By Gbenga Salau
BRANDS from Nigeria are already making inroads into other African countries. But the consensus among many Nigerians is that consumers who make these brands successful in Nigeria are not respected enough, with their rights willfully violated, despite a number of government agencies charged with the responsibility of protecting consumers’ interest and rights.
In other to truly make the consumer feel that he’s king and in the drive to make Nigerian brands worldclass or iconic, Brand Journalists Association of Nigeria (BJAN) brought together critical stakeholders to discuss better ways of strengthening the rights of customers, and as part of activities to mark World Consumer Day
Moderator of the forum, the President, National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria (NIMN), Chief Lugard Aimiuwu, in his introductory remark, said that it was ironic that consumers, who are the biggest group affected by government policies and regulators’ decisions, have little or no say in what affected them. Like other discussants at the forum, Aimiuwu directly and indirectly said poverty and illiteracy had contributed to consumers’ not knowing what their rights were let alone insisting on them.
Keynoter and Director-General, Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Mr. Emmanuel Amlai, who was represented by Mr. Emma Ataduba, categorically said that the rights of Nigerian consumers were being violated with impunity. He, however, noted that the consumers did not help matters, as they were often not willing to get their rights protected even when government agencies were willing to take up their cases.
He was of the view that when a consumer bought a sub-standard product, he was not only hurt, it also impoverished the consumers because it cost more in the long run to buy substandard products. As for the manufacturer, he noted that it was likely to push him out of the market.
He further noted that ignorance and lack of education were two major reasons consumers’ rights were violated. Among other steps to protect consumers’ rights, Aimiuwu suggested improved regulations, better market practices by manufacturers and service providers, self regulation by product and service providers, enlightenment for consumers, upward review of penalties for violators and inter-ageny collaboration as way forward.
The Director-General of Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Dr. Joseph Odumodu, represented by Mr. Louis Njoku, said that government had put in place everything for the protection of the rights of consumers but that most times consumers fail to make complaint to the appropriate quarters or agencies. He further argued that consumers had not done much to help the process. He re-echoed the need for self-regulation by manufacturers.
On his part, President, Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN), Mr. Kola Oyeyemi, said there was collective culpability in the violation of consumers’ rights as everybody was guilty. He argued that until Nigerians began to stand up for their fundamental human rights, there rights would not be protected. He suggested better enlightenment and regulation as ways out of the crisis.
Director-General, NAFDAC, Prof. Paul Orhii, who was represented by Mr. M. S. Mammudu, recounted efforts by his agency to protect the rights of consumers, including employing technology-enabled tools. He, however, observed that consumers must help the process by playing their roles of checking and complaining to regulators.
Chairman of APCON, Mr. Lolu Akinwunmi, said government set up the various agencies that directly or indirectly protect consumers’ right because the consumer was critical and that everybody was a consumer. He observed that most times the agencies did not take cases and follow them through. He also noted that if this were done there would be examples that would serve as deterrent. He also suggested that agencies should work together and enjoined the media to help in the enlightenment of the populace about their rights.
Aimiuwu stated that human rights were fundamental to respecting consumer rights and where citizens had challenges meeting their basic needs, consumer rights were mostly violated in such environment.
CEO, JSP Communications, Dr. Phil Osagie stated that using violation for inability to protect consumers’ right was too strong, adding, “Violation is probably a too strong word but consumers are not protected as they should, which is a responsibility of both the consumer and the regulator”.
At the end of the discourse, the new executive of Brand Journalists Association of Nigeria (BJAN) headed Mr. Goddie Ofose was inaugurated with Mr. Princewill Ekwujuru as Vice-Chairman.