NIGERIA – As a legal battle rages between the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) and Coca Cola Nigeria Limited and its Nigerian franchise, the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) over an alleged breach of the CPC Act, the Director general of the council, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, on Saturday alleged a gang-up by the Nigerian Employers Consultative Council (NECA) and the Association of Food, Beverages and Tobacco Employees (AFBTE) to force the council to drop charges against the indicted firms.
Coca Cola Nigeria Limited and NBC are currently facing prosecution for allegedly violating the orders of the Council, which were given to ensure compliance with laid-down safety standards and regulations and enhanced consumers’ welfare.
This was after an administrative panel set up to investigate a consumer complaint regarding two half-empty cans of Sprite manufactured by NBC Limited under the licence and authority of Coca Cola Nigeria Limited found them culpable.
However, as members of the public await the outcome of the trial of the two firms at a federal high court in Abuja, it was gathered at the weekend that pressures are being mounted on the CPC to drop the charges by professional associations in the beverage sector.
Atoki, who spoke in Abuja at a seminar organised by the Federal Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment, said CPC’s activities are being hampered by a combination of clash of responsibilities by various organs of government and failure of Nigerian consumers to press charges against service providers for infractions.
As part of the Administrative Panel’s recommendations, CPC, a parastatal under the supervision of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, had ordered Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited and the NBC 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 demanding necessary compensation for the consumer/complainant.
Also, 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.
To show its seriousness, the Federal Government, a fortnight ago dragged the NBC Limited, Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited and their Chief Executives before a Federal High Court in Abuja for alleged criminal breach of the CPC Act.
The director general had earlier disclosed that while NBC cooperated by providing information to the administrative panel of investigation, Coca-Cola refused to attend and testify.