Federal Government of Nigeria, under the guise of Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), has started the prosecution of stores and companies allegedly taking advantage of the coronavirus situation to stash critical hygienic products and charge exorbitant prices.
The FCCPC, on Tuesday, charged Prince Ebeano Supermarket, H-Medix Pharmacy and Stores, FAXX Stores, and Bakan Gizo Pharmacy to Court for hiking the price cleaning products such as hand sanitizer, face masks and other essential to contain the spread of coronavirus in Nigeria.
The Commission, saddled with protecting the rights of Nigerian consumers, filed a six-count charges against the aforementioned outlets, before Justice N. E Maha of the Federal High Court in Abuja, accusing them of committing offences breaching a myriad of the FCCPC laws.
One of the count reads: “That you mega stores were engaged in making a false representation with the price of sanitizers, hand-wash liquids, and disinfectants of various existing brands at ‘your’ retail outlet and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 125 (1) (a) of the FCCPC Act, 2018.”
H-Medix, which has chains of outlets across Abuja, was particularly accused to have been “exploiting the national public health emergency of COVID-19 pandemic to engage in price gouging”.
Upon arraignment on Tuesday, Counsel to the 1st, 3rd and 4th Defendants, Abubakar Muhammed, pleaded for an adjournment to enable the 2nd Defendant’s lawyer, who is conspicuously absent from Court, represent her within the bound of the law.
The Court, after the Prosecuting counsel, Babatunde Irukera, opposed the application of the Defendants’ Counsel, adjourned to 25th of June 2020 for the arraignment of the defendants and to allow the due representation of the defendants in Court.
Mr Irukera, briefing journalists shortly after the adjournment, said the main offence of the outlets being prosecuted is ‘price gouging’, meaning “taking advantage of a situation to increase prices in a manner that contradicts ordinary business practices or acceptable parameters of profit-and-loss margins”.
Meanwhile, Counsel to the Defendants, said: “We are fully briefed on the details of the alleged offences of the outlets regarding trading.
“The commission, of course, has the power to prosecute and we on our part have made relevant applications and the court has agreed with us by way of giving us adjournment to prepare for the case.”