment friendly,  ethical and careful when making purchases; ask questions and always insist on their rights and come to the FCCPC whenever their rights are trampled upon and be sure that the matter will be properly handled, assuring that with the recent inauguration of the governing board of FCCPC and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission Tribunal, the Commission will be more up and doing and consumer-related cases will henceforth be speedily handled.
On his part, the Chief Executive Director of Consumer Satisfaction and Safety Initiative, one of the foremost consumer rights Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the country, Pastor Ruskin Amadi, said consumers in Nigeria do not enjoy all the rights therein because many are very docile. “Yes, some consumers may not be aware of these rights but even those that know them are docile to react. We take a lot of things for granted. You buy something like an electronic device for instance, you come back home, put it on and it does not work, you begin to make excuses – maybe na the high current, may be na this or that. Even when it is stated that a product has some years of warranty, it will spoil within the period and we don’t ask questions. No! You have the right to take that property back to where you bought it and demand they change it,” he posited.
He lamented that consumers who may even want to push for their rights are sometimes discouraged by the difficulty in getting justice in the country. He, therefore, requested that a special court be set aside to handle consumer related issues to hasten the legal process. This, he said, will enhance people’s confidence in the system and encourage them to always seek for their rights.
Amadi solicited the government to take the plight of consumers seriously just like President Kennedy did, insisting that such an attitude will keep producers on their toes and embolden customers to seek for their rights. He emphasised that a leader’s oath to protect the citizenry is not limited to protection from Boko Haram insurgents, militants, bandits and armed robbers but should be extended to protection from sharp practices of producers and service producers and greedy businessmen who deal on fake, expired and adulterated products as more people are dying from these sharp practices than insecurity.
He appealed that NGOs like his that are involved in championing the course of consumers, educating, informing them of their rights, should be supported by government, organizations and individuals so they can do more.
Similarly, a Port Harcourt-based lawyer, Gift Ebulu, frowned at the lack of dedication and commitment of some staff of the regulatory agencies to their jobs. According to him some of them just sit at the comfort of their offices and wait for people to bring complaints instead of going out to monitor what goes on in the companies and larger society. He maintained that if the agencies live up to expectations based on their powers under the law, there will be a reduction of the prevalence of cases of consumption of contaminated, expired or banned products.
“A lot of sachet and table water producers are committing a lot of crime both to the state and the general public because some of their products are hazardous to health; people mix whatever they like, pour into bottles and label them with NAFDAC approved labels they buy from wherever and innocent consumers keep buying death without knowing it. Yet the agencies are aware but do little or nothing about them. Sometimes they seal their premises but the producers of these killer goods pay their way through and before you know it, the seal is off and nobody went to jail”, he lamented.
He insisted that the agencies should carry out their duties of monitoring and punishing offenders so as to safe consumers from heartless business men who will do anything to line their pockets.
The legal practitioner however regretted the sluggish nature of our judicial system which discourages consumers from approaching the court for justice. “Court process and procedure in Nigeria is regrettable. We the practitioners don’t get the joy that ordinarily we should get in doing matters. A matter that ordinarily would have lasted for two to three sittings may end up taking up to six to seven years and that can be discouraging. So, if a client cannot afford to sponsor that, he may give up,” disclosed him.
He suggested that order than a tribunal which most times are in effective, a special court like the National Industrial Court should be set up to handle issues of consumer right and the breach of these rights, further advising that the agencies should be adequately funded both financially and in human capacity wise to enable them function optimally.

 

By: Calista Ezeaku

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What Do Nigerians Expect In 2022?

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As the year 2021 was winding up with all its ups and downs, it was natural for people to state some of their expectations in the coming year, 2022. And what are some of these prospects?
Joseph Omeje, is an economist and lecturer with the Enugu State University of Technology (ESUT). He believes that human beings are usually very optimistic. Hear him: Yes, the economy of the country and globally is very bad but I expect that 2022 will be better than 2021 only that we have to plead with the political leaders to play the game of electioneering very gently. Let there be human face in whatever they are doing. We wouldn’t like to hear that the youths are being used to kill or to commit all evil in a bid for some people to realise their political ambitions. Our leaders should do their best so that we do not incur much human losses anymore. We have suffered a lot in the hands of these religious extremists and those who are pursuing their personal goals.
Economically, Nigeria will do better once there is security. The insecurity problem in the country is something that government can tackle if they want. Once the security situation in the country is improved so as to allow farmers go back to their farms and Nigerians go about their businesses freely, then the nation wouldn’t be as bad as it was in the last year. Government should dialogue with agitating groups. Whatever is the problem let them discuss it so that there will be peace in the country. When there is peace, the economy will improve. I believe that political solution is much better than judicial solution.
I also expect that government should take a second look at the idea of giving out money in the name of allowances. What is N5000.00 for a household or even an individual in a month? Instead of all these handouts, government should create an environment where people can get employment. When we were growing up I know that some states had stakes in businesses. In my own state, Enugu, we had cashew industry, aluminium roofing sheet industry and all that. All these are moribund now. If all these can be revived and new ones added, you will see that there will be a lot of jobs. And once you have job opportunities for the youth, you will see that even the problem of insecurity will reduce and per capita income will increase and the economy will improve.
It is also my expectation that the excessive borrowings will stop. We have borrowed enough. It’s true that no country can do without borrowing but when we keep borrowing and we are not putting it into real investment portfolio or productive sector so that it helps the economy to grow, then there is a big problem. And how do we intend to pay back these loans? We heard what happened in Uganda recently. The Chinese government has taken over the only international airport they have because of their indebtedness to China. What if the same thing should happen to Nigeria?
For Mrs Dorathy Mayford, a civil servant, the experiences of the previous years have taught her not to have any expectations from the government, the society or individuals as doing so affects her health negatively. “I have learned that the best way to live is without having any expectations from life. Expecting good from our leaders in Nigeria will end up getting you disappointed. For some years now workers in the state and the nation have expected that their salaries will be increased to enable them cope with the prevailing harsh economic realities in the country. Civil servants in the state have expected that they will be promoted but these expectations were never met.  So, I have decided that in order to stay healthy and happy, I will not expect anything. I only put my trust and hope in God because only He will not disappoint or fail me.”
A technician, Mr Malachy Amadi, expects that there will be plenty of money in circulation in the country in 2022. In his words, “2022 is a year preceding an election year. It will be a period of campaigns and the politicians will bring out all the money they have been stealing from government’s coffers and saving. So, there will be a lot of money in circulation and that will make life better and easier for the masses.”
Joel Ogwuche, a stock broker, projects that Nigeria will be a better society, a well-planned environment where people can begin to make plans for the future. “As it is, presently, nobody can plan for tomorrow in this country because of several policy summersaults. Those in authority change the existing policies at any time and introduce new ones without even notifying the citizens. Nobody can make a sustainable plan in this type of environment. So, I expect that in the coming year, our leaders will begin to do the right thing for the benefit of the entire citizens and not for a few individuals”, he said.
Miss Grace Moses, a housekeeper, is of the hope that in 2022, security would be a major concern for those in the authority both at the federal and state levels. Grace, an indigene of Kaduna State, working in Port Harcourt, narrated that many people from her state have been forced out of their state and into other major cities around the country where they engage in all kinds of menial jobs to survive. According to her, the prices of food and other commodities are rising daily in the country because farmers have been driven away from villages by Boko Haram militants disguised as Fulani herdsmen and other criminals. She, therefore, expects that in 2022, the problem of insecurity will be given a sincere, adequate attention so that people can go back to their villages.
Jake Baridon, a legal practitioner expects the national and state assemblies to be on the side of the masses and make laws that will benefit the generality of the people instead of being “rubber stamps”. He continued, “I personally will expect the National Assembly to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto on electoral bill. The bill, as far as I know, represents the desire of the electorates in the country and it is wrong of Mr President with withhold his assent for the second time for some flimsy reasons. The year 2020 should be a period for us to start seeing vibrant law making, practical separation of power and checks and balances in our nation. These people have been dormant for a long time and it is high time they showed that they can not only bark but that they can also bite.”
He also expects the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government, the police, the EFCC and others bodies to play their respective roles in fighting corruption in Nigeria, adding that the high rate of corruption in the country is disturbing and if nothing is done to check it, the future of the country will be very bleak.
Arinola Moyo, a youth corps member, says she wants to see true leadership in the country, especially at the federal level. In her words: it’s been as if we don’t have a true leader since the current government came on board. Every time you hear the Presidency said this, the Attorney General of the Federation said that, Lai Mohammed said that. You hardly hear from the President, making it seem as if these people are the ones ruling the nation. So, I want to see more effective leadership in the country.
“Government should also do something about the high unemployment rate in the country. Thousands of graduates come out from schools every year without jobs for them. That is why some of them join Internet fraudsters and other bad gangs.
“I also expect federal and state governments to implement the recommendations of the various judicial panels on #EndSARS. This issue is so delicate to be swept under the carpet.” Moyo said.
Christian Chidi is a businessman. He expects that with the issue of COVID-19 being curtailed, life will come back to the business sector in the country. According to him, since the advent of the pandemic two years ago, business has been dull with many oil companies working from home and many private companies folding up.
A housewife, Lady Pep Iroh, is projecting that, come year 2022, adequate attention will be paid to the problem of soot in Port Harcourt which she alleges is causing serious health issues for the residents of the city.
Pastor Godswill Abalagha envisions that the grace of God will be abundant for the nation and the citizens in 2022 to help see them through all difficulties and challenges. He, however, advised Nigerians to turn away from their wicked ways, including stealing government’s money, shedding of blood, kidnapping, corrupt practices and rather seek the face of God.

By: Calista Ezeaku

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…Creates Two New Offices In Govt House

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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has announced the creation of two new executive offices to guarantee efficiency and effectiveness of activities at the Government House, in Port Harcourt.
The governor’s action was made known in a statement signed by the Special Assistant on Media to the Rivers State Governor, Kelvin Ebiri in Government House, Port Harcourt, last Monday.
The terse statement reads, “To ensure activities are functioning efficiently and effectively, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has announced the creation of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt.
“The Deputy Chief of Staff will be in charge of the Logistics, Correspondence of the Governor and Legal Matters.
“Similarly, he has also announced the creation of the Office of the Special Adviser on Aviation”.

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Accelerating Gender Parity In Nigeria

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In virtually all societies, women are in an inferior position to men. Sex or gender determines  more rights and dignity for men in legal, social and cultural situations, These are reflected on unequal access to or enjoyment of rights in favour of men.
There are also the assumption of stereotype social and cultural roles.
In Nigeria, gender inequality has been for decades in spite of modernization and the fact that many females have done better than men in many spheres.
Analysts are convinced that gender inequality is largely influenced by religious and cultural beliefs, as some cultures and religions still hold strongly that women are the weaker vessels created mainly to be home keepers and child bearers.
Analysts are also worried that gender inequality negatively affects status in all areas of life in society, whether public or private, in the family or labour market.
Although the Global Gender Gap Report 2018 by the World Economic Forum (WEF) shows some progress amongst the 149 countries that were indexed, the progress toward closing the gender gap is slow, because it will take 108 years to close the gender gap and another 202 years to achieve parity in the workforce, according to the report.
The report benchmarks the 149 countries on their progress toward gender parity across four dimensions – economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.
A number of initiatives have been made by corporate organisations and governmental and non-governmental organisations  to address gender imbalance in Nigeria.
One of the latest is the launch of First Women Network  (FWN) by the First Bank of Nigeria Ltd., in commemoration of the 2019 International Women’s Day (IWD).
IWD is celebrated globally every March 8 to recognise social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
The celebration is also a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
The global theme for the 2019 celebration is “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change” while the theme for the social media campaign is “#BalanceforBetter”.
According to the bank, the FWN initiative is an avenue for career management and mentoring for women to enable them to balance their career with private endeavours.
The aim,  according to the bank, is to address gender gap and increase women representation in its senior and executive levels, as well as encourage women to tap into opportunities and contribute to nation-building.
The bank’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr Adesola Adeduntan,  explains that First Women Network is targeted at the banks’ staff and customers, among others.
He believes that women can achieve more if given the necessary strategic support, hoping that the initiative
will increase the bank’s productivity and profitability.
Adeduntan notes that the initiative is  also a demonstration of First Bank’s adherence to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Sustainable Development Goals which mandate increased women representation in all banks.
The sustainable goals require that the financial services sector should adopt a quota system to increase women representation on boards to 30 per cent and that of senior management level to 40 per cent by 2014.
Adeduntan is optimistic that the FWN will address six key area –  career management, personal branding, mentoring, welfare, financial planning and empowerment.
He is convinced that the initiative will address gender disparity at the workplace.
“It is commonly agreed that gender parity is an essential factor influencing the advancement of institutions, economies and societies.
“Studies have shown that gender parity in corporations promotes increased performance and returns on investment.
“The need to invest in composite women empowerment and enhance their contributions at senior management levels to achieve organisational goals cannot be over-emphasised,” the CEO says.
For him,  it is paradoxical that the presence of women in paid employments continues to increase, yet the progression of professional women to positions of leadership and management remains slow.
“Gender gaps persist in economic opportunities and political participation in many countries.
“This is part of the reasons for this women network initiative,” he notes.
The chief executive officer wants employers of labour and the entire society to encourage women to advance, excel and contribute optimally in  workplaces and communities.
Mr Abiodun  Famuyiwa, group head, Products and Marketing Support, promises that First Bank  will continue to promote female entrepreneurship for national growth and development.
“We recognise that promoting female entrepreneurship and independence is key to economic viability of every home in the country,” he says.
 According to him, FWN is a further demonstration of the bank’s commitment to women empowerment after the launch  of FirstGem in 2016.
He is satisfied that FirstGem is providing opportunities for women to achieve their financial goals and aspirations through with access to support funds, free business advice, specialised trainings on business development and insight on business development.
For Mr Lampe Omoyele, managing director, Nitro 121, an integrated marketing communications agency,  points out that courage is important in addressing gender imbalance.
“For gender imbalance to be resolved, there has to be courage, vision, values and character,” he says.
He is convinced that women should  have courage and confidence in taking risks within  organisations.
Omoyele advises that women must not play the victims.
“Ultimately, whether you are a female or male, what is going to sustain you is your character and values.
“You need to have values; character is important in the balance that we live to, and it sustains you as you move into the future,” he adds.
The Chief Executive Officer,  Standard  Chartered Bank, Mrs Bola Adesola, wants women to take advantage of FWN to make their lives better.
 She urges women to aspire to grow in their endeavours and refuse be limited because of their gender, stressing that they should use all resources at their disposal to grow.
 For the bank chief, FWN is not a silver bullet to creating the first female chief executive officer of First Bank, but  about opportunity.
“So, it is important that as women, we take advantage of it,” she urges.
 Ms Cecilia Akintomide, independent non-executive director, FBN Holdings Plc, is dissatisfied that Nigeria is still far in gender balancing.
Akintomide says Nigerian  women are still being restricted from working in some places and owning some property.
According to her, restrictions are rendering 50 per cent of Nigeria’s population –  mainly women –  economically unviable.
 A First Bank customer,  Mrs Ifeyinwa Okoye, lauds the FWN, and urges the bank to ensure that its customers – the secondary target of FWN –  benefit from it.
Okoye describes women as critical to economic growth and development but regrets that many women were lagging behind in their endeavours because of gender inequality.
She wants the banks to enlighten its customers on FWN for maximum results.
 “If you empower a woman, you empower a nation.
“Empowering women is especially effective because the benefits are felt throughout the whole community,” she argues.
Analysts call for more strategic support for Nigerian women to  enhance gender parity.


By: Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma
Joel-Nwokeoma is of the News Agency of Nigeria.

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