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Pursuant to Sections 1 (c), 2, 3, 17 (e), 18, 32, 33, 104, 164, and 133 (2) of the
Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act, 2018
Friday, June 30, 2023: On Tuesday, June 27, 2023, the Federal High Court; CORAM: Justice N. E. Maha in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/26/2022 – Premiere Academy Limited (Premiere) v Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (Commission) and 2 Ors dismissed a claim by Premiere and upheld the inherent powers, jurisdiction and mandate of the Commission under the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act, 2018 (FCCPA) to investigate the broadest range of consumer protection issues irrespective of whether other components (such as criminal) of the legal process is implicated by the conduct that is subject of consumer dissatisfaction.
Specifically, the Court dismissed Premiere’s argument that the police investigation of a conduct necessarily preempts a regulatory investigation of the same conduct from the standpoint of consumer rights. The Court rejected Premiere’s argument that a criminal investigation into an allegation of rape or molestation of a student while under the care of Premiere constitutes a bar and prevents the Commission from investigating any failure(s) in the duty of care owed to a student as a consumer of services provided by the school.
On June 22, 2021, Keren-Happuch Aondodoo Akpagher (Keren) a student of Premiere died after having taken ill in the boarding facilities of Premiere. The circumstances leading to her death have become disputed including allegations of lack of sufficient care by Premiere in managing and escalating her medical condition and clinical status, as well as an allegation that Keren may have been subjected to sexual molestation which conduct or aftermath may have contributed to her medical/clinical condition and eventual death.
The Commission commenced an investigation by issuing a Notice of Commencement of Investigation pursuant to Sections 17, 18, 32, 33, 113, 157 and 159 of the FCCPA, in order to determine any infringements of the FCCPA that might have occurred with respect to the duty of care owed to Keren and her family, and for the purpose of ensuring Premiere as an institution and facility is sufficiently equipped, safe and secure to continue to render boarding or other custodial services to existing and prospective students. Premiere in response and continuation of a resistance to fully comply with the Commission’s request for evidence filed this action at the Federal High Court, seeking to restrain the Commission from discharging a vital statutory responsibility to consumers.
The clear unequivocal decision of the Court in characterizing the suit by Premiere as “frivolous and lacking in merit”; as well as judicially affirming the responsibility and powers of the Commission to investigate occurrences in the circumstances as not inconsistent with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and the Nigeria Police Act, 2020 is a further demonstration, strengthening and institutionalization of an important national priority and constitutional imperative which is consumer protection and holding service providers accountable to their customers or persons/entitieswho act on their behalf.
The Court’s further declaration that “courts lack powers to stop a statutory body from carrying out its duties as doing that will negate the doctrine of separation of powers” is though a repeated judicial declaration but, a timely emphasis that is crucial for an accountability framework that promotes and ensures the appropriate duty and standard of care that businesses and service providers must embrace in delivering what they sell or provide to consumers and their interactions with Regulators.
The Commission welcomes this well-thought-out decision and commends the same to Premiere, other institutions and undertakings that provide goods or services to consumers. In the absence of any legitimate or legal restraint in the circumstances, the Commission will accordingly and assiduously progress this long pending and outstanding investigation; and invites Premiere to recognize and comply with its obligations under the law.
Executive Vice Chairman/CEO