INTRODUCTION

The current state of consumer protection witness in Nigeria has been moribund for years. However, stakeholders have begun to show more interest in consumer related issues. Recent efforts of the Consumer Protection Council, under the administration of the formal Director General1, have also raised the confidence of the general public as regards the attitude of relevant regulatory agencies to safeguarding the interests of consumers. Recently, the CPC on behalf of some selected consumer, 2 filed an action at the Federal High Court of Abuja against Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited and Nigerian Bottling Company for allegedly violating orders of the CPC relating to enhanced consumer welfare and safety standards. This was done pursuant to investigations carried out based on a filed consumer complaint about two half-empty cans of Sprite soft drink manufactured by NBC under Coca-Cola’s license.

In July 2012, the former Director General of the CPC, Mrs. Ify Umenyi, at a stakeholders meeting in Abuja, stressed the need for supermarkets to establish and maintain consumer redress desks in their stores to specially handle consumer complaints with a view to seamlessly resolving them.

Consumer organizations in the Country have begun to actively partake in the process by giving aggrieved consumers a voice. Actions and moves by the relevant agencies have drawn the attention of consumers around the Country and made them more aware of their rights. Nevertheless, there is still room for improvement. It follows, therefore, that in order for the existing framework for consumer protection to develop, amendments must be made to the existing legal structure. Also, extra-legal mechanisms must be put in place to support such legal structure.

CONSUMER AND CONSUMER PROTECTION: THE BACKGROUND

Staring with the broad meaning of consumerism which has been defined as a social movement that seeks to increase the rights and powers of consumers3 It  is  a great political force,  which started from America, but has spread to many different countries of  the world and  has become a force that  businesses  must contend  with.  It  is  worthy of  note  that efforts  to reduce  the imbalance  of  power between buyers and sellers is not however limited to  consumer and  activist  groups  alone.  Governments also have at one time or the other had to intervene to protect the rights of consumers in relation to producers.


1. Mrs. Dupe Atoki
2. The News Nigeria, October 30,2014,
3. Kotler, 1972; Perreault  and  McCarthy, 2002). 


In  Nigeria,  the  quest  for  excess  profit and  the get-rich  quick syndrome  have  led most  businesses  to engage  in unethical  practices,  which  have  endangered  the  lives  of  consumers,  leading  to  sporadic  complaints  from individual  consumers.  There  seems  to  be  no  real  organized  mass  movement  of  consumers  to  fight  for  the protection of  the  rights  of  the consumers. This has left the  bulk  of  the  work of consumer protection  at  the door step  of  the  government.  A  phenomenon  that  is  common  to  most  developing  countries,  where  consumerism, according  to has  been  more  of a  matter of  government  policy  through legislation  and  efficient enforcement than a matter of engaged public support.  Successive  governments  in  Nigeria  have  set  up  agencies  like  the  National  Agency  for  Food  and  Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), and recently, the Consumers Protection  Council of  Nigeria  (CPC),  to  protect  and safeguard  the  rights  of  consumers  against  unwholesome practices  of  producers  and  suppliers.  The Consumer Protection Council Act,5

DEFINITION OF CONSUMER:

There  has  been  a series  of  discussions on  the  actual definition  of  the ‘consumer’  that  needs to  be protected.  However, a modern  definition  of  the  consumer, according6  to  Akomolede  and Oladele (2006) is “… any person who purchases or is supplied goods, or uses or consumes goods and services at the end of a chain of production”. Two salient features can be pointed out from this definition. First is that the consumer is a buyer and/or user of a product or service, and the second is that the consumer is a member (in fact, at the end) of the production chain. These features underscore the importance of the consumer in both economics and marketing theories. That is, without the  consumers (consumption) there can be no basis for production, and hence, no market. It is on this premise that the consumer is seen as the pivotal point of not only marketing, but of all  business  activities7 and whose  interests  must  be  served and  protected  at  all times.

There is however a ‘paradox of importance’ in this philosophy of  business, because  the  consumer, rather than being treated as the king as often advertised by business, is “in actual practice treated as a slave or servant”.  This  then  brings to  the fore, the proposition by that if business  fails  in  its  responsibility to help the  consumer (out  of  his  disadvantaged  position), “… then the government or other parties must act on the consumers’ behalf”.  In  Nigeria,  several  factors  exist  that  led  to  the  necessity  of  consumer  protection  laws. That  consumers  are repeated sold sub-standard  products and services is no longer news. And because of the absence of, or difficulty of access to major manufacturers or dealers, the Nigerian consumer would rather purchase  from road-side shops which have no brand reputation or trademarks to protect consumers. In addition to this, the Nigerian consumer is described as “largely complacent”.  This complacency claim is attributable to the  choice that  consumers  make  of their  place of  purchase, of  especially electronic  products  (“At  the Mercy,” 2008)7.  It opined  that  rather  than  purchase  from reputable  dealers  or  major  importers  where the  manufacturer’s warranty will more likely be honoured, most Nigerian consumers purchase from “…small time dealers…”  who may not be in the  position  to offer refunds,  exchange  the  goods or  provide post-  purchase  services as  the  goods  may have passed through a chain  of  middlemen before  getting  to  such  dealers.

Uche8  (1990) is of the opinion that lack of avenue  for  checking  manufacturer  or  advertisement  claims  on  goods;  as  well  as  accepting  to  pay  price  for packaged goods without assurance of quality, and  in some cases, quantity, are  also  challenges to consumers that 9 led to the establishment of Laws of Consumer Protection.  According to Kanyip (2005) lack of competition in the market account for why defective goods and services are prevalent in the market.10

She argues that in the face of competition, consumers can express their preference by the choices they make and thereby drive out undesired suppliers of goods and services out of the market.  The  harsh  economic  realities  in  Nigeria  have  made  many  consumers  to  patronise  cheaper  products  that  are seemingly substandard,  without  warranty. In  addition  most  consumers have little  or  no  knowledge of  labels  or how  to  access information  on  safety,  quality  and in  some  cases,  quantity of  products.

In  this  regard,  Umenyi (2007)11  posits  that  imperfections  in  the  market  not  only  lead  to  misleading  information  through  deceptive advertisements, but also encourages  proliferation of fake and sub-standard goods. These realities are detrimental to  consumers  and  put  the  seller in  the  vantage position  of exploiting  the  buying party in the  exchange  process (Monye 2005).12


5. CAP C25, 2004.
6. An Appraisal of the Legal Regime Available for the Protection of Consumers of Telecom Services in Nigeria; Journal of Law, Policy and Globalisation, Vol. 29,2014.
7. At the Mercy of Nigerian Traders (2008, March), (accessed on 20/11/10),   www. Nigerian-Newspaper.com-traders.htm. 
8. Uche, U.U. (1990), Consumer Protection and the Law in Nigeria,
9. European Journal of Business and Management www.iiste.org ISSN 2222-1905 (Paper) ISSN 2222-2839 (Online) Vol 4, No.10, 2012  74
10. Kanyip, B. B. (2005), Consumer Protection in Nigeria: Law, Theory and Policy, Rekon Books Ltd
11. Umenyi,  I. (2007), Federal  Government  Advises  States  on  Consumer  Protection,(accessed  on  20/10/11),
12. Monye, F. (2005), Law of Consumer Protection, Ibadan, Spectrum Books.


THE ISSUES AND CHALLENGIES

Consumerism in Nigeria, like in most Less Developed Countries has remained at the lowest ebb in spite of the prevalence of unwholesome business practices. The Nigerian consumer is thus continuously saddled with substandard goods and services, coupled with the lack of information and limited choice in the market, thus necessitating political/government efforts. It was observed that although the CPC Act recognized the rights of consumers, it does not specifically provide for these rights as they are merely implied and subsumed into the functions of the council and the state committees established by the Act.

We therefore conclude that mere existence of the law is not enough. Specific protective and compensatory measures should be clearly stated for any infringement on any of the consumers’ rights. Doing so would strengthen the CPC Act in Nigeria. Further the Consumer Protection Council need to embark on sustained sensitization of consumers on their rights and also push for the amendment of specific sections of the CPC Act to give aggrieved consumers unfettered access to courts to pursue their rights.

For effective enforcement of the Act, the government established the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) to carry out the mandate of protecting the rights of the public.13 Fundamental provisions of the CPC Act 1992, which place powers on CPC to support public wellbeing and ensure corporate social reporting include:

(a) ensuring speedy solutions to public complaints on corporations through reconciliations,

(b) removal from the market hazardous products/services,

(c) publication from time to time, list of local and foreign products declared unfit for public consumption,

(d) compelling corporations to protect, compensate, provide relief and safeguards people and communities from adverse effects of technologies that are harmful, injurious, violent or highly hazardous, and

(e) providing awareness to the public on their rights. …


13 (Bello et al., 2012).


There is a global recognition of the fact that there exists real and perceived imbalance of power relations between the producers and consumers of goods and services. This imbalance of power, as noted by several scholars in the field  of  marketing  and  business  in  general  appears  always  to  the  advantage  of  the  producers,  who  are strengthened by  the  traditional  legal  maxim ‘Caveat  emptor’ (buyer beware)  and  the  ever  growing free market philosophy, which seems to  put  the producers  at  liberty to  do  whatever they  want (Eze, Eluwa, and  Nwobodo, 2010).14

This  is in  spite of  the  strong emphasis on  consumer  sovereignty  as  the moral basis  of  marketing  theory with emphasis  on  such  concepts  as  ‘customer orientation’,  ‘customer focus’, and ‘customer-driven strategies’ in most definitions of marketing, whether in theory or practice.  The consumers  have  thus  over  the years  expressed  one form of  discontent  or the  other  against  the  activities of organizations, with which they engage in trade  relationships.

This has led to  the  growth  of  mass  movements (a phenomenon  referred  to  as  consumerism)  that  have  forced  marketing  and  business  firms  in  general  in  most developed countries, especially in Europe and America to respond favourably and adopt better ways of delivering goods and  services  to the consumers (Arndt, Barksdale  and  Perreault, 1980).15

These mass movements  comprise those formed  by  direct  consumer  groups or  consumer representative groups,  as  well as the  government. The activities of  these groups have been a  source as well as beneficiary of a distinct  school of marketing thought known as  the ‘activist’ or  ‘consumerism’ school of marketing thought, which came  about as a  result  of observance  of  some  “obvious problems  in  the  market place” by  marketing  scholars,  and sought to  “provide  an advocacy position in terms of developing and protecting the rights of the consumers” (Sheth and Gardner), 1982.16

This  school  of  thought  focuses  on  both  empirical  research  and conceptual  thinking  related  to the  issues of consumer  welfare  and consumer  satisfaction  and thus  covers  such  areas of  consumer  complaints  as  deceptive advertising,  high  pressure  sales  tactics, product  safety, and  disclosure  of information  among  others (Sheth  and Gardner, 1982). 17

The  Law of Consumer protection  has a two-fold purpose. On the one hand, it protects the interests, rights and safety of end-users of products and services; and on the other hand, to the extent that it derives from and relates to contractual transactions, consumer protection can be said to be a means by which private law relationships are regulated. It is in the interest of the public that the nature and deficiencies of product and services be made known to consumers, thus, the need for public regulation of private transactions.

The  CPC Act18  does  not  in  any  of its  sections  specifically provide  for  rights  of  a purchaser  or consumer in that term, but  the Act provides for the establishment of a Consumer Protection Council. The rights of consumers are implied and subsumed into the  functions of the Council and into the duties of the State Committees established by the Act.

The  governmental  agency  responsible  for  the  rights  of  consumers  is  the  Consumer  Protection  Council  (the council)  established  in  1992  by  the  Consumer  Protection  Act,(The  Act).  These  rights  are provided for, in the Act, sometimes by implication and not necessarily under any captions. The components of good quality consumer protection manifest as the rights sought to be protected under the Act whether they are so stated out rightly or they are implied and they include:

  • RIGHT TO SAFETY: Right to safety connotes that consumers and their families not be exposed to undue risk of physical harm, injury or death resulting from the use of a product. As relates to safety, the council has a duty to ensure that products are safe for the purpose for which they are intended (Section 2(j)). To further  ensure  safety, the Council could also notify  the  public  of  health  hazards  inherent  in  products  (Section  3  (e))  and  ban  the  “sale,  distribution, advertisement of products that fall short of safety and health regulations (Section 3 (f)). It is noteworthy that such safety and health regulations are not contained in the Act and to ascertain what they are, one would have to look into other pieces of legislations like the Standard Organization of Nigeria Act, 2004 and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control Act, 2004. Monye (2005), Akomolede & Oladele (2006) 19are all agreed on the  imperative  for  such  legal  rigmarole  and  the  fact  that  it  may  be  detrimental  to  the  interest  of   the  Nigerian Consumer.

14. Eze,  K.  O.,  Eluwa  N.,  and  Nwobodo,  B  (2010),  The  Nigerian  Consumer  @  50  (accessed  on  13/11/2011) http://m2weekly.com/cover-cover/the-nigerian-consumer-50/ Ho,  S.  C  (2001), 
15. Arndt,  J.,  Barksdale, H.  C.,  and Perreault,  W. D.  “Comparative  Study  of Attitudes Toward Marketing, Consumerism and Government Regulation: (1980), 
16. Sheth, J.  N.,  and Gardner, D.  M.  (1982),  History  of Marketing Thought:  an  update,  Faculty working paper  No 857, College of commerce and business administration, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Thorelli, H. B. (1981), “Consumer Policy for the Third World,” Journal of Consumer Policy, 3: 197-211. 
17. Ibid,
18. Chapter C25. (Decree No 66 of 1992). Laws of the Federation of Nigeria


  • RIGHT TO INFORMATION AND ADVICE : Right to Information and advice With the  reality  of  the  proliferation  of  goods  and  services,  information  is  vital,  or  indeed,  indispensible  for consumer    The  information  will  put  the  consumer  in  the  position  to  compare  the  quality  of  various products and services as they relate, not only to cost, but also safety, content, ingredients and expiry date etc. For the information provided to be meaningful, it must be correct and not fraudulent and advertisements and labeling must not be misleading or false. In addition to the above kinds of information, the Act also mandates the Council to publish a list of products that have  been  banned,  withdrawn,  restricted  or  not  approved  for  consumption  (Section  2  (c))  and  to  organise campaigns and  other  sensitization  avenues  that  will  lead  to  public  and consumer awareness. Also  sections  2(e) and 2(h)
  • RIGHT TO CHOICE : Right to choice Inherent in the right to be informed lays the right to choose as information of various products and services offers the consumer  the  opportunity  of  picking  one  product  or  service  as  opposed  to      In  addition  to  this however,  the  right  to  choose  also  presupposed  competition.  It  is  believed  in  the  world  of  business  that competition regulates the market. The concept of competition is in contra-distinction to the concept of monopoly. Thus in  places  like the United  States  of America, there is  a  whole  body  of  Laws  (Antitrust  Laws) that prohibit monopoly  and  guarantee  competition  which serves  the  purpose,  amongst  other  things, to  guarantee  consumer choose.

19. Ibid


  • RIGHT TO BEING HEARD : Right to be heard Section 2(a) mandates the council to provide “speedy redress” to consumers by means of the pacific measures of negotiation, mediation  and conciliation  and  by  section 2(i),  it  offers compensation  to  injured consumer. In  an effort to bring relief  closer  to  the public, the Act  also  provides for State Committees to receive  complaints  and investigate  the  complaints and  act  on    Also,  the Council  has  the  power to  apply  to  court to  prevent  the circulation of any product which constitutes an imminent public hazard.
  • PRE EMPTIVE RIGHTS IN FAVOUR OF CONSUMER :Pre-emptive rights in favour of consumer In addition to the  safeguards already discussed above which the council is  empowered to provide, the council is also  empowered  to  implement  “precautionary  measures  to  forestall  consumer  injury”  and  this  may  include requiring  trade  professional bodies  and industries  to creation  and  maintain  quality  standards  (section 2  (f))  to constitute  benchmarks  for  quality to  ensure  consumer  Also,  by  the  provision  of  Section 3  (b)-(f), the council  may  cause  consumer  products  to  by  subjected  to  quality  test  and  to  compel  providers  of  consumer products give certification that benchmarks as regards safety standards have been met and to notify the public of any  inherent  health  hazards  in  products.  In  addition,  another  pre-emptive  measure  is  for  the  council  to  ban products from being put in the market, or even the advertisement of such products which have not complied with the  regulations  relating  to  safety  and  health  as  provided  for  in  the  Act.  Section  3(f)  Furthermore,  by  the provisions  of  Section  9,  when  a  manufacturer  or dealer  has puts  goods  in  the  market  and  thereafter becomes aware of previously unseen hazards of the product, he has a duty to notify the general public of such risks and to withdraw the products from the market and failure to do so give rise to a criminal offence Section 9(2).
  • ENFORCEMENT RIGHTS : While the provisions defining rights of consumers and those that seek pre-emptive measure to protect consumers are designed to prevent  injury to the consumer in  the first place,  the Act also anticipates that despite all  of these provisions, consumer injury will still occur and has put in place provisions for enforcement. The Act provides for compelling producers compliance with provisions of the Act.

ENFORCEMENT BY INJURED CONSUMER

The right of an injured consumer to institute an action in court  for  consumer related injuries as provided by the Act is curious. By virtue of Section 8(a) and (b) of the Act, it would appear that the right of an injured consumer to apply to court arises only after  the council or a state committee has investigated the  consumer complaint and the consumer has proved  to  the  council/committee that  his/her  consumer  rights  have  been  infringed  that  such a consumer may go to court. Section 8 provides:

“whereupon  an  investigation  by  the  council  or  state  committee  of  a  complaint,  it  is proved that-   (a)  the consumer’s right has been violated; or   (b)  that a wrong has been committed by way of trade, provision of services, supply of information or advertisement thereby   causing injury or loss to the consumer; The  consumer  shall,  in  addition to  the redress which  the  state Committee,  subject to the approval of  the  council  may  impose,  have  a  right of civil action for  compensation or restitution in any competent court.” 

This section provides a condition for  which  an  injured consumer may  approach  the courts.  The word “whereupon” means “as  a result  of”20 .  So it is  only  as  a  result of the investigation by the council which shows that the  consumer has proved some injury caused to his consumer rights that a consumer may seek redress in court. The imposition of this condition is clearly inconsistent with Section 36 of the constitution21 which entitles a person to unfettered rights to institute actions in court, “in the determination of his civil rights…a person shall be  entitled to a fair hearing…by a court or other  tribunal…” The position of the law is relatively settled that any provisions of any law that is inconsistent with the provisions of  the constitution shall be null and void to the extent of the inconsistency in accordance with Section 1(3) of the constitution.


20. European Journal of Business and Management www.iiste.org ISSN 2222-1905 (Paper) – ISSN 2222-2839 (Online) Vol 4, No.10, 2012 75
21. CFRN Cap C14 LFN 2004


Enforcement by council or committee for compliance failure: By  the provisions  of  Section  3  (a), the  council  may  apply to court  to  obtain  orders  to prevent  the circulation of products that are imminently hazardous to the public.  The State Committees have powers to hold hearings, make decisions and make recommendations of remedies to the Council for violations of consumer rights  as  enshrined  in  the Act.  Specifically, Section  5  of  the Act  empowers  the  committee  to  receive  complaints  of  injury  suffered  by  consumers,  to  conduct  negotiations between  the  parties  (i.e.  the  injured  consumer  and  the  alleged  defaulting  seller)  to  bring  about  an  amicable settlement or  for  the  committee to  make recommendations  to  the  council  for  the  payment of  compensation  by “the offending person  to the injured  consumer.” Section  5  (c) The Act  thus  confers  on  the  state  committees the status  of  Administrative  Tribunal  or  an  Alternative  Dispute  Resolution  mechanism.  Thus,  the  council  in conjuncture  with  the  committee  act as  non-judicial alternative  compensation  mechanism.

Monye (2006)22 offers one explanation. She asserts that case law show that judges are inclined to accept the “foolproof system” of production; often used as defence by alleged violators of consumer rights. She cites the cases of Boardman v Guiness (Nig) Ltd.23;  Okonkwo  v. Guinness (Nig.) Ltd.24 and  Ebelamu v. Guiness  (Nig.)  Ltd.25  to  illustrate  such instances. Other  authors  such as Akomolede,  and  Oladele, (2006)26  have  asserted that  “…the  law  has  only  succeeded  in  providing  a  regulatory  framework  for  consumer  protection…”  without adequate  enforcement.  It  would  appear  that  emphasis  is  still  being  put,  by  our justice  system, on  contractual obligations  which  still  places  the  caveat emptor  (buyer  beware)  burden  on consumers.  The  absence  of  judicial enforcement still  leaves  consumers  in  the perilous  position of  being easily  exploited  by  producers, sellers  and service providers with impunity.  We propose  that one  way to  address the  above  pitfalls  is  the establishment of  a specialized court  for  consumer protection. Section 6(4) (a) of the constitution empowers the National Assembly to establish courts as exigencies may demand. 27

It  is believed  that such  courts  will  no doubt  apply the  provisions of  the Act  more  fully than the generalized  courts  such  as  the  High  Courts  do.  This  is  as a  result of  the  narrow  focused  jurisdiction  to which cases brought before the courts will be routed.

Redress for consumers against offending product providers The Act provides for five main categories of reliefs for consumer against offending product providers.

  • PROHIBITIVE INJUNCTIONS: Prohibitive  injunctions may  be  ordered  by  the  court  where a  person who  has  persistently  carried  out  acts  or practices detrimental to consumers and at the request of the council/committee, has either failed to make “written assurance” to desist from the  practices (Section 10 (1)), or has defaulted  in the assurances written, then, upon a case filed by the Federal Attorney General, an injunction may be ordered by the court prohibiting the offender or  refraining him from continuing that course of conduct. (Section 10 (3))
  • CRIMINAL CONVICTIONS: The Act provides that criminal convictions and sentence of five years imprisonment or N50,000 fine or both may be passed on the following categories of offenders: – Manufacturer or  distributors  of  products, who after  placing  a  product in the market,  subsequently become aware of  any hazards in the  products,  fail to promptly notify the public of the hazard and withdraw the product s from the market. Section 9 (1) & (2) – A  person  who  makes  or  aids  in  the  making  of  “wrong  advertisement”  relating  to  a  consumer  product. (Section 11) – A person  who  contravenes  the provisions  of    the  Act by  selling  or  offering for  sale  products which  are unsafe  or  hazardous;  or  causes  injury  or  loss  to  a  consumer  by  providing  service,  information  or advertisement contrary to the spirit and letter of the Act . (Section 12)
  • COMPENSATION: In  addition  to  the  sentences  already  mentioned,  a person  convicted  of  violation  of  consumer  rights  may  be ordered to pay compensation for any injury, loss or damages suffered as a result of his violations. (Section 13)
  • POSITIVE ORDERS: Upon the application of the Attorney General, a court may make an order commanding that the provisions of the Act and any orders made by the Council pursuant to the Act be complied with. (Section 16)
  • SEIZURE BY INSPECTING OFFICER : A person, who by the provisions of Section 15 (1) of the Act is designated an inspector, may, by the provisions of Section 15 (2) (e), seize or detain consumer goods that contravene the provisions of the Act.

It is observed that largely while four of such relies are judicial, (a-d), one, (e) is administrative.

STANDARDS ORGANISATION OF NIGERIA 

The Standards Organisation of Nigeria Act28 establishes the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (the “Organisation”) which is a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal and also creates the Standards Council of Nigeria (the “Council” ) which serves as the governing body of the Organisation.


22. ibid
23. (1980) NCLR 109 at  126
24. [1980]  NCLR  at  130 
25. FCA/101/82)
26. ibid
27. European Journal of Business and Management www.iiste.org ISSN 2222-1905 (Paper) ISSN 2222-2839 (Online) Vol 4, No.10, 2012  77
28. SON Act, Cap.S9, LFN, 2004.


Pursuant to Section 4 of the Act, these functions include but are not limited to establishing and approving standards in relation to commodities, products and processes in commerce; providing measures for quality control and advising the Federal Government on standards and quality control mechanisms to implement and employ in accordance with the national policy.

Section 5 provides for the functions of the Organisation. They are required to organize tests and do everything necessary to ensure compliance with standards designated and approved by the Council; undertake investigations into the quality of facilities, materials and products in Nigeria, and establish a quality  assurance systems including certification of factories, products and laboratories; ensure reference standards for calibration and verification of measures and measuring instruments; to compile an inventory of products requiring standardization; to compile Nigerian standards specifications; to foster interest in the recommendation and maintenance of acceptable standards by industry and the general public; to develop methods for testing of materials, supplies and equipment including items purchased for use of

Section 1 and 3(1) of the Act provides that Departments of the Government of the Federation or a State and private establishments; to register and regulate standards marks and specifications; to undertake preparation and distribution of standards samples; to establish and maintain such number of laboratories or other institutions as may be necessary for the performance of its functions under this Act. Section 5(2) provides that the Organisation may carry out research as it deems fit and have the power to use research facilities of other institutions, whether public or private, in furtherance of this function. Pursuant to Section 17 of the Act, the Director-General is vested with the power to exercise seizure or destruction of goods which he is satisfied are hazardous or detrimental to life or property. He may also prohibit the sale of such goods and seal up the premises where the goods are manufactured or stored and direct the manufacturer to resolve or cure the defect in the product. The powers vested on the Director-General under this section can only be enforced after an application for an order to carry out these powers has been made to the Magistrate Court having jurisdiction in the area.

RESOLUTION BY ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION

Lowe and Woodroffe is of the opinion that rather than resorting to litigation and court action, these departments are more inclined to resolve consumer complaints by conciliation. This brings us to Settlement. It is important for consumers to be open to settlement of disputes through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Thus, the matter may be resolved through arbitration, negotiation or conciliation. Where such efforts are fruitless, the consumer may file a complaint with the relevant regulatory agency such as CPC, NAFDAC or SON. It is suggested that the consumer should seek litigation as a last resort. This is due to a number of reasons. For example, the judicial process in Nigeria can be rather costly and time consuming. As such, litigation should not be the first and immediate choice of the consumer especially where the gravity of the injury is not severe.

CONCLUSION:

The enactment of consumer protection Law In Nigeria, is  only an  attempt  at consumer protection. The level of consumer  awareness  in Nigeria  is  still  relatively low, thus culminating  in  the  near  absence  of  consumerism or action  against  unwholesome  business  practices.  Nigerian consumers are continuously  confronted  with substandard goods and services, lack of information and limited choices in the market. The ability to enforce the laws relating to consumer protection will provide the necessary impetus for safeguarding the rights and safety of consumers in Nigeria. In this regard, we recommend that:

  1. Nigerians should be sensitized about their consumer protection rights and how to enforce those rights. The current weekly programme ‘consumers speaks’ on the  national radio  network is a step in the right direction,  but  efforts  should  be  extended  to  local  radio  stations  and  the  programmes  aired  in  local languages to aid the understanding of the local populace.
  2. A more comprehensive  legal  regime  in  consumer protection  should  be  enacted  specifying  consumer rights  and  obligations of  marketers  rather  than  the  present  regime  where  these  are subsumed  into  the functions of the Council.
  3. Anti-trust laws  should  be  enacted  to  encourage  competition  in  the  market  place  and  invariably, guarantee the right of choice to consumers. 4.  The  Consumer  Protection  Council  and  the  State  Committees  should  be  more  proactive  in  the performance of their statutory functions.
  4. The media  should  assume  the  role  of  whistle-blowers  with  a  view  of  checkmating  unwholesome business practices by unscrupulous entrepreneurs and organisations

Lastly, Section 8 of the CPC Act should be amended to give aggrieved consumers unfettered access to the courts. In addition, the Section should provide for special court for consumer protection matters.

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