Sub-standard goods: Absence of consumer protection

Oga, your two front tyres na China, if na the same you want for the back, na N8, 000.each”. This unsolicited advice was coming from one of the shop attendants that swooped on me as I drove into a tyre retail shop on Awolowo way last week. I had bought the two front tyres a week earlier from the Ladipo spare parts market at N15, 000 each with the shop owner swearing they were original. The two back tyres I was trying to replace cost about N24, 000 each from a once successful but now collapsed Nigerian tyre company that I was told imported them from South Africa.

But noticing the doubts boldly written on my face, the young sales attendant who was trying to ensure a sale is made added “ But Oga instead of the ‘China’, buy ‘tokunbo’ for only N5,000, you will get better value because na from importers of tokunbo cars we buy from.”

After the initial confusion, what came to mind was the last month’s acknowledgement by the Director General (DG) of Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Ikemefuna Odumodu that “20% of road accidents in Nigeria are due to sub-standard tyres”. Then the reality of how vulnerable and helpless Nigerians that have been left at the mercy of the merchants of death, the importers of sub-standard goods and their street agents, increased the turmoil going on in my mind.

Odumodu painted a grimmer picture. “Due to paucity of data, SON cannot give the exact figure of how many Nigerians are dying on account of fake products”; What was not  not in dispute is “that the country has become a dumping ground for substandard goods”.

Testifying before the National Assembly joint Committees on Trade and investment earlier, Odumodu had disclosed that “N1 trillion is spent annually on importation of fake products, 80% of which come from Asian countries”.

He said items seized in 2012 include N2billion worth of cables, N200 million worth of iron rod and tyres worth N5m. After destroying N2.7b worth of fake goods this year, SON premises is still littered with several trailers loaded with imported sub-standard goods, as well as huge cache of other assorted confiscated goods ranging from gas cylinders, clippers, electrical cables ferried from raided warehouses. But these efforts according to him represent only a tip of the ice bag. In fact one of Odumodu’s staff, Mrs. Chritabel Okoye claimed that “95% of goods in Abuja markets SON visited were fakes”.  The same picture or possibly worse scenarios play out in other Nigerian major cities where apart from substandard goods,  every corner is littered with imported used baby dresses, used baby school bags, used women underwear and assorted second clothes while president Jonathan’s ministers shed crocodile tears over the failure of the N100billion textile sector bail-out.

Sub-standard goods are global phenomena and a threat to the health and socio-economic development of developing nations. But while other nations including India that recently banned mobile phones without IMEI number that could help authorities track users, along with toys and milk from China, are leaving no stones unturned to address the menace, our own government has continued to demonstrate its ineptitude and insensitivity to the well-being of Nigerians.

Nigerians already know that a government that is prepared to visit hardship on its own poor as well as its middle class car owners for the theft of about N1.7trillion by members of the governing elite, slam double taxation of about N30, 000 on vehicle owners in the guise of new plate numbers, and allocate a disproportionate share of the national resources to sustain the greed and scandalous life styles of members at the expense of the poor cannot be trusted. But if Nigerians have come to terms with a PDP government that is ideologically committed to the exploitation of the poor, what they did not bargain for is PDP government becoming an accomplice to crimes of a few greedy Nigerians and godless foreigners against helpless Nigerians.

For instance, the government’s misguided 2011 policy that led to the eviction of SON from the ports in the name of decongesting the ports has resulted in SON chasing symptoms rather than the disease. All they have succeeded in doing is apprehending trailers filled with sub-standard goods and their drivers while the brains behind crimes against Nigerians who cynics believe are government officials or their

fronts with access to state free funds are shielded. The question has been how many genuine Nigerian business men who laboured for their money will abandon trailer-laden sub-standard goods worth billions of naira at the premises of SON or remain indifferent when impounded goods worth billions of naira are burnt.

If it has been difficult to unmask the brains behind importation of sub-standard products, critics believe it must be because PDP whose leading members have been fingered as playing ignoble roles in the fuel subsidy and  pensions scheme scams, crude oil theft, banking sector collapse, betrayal of the privatization dream as conceived by the World Bank, etc is involved. Importers of all goods are licensed by government. The CBN has records of money transferred for specific purposes and the goods come in through our ports and borders manned by the customs. And in any case, government has the capacity to trace all imported goods to their source.  Yet for 14 years it has been a game of government hypocrisy.

It is the same story of hypocrisy with crude oil theft until the ‘new PDP’, came out to confirm what we have always suspected- that government knows those behind the crime while PDP contractors like Doyin Okupe and Ijaw ethnic irredentist like papa Edwin Clark have diverted attention by justifying award of multimillion dollar contracts to government new allies, the repentant Niger Delta militants. And we have no reason to disbelieve the new PDP. Not too long ago, one of the ships apprehended with stolen fuel was traced to a fuel dump allegedly owned by a former minister. Like other scams involving high profile PDP members, their siblings or fronts, the case seems to have died a natural death.

Perhaps this explains why the British Deputy High Commissioner tongue in cheek, told our government last week on Channels Television Programme that it should  do its job of  securing our borders and waterways instead of chasing stolen crude oil to London market just as SON  now chases imported sub-standard goods to warehouses and markets.

Rip- off and conmen

Many of the communication service providers are swindling Nigerians and smiling to the banks. Subscribers are debited between N10 and N100 naira for services they never requested for through unsolicited test messages. At between 10 and 50 naira, a service provider with 14million subscribers can rake in between N140m and N740m from only one unsolicited service dumped on unsuspecting helpless subscribers.

Predictably, government has chosen to look the other way. It is inconceivable that a company driven by profit motive will fritter away millions ostensibly to thank customers for patronage. The Yoruba say “owo Abu ni a nfi se Abu lalejo’ literarily meaning we use Abu’s money to entertain Abu.


As if to put a lie to the above antics, SPECTRANET has demonstrated it is in Nigeria only for profit. Aping government, it has shamelessly adopted the template used by government to extract N30, 000 from its citizens with existing valid vehicle plate numbers, SPECTRANET has even gone beyond merely forcing its subscribers to cough out N18, 000 and three months compulsory subscription for a new modem on the excuse that they have upgraded their equipments even when there was nothing

wrong with existing subscribers modem obtained less than two years ago. Now subscribers who have been on Spectranet’s  N8,500 ‘unlimited package’ for about two years who complained they are not getting joy in spite of this new rip-off were told by the shop attendants that their unlimited status had been scaled down to 10.GB by fiat ‘because of’ too many subscribers’. Meanwhile, the Indian owners have gone into hiding, while subscribers only moan.

The irony is that experts have confirmed that the SPECTRANET’s N8, 500 ‘unlimited package’ rip-off, is about 500 times slower than a N1, 500 monthly package subscribers enjoy in Europe. But here those making outrageous profits attribute exploitation of Nigerians to the Nigerian factor-a euphemism for government connivance or ineptitude.

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