Otunba ‘Debola Osibogun, a founder/President, CAFEi and former CIBN President in the press statement to marks International Women’s Day with the theme “The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection (FCCP)Act – Implications for the Nigerian Woman” said the passing of the FCCP bill into law was a major first step to securing better value for consumers through competitive markets. However, the effectiveness of the FCCP regulation is dependent on its implementation by the FCCP Commission and awareness of the law on the part of consumers, she added.
In a press statement sent by Nelson Olagundoye, Head, Corporate Communication & External Relations of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) quoting Osibogun, the President, Consumer Awareness and Financial Enlightenment Initiative (CAFEi) saying as the Commission develops its strategy for implementation of the law, and to ensure that the intended value of the law is realised, some key factors must be considered in its implementation:
- Knowledge and Competence of the Commission and Tribunal: As Nigeria’s first competition law, the FCCP is new to both its enforcers and those it intends to govern. The Commission must educate its staff on the new competition law through mandatory trainings and engagements which prepare them for effective implementation of the law.
Awareness drives such as workshops via various channels such as social media, tv networks, radios etc to educate consumers on their rights are essential to making the FCCP law effective. This is particularly important if the Commission is to gain trust of consumers in its interpretation and enforcement. A lack of understanding or inefficient interpretation of the regulation could encourage businesses to develop a perception that the Commission is ill-equipped to adequately enforce the law encouraging them to not comply. For consumers, this could be detrimental particularly for women who are at a greater disadvantage when it comes to anti-competitive behavour.
Another key concern could be the ability of the Commission to adequately police competition in Nigeria given that the former Consumer Protection Council (CPC), which will now become the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, previously did not focus on competition. It is very rare that Competition and Consumer Protection are governed by the same body and this raises the question on whether the Commission has the required expertise to effectively manage competition in Nigeria. Furthermore, in the event that there is a conflict between consumer protection and competition, where the Commission focuses its priority could severely affect women.
The competence of the Commission and Tribunal is therefore important as the Act recommends that members among other qualifications should also have some expertise in competition law. Given that this is the first competition law in Nigeria, it is recommended that some members of the Commission and Tribunal have served in markets where competition law has effectively been implemented and functions largely as designed. This will augment the competency of both bodies in enforcing and presiding over cases related to competition.
- Prominent Gender Representation: For the FCCP to be able to influence gender equality, it is important that there is adequate representation of females to champion the cause. The government has a target of 35% females in political positions at every level, which the National Council of Women Societies has increasingly put pressure on the president to adhere to. This must also be demanded of the authorities responsible for implementation of the FCCP law. The FCCP Commission for example, currently only has 20% representation of women as directors. Although these women hold strategically important roles to the implementation of the law – Director of Surveillance and Enforcement and Director of Consumer Education – for the real issues facing women in the market place to be addressed, they need higher representation where it matters.
- Collaboration with other Agencies: The expansive mandate of the FCCP Commission will require sufficient financing and human capital to effectively implement across the country. The commission can quickly achieve scale and resources by designating authority to existing agencies such as NAFDAC, SON, SEC etc. to assist in carrying out some duties.
For sectors where regulatory commissions already exist, such as telecommunications which has become a large contributor to economic advancement and GDP, these regulatory bodies should be allowed to continue under the authority of the FCCP Commission. This will help foster a collaborative effort towards achieving more competitive markets and fair and efficient options for consumers and also present a united front to businesses when dealing with the regulatory bodies and the Commission, and limit conflict in implementing the FCCP law across all industries.
- Independence of the Commission: The Commission’s autonomy must be upheld for the FCCP law to be effectively implemented. Interference from the government or favoritism as a result of relationship or expected benefits, as can be common in Nigeria, must not be encouraged. The Commission must remain impartial in discharging its duties to ensure all businesses are fairly assessed by the law, and consumers receive fair hearing of complaints raised.
- Clarity of Jurisdiction: Pursuant to Section 251(1)(f) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Federal High Court has jurisdiction over matters relating to monopolies. However, the new regulation appoints the FCCP Tribunal to preside over all competition-related cases, giving it equal ranking with the Federal High Court. By design, this should facilitate quicker resolution of issues. However as was seen recently the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the Federal High Court was able to interfere in the activities of the Tribunal. It is important that jurisdictional overlap is avoided so that the Tribunal can effectively carry out its duties and consumers can have access to quick and fair judgements on issues raised.
Amehnews recall that the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCP), was recent passed by the President Muhammadu Buhari’s government which came into effect on February 6, 2019 to regulate affairs of competition and consumer in the country. The statement disclosed that the Act repeals the Consumer Protection Act Chapter 25, Laws of the Federation Nigeria 2014 and Sections 118-128 of the Investment and Securities Act which regulated Mergers and Acquisitions (M&As) via the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)and “establishes the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and the Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal; for promotion of competition in the Nigerian markets at all levels, by eliminating monopolies, prohibiting abuse of a dominant market position and penalizing other restrictive trade and business practices.
Osibogun said that the challenges of implementing competition law in Nigeria are great, but the government’s willingness to pass this law, fifteen years after it was initially proposed highlights that perhaps there is a realization of the value lost in not regulating our market structures.
She pointed out that “the FCCP law could be the catalyst to creating a more conducive business environment for female entrepreneurs. Even though this law will not constitute ‘silver bullet’ in closing the gap on gender equality as the regulation does not directly address issues such as the gender wage gap and segmentation, it will go a long way in increasing access to female participation in economic activities thereby enhancing the objective of empowerment for women. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen if increased female participation translates to economic growth given the higher costs of running a business in the formal sector.”