NIGERIA – The federal government has dragged the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) Limited, Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited and their chief executives before a Federal High Court in Abuja for criminal breach of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) Act.
In an unprecedented move, the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN) has preferred a one-count charge against the NBC and its Managing Director and a two-count charge against Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited and its Chief Executive, making them liable to jail terms ranging from three to five years, if found guilty.
The federal government in the charge against NBC and its Managing Director, Mr. Ben Langat, alleged that the two accused persons 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 you and thereby committed 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.”
In the first count of the two-count charge against Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited and its Managing Director, Mr. Adeola Adetunji, the government alleged that the two accused persons have committed an offence by refusing to “attend the hearing of the CPC held in Abuja in relation to investigation of violation of product quality standard under the CPC Act after summons was duly issued and served on you and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18 of the CPC 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 for 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 CPC Act, Cap C. 25, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and punishable under the same section.
The two criminal cases have been listed before Justice E.S. Chukwu of the Federal High Court 8, Abuja and a date is yet to be fixed for the hearing of the cases.
CPC had earlier this year 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 licence and authority of Coca Cola Nigeria Limited.
The council’s Director General, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, had at a media briefing soon after the conclusion of the investigation, stated that while NBC cooperated by providing information to the administrative panel of investigation, Coca-Cola refused to attend and testify.
Atoki disclosed that the panel, after an extensive investigation, substantiated the allegation of product defect and a violation of the CPC Act based on which several recommendations were made and orders thereto issued to Coca-Cola and NBC.
According to her, CPC, as part of the recommendations, ordered Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited and the Nigerian Bottling Company to subject their manufacturing processes to its inspection for a period of 12 months to ensure compliance with laid down safety standards and regulations, while ordering compensation for the consumer/complainant.
Additionally, Coca-Cola and NBC were also directed to formulate a shelf-life policy for their products; to review their consumer grievance resolution policy; supply chain management policy, product traceability policy; and to present written assurances that they will refrain from a continuation of any conduct which is detrimental to the interest of consumers.