By DOTUN IBIWOYE
Lagos state has scored another first, being the pioneer state to delineate a law for consumer protection, expected to guard against the exposure to harmful usage of goods and exploitation by consumers.
Consumerism is the protection of rights and interests of consumers especially with regard to price, quality and safety.
Last week, Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN) of Lagos state signed the State Consumer Protection Agency Bill into a law, stating that the purpose is to protect consumers and to ensure that they get value for their money.
He noted that consumers must be able to seek relief or remedy against manufacturers who put goods that are substandard or those that are not fit for consumption into the market, adding that he expects that the law should tell consumers that they should not be helpless against erring manufacturers or vendors or service providers in Lagos because the state government has deemed it proper to give support to them so that their voices can be heard.
Naturally, the over 20 million inhabitants of Lagos applauded this new law but how effective can it be since the there is an existing protection agency of the federal government which has made little or no impact on the lives of Nigerians since its inception many years back.
In Nigeria, protection is provided for in the Consumer Protection Council Act, CPC Act under Chapter C25, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
It is an act to provide for the establishment of the consumer protection council and for matters connected therewith.
The slogan that;The customer is king and is always right’ gained worldwide acceptance as consumer protection laws were enacted and customers and consumers became more aware of their rights when purchasing goods and services.
Recently, the CPC called for speedy passage of the reviewed consumer protection laws to enable the government provide adequate cover for consumers.
CPC’s Director general, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, made the call when she led a delegation on a courtesy visit to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, to canvass for the speedy passage of the bill to review the CPC laws as well as to seek for an improved budgetary provisions in a bid to enhance the performance of the council.
She affirmed that the present Consumer Protection Act has some gaps so it cannot protect Nigerian consumers and it was because of the gaps in the Act that multinationals come to dump goods in the country with no law to hold them responsible. Will this turn out to be the case in Lagos too?
The Founder of the Consumer Advocacy Foundation of Nigeria, Sola Salako, had said recently that Nigerian subscribers remain highly frustrated even after many years of the GSM technology in Nigeria.
Also, Executive Secretary of the Consumer Rights Project, Onu Uche, blamed the situation on the general lackadaisical attitude of Nigerians and the lack of laws to protect Nigerian consumers.
He commended the Lagos State Government for passing the Consumer Protection Law, which he said was a step in the right direction.
National President of the National Association of Telecom Subscribers, Deolu Ogunbanjo, also said that the regulators were trying in the sense that they were beginning to introduce features that make the subscribers more comfortable. He cited the number portability introduced by the Nigeria Communication Commission which allows the user to choose as laudable.
However in signing the Lagos version of the law, the governor said; I hope everybody benefits because this law will raise the service levels of providers, it raises compliance levels, it improves the quality and standards of goods that are put in the market and the manufacturers and service providers also now know that there is at least a minimum service level expectation that the market will expect.
He explained that one of the selling points of Lagos state internationally and nationally is its large population and the consumption power that the population brings, adding that no government that is alive to its responsibility will not seek to protect consumers who expend money in order to ensure that they get value for their money.