The Tasks Before Abia Consumers Protection Council
One of the cardinal functions of the Consumers Protection Council (CPC) is to seek ways and means of removing or eliminating from the market hazardous products and causing offenders to replace such products with safer and more appropriate alternatives.
The newly- constituted Abia Consumers Protection Council (CPC) is poised to carry out this function, among other functions of the council to its barest point.
Recent raids of Abia CPC on markets in Aba have revealed that consumers are at the mercy of dealers of unwholesome products. But the Chairman of the council, Mr. Ukadike Ogbuagu, has vowed to reverse the trend where Aba, the commercial-nerve of the state and the budding Small and Medium Scale Enterprises of the country is noted sharp business practices.
In one of the raids, the council confiscated a wide range of unwholesome products ranging from cosmetics, drugs, alcoholic and non- alcoholic beverages. The products were either expired, adulterated or banned. They include Fumbact A, Laside, Alcopar, and Pyramtrin. Others are alcoholic beverages such as Black label, Red label, Hennessey, Macdowell, among others.
Investigations reveal that the dealers of these unwholesome products engage in high profile manipulations to introduce these products to the market. One of such means is the importation of the bottles, labels, corks, and packets of the original products. Thereafter, the bottles are filled with fake liquid content to the detriment of the unsuspecting consumers.
The dealers of these unwholesome products go a step further by erasing the expiry dates inscribed on the packets of these products and replacing with a new one. That is why the Abia CPC Chairman, Mr. Ukadike Ogbuagu is warning seriously that the Abia consumers should be wary of the products to consume, especially sausage rolls ( popularly known as gala).
There is no doubt that the most products flooding the market do not possess the certifications of the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), exposing the Aba market to a dumping ground for unwholesome products.
To advance their nefarious activities, warnings announcing the adverse effects of products are now written in alien languages, thereby denying the consumers knowledge of such effects. The pertinent question that agitates the mind is:" Who knows how many Abians these sharp practices have sent to their untimely grave or rendered incapacitated (health-wise)?"
Like is always said that " there is a silver lining at the end of every tunnel", the Abia CPC is not resting on its oars to ensure that the consumers are adequately protected. The raids of market to mop up unwholesome products is a continuous exercise and cannot be compromised. The council has designed measures to ensure that the consumer's "warranty", which is an assurance from the manufacturer confirming the quality of the product with the promise that there will be a Refund, Replacement or Repair (3Rs) if a problem occurs within a stated period, is strictly enforced. The council is appealing to consumers to contact whenever they are snubbed in the course of demanding the enforcement of their warranty.
The council is also mounting an intensive enlightenment programme on consumers rights. Such rights include Right to Redress, which guarantees a consumer who is dissatisfied with a product or service the right to redress. This can be either a refund of money paid, repair or replacement of the product; Right to safety: This right guarantees every right to safe products and services fit for their intended use and purpose; Right to information: This right guarantees every consumer the right to all necessary information about a product, service to be consumed. This information should include the content of the product, labelling standards, ingredients, prescribed usage, and best before date.
Others are Right to Consumer Education: This is the right of consumers to be educated about their rights; Right to Choose: This is the right of consumers to be able to select freely from a range of products and services.
The enlightenment campaign will extend to other areas such as "Consumers' Rights to Healthy Foods".This area will afford consumers right to nutritional information, safe and healthy foods. These campaigns would be anchored on " Stay off junk food; Too much fat can lead to obesity and heart diseases; Too much sugar can make diabetic; and Too much salt can lead to high pressure and other disease, among others.
Abia CPC is making sure that the era when customers are short-changed at filling stations is over. The council is mobilising at large scale to ensure that "Consumer Clubs" are inaugurated at both primary and post- primary schools in the state. The essence of this is to ensure that the Abia children are inculcated with the right consumer value orientation at tender ages. It is mounting efforts on top gear to ensure that rice and cement are no longer re- bagged, while ensuring that meat is processed in topmost healthy manners for human consumption, especially the process of convening the meat from the slaughter to the market.
All the same, these tasks are not free of challenges. First and foremost challenge is the attitude of the consumers. Most of the consumers are ignorant of these facts and may not garner the required courage and patience the prosecution of these programmes deserve. Another daunting task is the dismantling of the cartel responsible for these unwholesome practices. Dismantling of this cartel can only be possible if the appropriate authorities, security agents enlist their unalloyed support.
Besides, funding is a critical component of this campaign. The relevant agencies, especially the state government should not hesitate to render the necessary financial assistance to the council when required so that its case will not aptly interpret that of the proverbial dancer whose piper dictates the tune. On this note, one is optimistic that Governor Okezie Ikpeazu whose disposition is to do things differently will not fail in this direction.
The Chairman of Abia CPC, Mr. Ukadike Ogbuagu is optimistic that no mattter how daunting the task to rid Abia of unwholesome products is, it is achievable. Let us join Ogbuagu in his optimism by contributing our quota in this crucial campaign. Unwholesome products are nobody's friend. Anybody can fall a victim.
Ukegbu, a public affairs analyst and communication strategist, writes from Umuahia, Abia State.