Hajiya Saratu Mama Shafii is the chairman of Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal (CCPT). In this interview with SUNDAY ISUWA, she laments that Nigeria consumers have been getting it rough for a longtime now.
Can you tell us more about this Tribunal?
The Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal (CCPT) was established through an Act of the parliament. The law was passed by the National Assembly in December 2018 and was assented to by Mr President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Muhammadu Buhari GCFR in January 2019. We were nominated in 2020 and our names were sent to the Senate for screening and confirmation. After our confirmation, we received our letters of appointments in December 2020. But we came after Budget processes have been concluded.
So, we had a rough beginning of establishing a Tribunal without a Kobo. However, we took it upon ourselves to prove that the president made the right decision by appointing us. I am appointed as the Chairman and Six Honourable members from each of the six geopolitical zones of the country in accordance with the law establishing Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal, the Competition and Consumer Protection Act of 2018. As I said I have six Honourable Members. From the North East, Dr Umar Dauda Duhu; North West, Ibrahim El-Yakubu; North Central, Mr Kenneth Terso Gyado; South West, Mrs Sola Salako-Ajulo; South East, Barr George Chukwuma Mbonu and South South, Barr Barr. Thomas E. Okosun. So, you can see Nigeria is fully represented here. We took it upon ourselves that even without a Kobo on ground, we have to set into motion activities that lead to the eventual successful take off of this Tribunal. Luckily, we have the support of our Minister, Otumba Adeniyi Adebayo, the Minister of State and the Permanent Secretary.
They supported us and we were able to write to the Minister of Finance and she graciously approved take off contingency funds for us. Other parastatals under the ministry also supported us. The Bank of Industry supported us, the National Automotive Industry and the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission all supported us.
We were inaugurated on the 4th day of March. We came into this building on 31 May, 2021, and I am sure you are happy that this place exists because there have been positive comments about the office. Even though it is small, it is beautiful. We are heading somewhere. For now, all we are doing is administrative. We are setting up the structure based on our mandate as that of adjudication. As a quasi-judicial body, we are yet to have a building with a court room, that is why we are aiming for a bigger place and we are making efforts to be part of the budget for 2022. So far, so good and we thank God for where we are today.
What do Nigerians stand to benefit from the establishment of the Tribunal?
In fact, the benefits cannot be quantified. All over the world, the consumer tribunal is important. Having tribunals like ours to protects the right of the ordinary citizens and also to be there for people who have companies to be protected from monopolies. Consumers in Nigeria have been getting it rough for a very long time. Airlines, communication companies, power energy companies and others have been doing what they want without considering the rights of consumers. They don’t have any recourse to Justice. Once everyone is sensitized about the tribunal where their issues will be treated, and at the right time, everybody will be seeking justice. And that is the best because people sometimes take the laws into their hands and we don’t want that. With the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement, most of the countries have tribunals and Nigeria should be there also. And within two years, we can even lead in that aspect.
How can Nigerians file their complaints to this Tribunal?
What they do first is to complain to the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, formerly the Consumer Protection Council. Is the same law that set up the Commission and the Tribunal. So, the process is that you will first of all complain to the commission. If you are not satisfied, you then come to us at the Tribunal. It is the same thing with other agencies. If they have issues they are not satisfied with, they can come to us here at the Tribunal.