Mr. Babatunde Irukera, Director General, Consumer Protection Council, CPC, in this interview with GANIYU OBAARO, counsels Nigerian consumers on the need to know their rights. A law graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, said consumers should keep abreast of the digital revolution, while also assuring that the agency would enunciate new policies to protect consumers’ right in the New Year. Excerpts
The average Nigerian consumers lack adequate knowledge of their rights. Can you tell us what rights consumers have in their business relationships?
Consumer rights entail so many areas. For example, the consumer has the right to redress, by which we mean, a consumer, who is dissatisfied with a product or service has the right to redress.
This can be a refund of money paid, repair or replacement of the product.
Again, the consumer has right to safety, which means he or she has a right to safe products and services fit for his/her intended use and purpose.
Also, a consumer does not only have the right to appropriate information he requires about a product he wants, he or she has to select freely from a range of products and services he wants.
What then is the role of the CPC?
The Consumer Protection Council is the apex consumer protection agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
It was established to promote and protect consumers’ interest in all areas to their complaints, inform, educate and empower them to act as discerning and discriminating consumers in the market place.
The Council is dedicated to leading change in the society; towards a population of knowledgeable, vigilant, assertive and discriminating consumers.
What is your level of achievements since becoming the DG of CPC a little over seven months ago?
I have been interfacing with various government’s institutions and agencies like Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, National Agency for Drugs Administration and Control, NAFDAC.
We are worried about the prevalence of fake or substandard products. That is why I wrote the DG, SON about it on how we can partner to address it.
There is need for attitudinal change; Let people know their rights; and for that reason we need to build consensus among the stakeholders.
How does a consumer keep abreast of the digital age in his consumption drive?
The consumer should create and use strong and smart password for his/ her computer, mobile phone and other devices to avoid easy access by other people.
Also, a consumer should never share his password or pin with any other person(s).
It is also essential that you also avoid people spying into your activities when you are using any Automated Teller machine (ATM).
Consumers should also ensure that they know the identity, location and contact details of their online retailer, especially lesser-known online companies; protect yourself from online scams;
be wary of online sellers offering goods and well known brands at extremely low prices, etc.
What are your next programmes of action to move CPC forward?
We are looking at deepening institutional framework-APPS, etc. We are using automation system; and we will ask companies to plug into it. We will ask them to prepare their own technology.
Reputation management is very key to companies, unfortunately, what some of them do is to isolate problems.
We are however working on our own physical infrastructure. We ‘ill focus on Lagos; create better working environment for the people.
We are therefore seeking the cooperation of the media to achieve our aim of serving Nigerians.
We will also work with international donor agencies like United Nation International Development Organisation (UNIDO), among other organizations.
Again, come first quarter of 2018, Consumers Bill of Rights would be rolled out by us.
This will entail enforcing that serial numbers of batches products are clearly printed on products, while warranty of products must be indicated to guide the consumer.
We are also working on ‘Patients Bill of Rights’- meaning that people should know who should do what.
In this connection, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Pharmaceutical Council, Nursing Council are working with us.
We are looking at other sectors of the economy too. In fact, electricity is our priority. It is a challenging area.
I don’t care what the Distribution companies, Discos say; all I care for is to have the best for consumers. Gradually, we are changing public perception and helping to change the entire society.
Babatunde Irukera at a glance
Babatunde Irukera has over 20 years of transactional, commercial litigation and practice management experience.
His experience includes over 10 years in the United States engaging in complex commercial litigation and settlements including several jury trials and significant appellate work.
At this time, he also successfully managed the transition of a small-sized firm in Chicago to fuse with a large broad-based practice in Simmons Cooper LLC.
He has routinely conducted oral arguments before the US Court of Appeals and the Nigerian appellate courts with reported locus classicus that are currently of significant precedential value.
Babatunde also deploys excellent pre-litigation and appropriate extrajudicial resolution strategies in resolving business and other disputes.
Babatunde also heads the commercial litigation and Aviation sector at SCP. Babatunde’s engagements have involved a broad range of commercial and corporate issues including securities litigation, investments and divestments,
joint ventures, oil block acquisitions, product liability, fiduciary duties of directors, intellectual property, and cross border litigation including discovery in other jurisdictions.
He is a member of the Nigerian Bar Association, International Bar Association and American Bar Association.
• In the immediate past, he successfully represented a class of investors in a dispute involving the single largest capital market transaction in Nigeria, in the process establishing the legality of interest devolution to investors. The securities regulator under its regulatory rules has adopted this theory.
• Babatunde has represented a multilateral financial institution – in statutory and regulatory appraisal before municipal agencies; and the Federal and some State Governments – in corporate misconduct cases, in a particular case, leading to a settlement in excess of $80 million, the largest settlement yet in Nigeria.
• Babatunde consulted for Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) on Anti-competitive pricing and Anti-consumer activities on two major airlines.
The Consultation & aftermath investigation forced the Airlines to introduce same pricing equilibrium which forced the fare between Ghana-UK route to par with the Nigeria-UK route
Babatunde also provides capacity-building advisory services to federal agencies and other clients on the introduction and implementation of antitrust legal regime in Nigeria.
He is a pioneer in the area of work-product development focusing on legal writing and advocacy for counsel.
In recent engagements, Babatunde has provided strategic planning advice both from political and business risk standpoints for foreign businesses, government agencies and international investors.
Babatunde contributes the Nigerian chapters of Electricity Regulation, Merger Control, Private Antitrust Litigation, Dominance and Cartel Regulation for the renowned international publication, the Getting the Deal Through Series.