Nnamdi Felix / Abuja
In an unprecedented move to compel businesses operating in Nigeria to comply with the provisions of the Consumer Protection Council Act, especially relating to product quality standard, the federal government has instituted legal action against the Nigerian Bottling Company Limited, NBC, and Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited, alongside their chief executives before at a federal high court in Abuja over an alleged criminal breach of the CPC Act.
The charge filed before the court by the Attorney General of Nigeria and Minister of Justice accused the managing directors of the companies, Mr. Ben Langat, for Nigerian Bottling Company Limited, and Mr. Adeola Adetunji, for Coca Cola Nigeria Limited, and their companies respectively, of having committed an offence by violating the Orders of the Consumer Protection Council by deliberately failing, refusing and/or neglecting to comply with the Council’s Orders duly made and served on them. The offence is said to be contrary to Section 21 of the Consumer Protection Council Act, Cap C. 25, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and punishable under the same section.
In the first count of the two-count charge against Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited and its Managing Director, Mr. Adeola Adetunji, the federal government alleged that the accused committed an offence by refusing to attend the hearing of the Consumer Protection Council held in Abuja in relation to investigation of violation of product quality standard under the Consumer Protection Council Act after Summons was duly issued and served on them and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18 of the Consumer Protection Council Act Cap C. 25 of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and punishable under the same section.
Coca-Cola and its Chief Executive, as in the case of NBC, were also charged with violating the Orders of the Council by deliberately refusing to comply with the Order duly made and served on them, thereby committing an offence contrary to Section 21 of the Consumer Protection Council Act, Cap C. 25, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and punishable under the same section.
CPC had earlier found NBC and Coca-Cola culpable following its findings from the administrative panel set up over a consumer complaint regarding two half-empty cans of Sprite manufactured by Nigerian Bottling Company, NBC, Limited under the license and authority of Coca Cola Nigeria Limited.
The Council had alleged that the Coca Cola company bluntly refused to attend the proceedings at the administrative panel level where, following an extensive investigation, findings by the panel substantiated the allegation of product defect and a violation of the Consumer Protection Council’s Act. It thereafter based on made some recommendations and Orders to Coca-Cola and NBC.
According to Mrs. Dupe Atoki, the Director General of the CPC, part of the recommendations and orders issued Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited and the Nigerian Bottling Company was to subject their manufacturing processes to COC’s inspection for a period of 12 months to ensure compliance with laid down safety standards and regulations and compensation for the consumer who filed the complainant.
The case has been assigned to Justice Evoh Chukwu but no date has been fixed for the hearing.