Consumer Rights: Stakeholders Blame Regulators For Violation At Conference
WITH the deplorable spate of consumer rights violation in Nigeria, students and consumers at a recent Stakeholders’ Conference organised by the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) blamed agencies responsible for protecting consumers form abuse for the anomaly.
At the conference, which was attended by representatives of telecoms service providers in the country, participants had thought that they (the service providers) would use the opportunity to address some customer complaints and offer lasting solutions to such. But to their chagrin, the two competing brands in the industry, MTN and Airtel, were rather more interested in selling some of their products instead of addressing the issues.
The conference, tagged “The Nigerian Consumer: Rights, Duties and Obligations” was built around the cliché, ‘Consumer is King’ in an attempt to highlight the impunities Nigerian consumers suffer in the hands of some brands.
Also present at the conference were representatives of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC), Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), and First Bank Plc, among others.
The conference was organised by Addefort Limited in collaboration with the Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Akoka.
Delivering a conference lecture titled “The Role of Public Relations in Protecting the Rights of Consumers”, Prof. Ralph Akinfeleye, dwelt on some complaints raised by telecoms consumers in the country, which required the immediate response of representatives of both the MTN and Airtel at the event. However, instead of trying to reassure and allay the fears of consumers at the conference, the service providers deviated from the consumerism issues of the day and began to market some of its products to the chagrin of students and other stakeholders present.
In her comments, Mrs. Nkechi Ali-Balogun, however, indicted regulatory agencies charged with consumer rights protection for paying lips service to consumer education and awareness in the country.
“There are more Nigerian consumers in the rural areas who suffer from the flagrant consumer abuse. I am particularly unhappy that the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation is not present here. We are very concerned that as a regulatory body, NBC has refused to put a rein on DStv who have hiked their rates without recourse to its impact on the Nigerian consumer,” she noted.
Director General of SON, Dr. Joseph Odumodu, who spoke on “Checking the Rate of Substandard Products in Nigeria”, said SON was working round the clock to rid the country of sub-standard products.
“The management of SON in its resolve to reposition the organisation towards higher productivity particularly in the fight against the menace of sub-standard products importation, production, storage and distribution merged the Enforcement, Ports and Border Operation Units into a full directorate which is now called ‘’Inspectorate and Compliance Directorate (ICD). This is to achieve the overall objectives of SON particularly in its “Zero Tolerance to sub-standard products” initiative in the Country,” he said.
Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah, was represented by the commission’s Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo.
Speaking on the “Challenges of Providing Quality Telecom Services in Nigeria”, Ojobo insisted that the quality of telecoms service in Nigeria was not falling in any way.
According to him, “even if we wish to compare service quality with the situation in the 1970s to 1990s, up to 2000, or at the inception and during the telecom revolution years which began in 2001, or just the status in three to five years ago, we are uncomfortable to admit that the quality or standard of services is falling. But we may argue that the challenge to quality of service is increasing at the same pace at which services are expanding to all the nooks and crannies of the country.”
The President/Chairman, Governing Council of NIPR, Dr. Rotimi Oladele used the platform to advocate for the involvement of all stakeholders in ensuring that the essence of the conference was not defeated.
According to Oladele, “protecting the rights of the Nigerian consumer is the collective responsibility of all stakeholders. In our capacity as public relations right activists, we should pursue the rights and interest of consumers because they are our ally”.
During the discussion session, many students of the university that participated in the conference also blamed regulatory agencies for the injustices students suffer in the hands of their lecturers.
According to one Chibuike Obi, a student of Public Relations at the University of Nigeria, students have also suffered horrendously from bad and vindictive lecturers. “I have witnessed serious consumer abuse from some lecturers in my school who threaten to fail students that report them for not honouring their pedagogic contract. They violate our rights as students and go scot-free,” he noted.