The Director General of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), Babatunde Irukera, has canvassed for mutual trust between Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the Council for a healthier relationship in the interest of Nigerian consumers.
Similarly, he lauded the clamour for more partnership between the Council and CSOs, asserting that no government anywhere in the world can single-handedly protect its citizens against exploitation.
Irukera made the assertions at the headquarters of the Council while receiving members of the Coalition of Civil Society Organisations on consumer protection, led by Omoluabi Bode Adeyemi, during the group’s courtesy visit to the Council.
While acknowledging the positive role of civil society in the development of the country, he said that for more entrenched progress to be achieved, there must be mutual trust and confidence in the ability of each party in the relationship between government and civil society. According to him, “it is a very important thing that civil society recognises that there is a split at a certain point and the fine split is when you are talking of a place like the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, and we are holding each other accountable, not based on the adversarial context but more on a partnership level”.
He emphasised that “it is important because what will happen is that if we do not have mutual trust and confidence on how we do our work, you will succeed to a certain extent and we will succeed to a certain extent too, because there will be people who will say that we have done well and there will be others, who will credit civil society for being the conscience of the society. “But there will be a point that we could both reach, that we do not reach. That point that we could reach but do not reach will not affect your resume or your credentials, neither will it affect ours, but the real people who will be affected is the society itself”, he stated.
On the clamour for more partnership, the director general asserted that “there’s nowhere in the world where government is the only one that has ever succeeded in protecting its people” noting that “government improves every time because civil society holds it accountable”. Irukera assured that the Council would be willing to work with organisations and the civil society to increase consumer education with the aim of “letting people really know what their rights are and then the harvesting of feedback”.
He told the visiting group that “whatever credibility and statutory mandate that the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission needs to support your organisation, to access the type of support that is required for you to assist us to percolate sensitization and consumer awareness all the way down to the ground, I want to bring that to the table”.
He spoke further on the need for consumer protection to get to the grassroots because, according to him, market abuse and exploitation are more pronounced in the remote parts of the country, noting that more consumer protection activities at this level would force service providers and manufacturers to give more attention to consumers.
Earlier, the leader of the group had told the director general to step up protection of consumers in the country, enjoining him to bring his past record of performance to bear in his new position as the chief executive of the Council.
He stated that “Consumers have faced different untold hardship arising from persons who were supposed to rise up and defend their interests and we feel that Nigeria, under a leadership that believes in change, must change from what it used to be, to what it should be … So I want to believe that FCCPC has an onerous task ahead of it and having a personality like you in the saddle, I believe that there will be a radical change”.
Adeyemi said his coalition “identified that one major problem with consumers in this country is that of awareness”, stressing that “they don’t even know they have rights or even what those rights are.
“So one important area that the Council, particularly under this leadership, will make tremendous achievement, is making Nigerians understand what their rights are. Even if you cannot fight for them, let them know what their rights are, and the kind of Nigerians I know, when they know and understand their rights, they will go all out to fight for these rights. We know that, as a matter of fact, FCCPC does not have the human resources, in terms of numbers to do this. I doubt if there’s any FCCPC office in my State or in many other States of the country. We strongly believe that we can collaborate with this organisation in going out to create awareness”, he added.
In a related development, the DG also received two other non-governmental organisations, the Save the Consumers Initiative and the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), which also paid courtesy calls on him.