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Fuel Scarcity: Consumer Protection Agency to Monitor Compliance, Prevent Exploitation

The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission on Tuesday said it will ensure that filling stations sell petroleum products in compliance with the law to prevent hardship on Nigerians.

The commission made this known Tuesday in a statement signed by Babatunde Irukera, the Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer.

Nigerians have had difficulty getting petrol at filling stations since Monday after President Bola Tinubu announced government’s plan to put an end to the subsidy regime.

The government said subsidy payment will be scrapped because it is not sustainable.

Fuel queues have returned to filling stations in major cities across the country, including Lagos and Abuja.

On Tuesday, Mr Irukera said that the commission has identified a “significant and potentially inexplicable emerging increase and lengthening of wait-times in procuring fuel at filling stations in certain locations across the country.”

The emerging hardship on motorists and other consumers, the statement said, invariably impedes commerce, traffic and presents other difficulties, unintended consequences and financial constraints for citizens.

The Commission said it is in engagement with the Lagos State Consumer Protection Agency (LASCOPA); the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA); and Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN).

“The outcome of these engagements between the top-level Executives of the Commission and these other relevant entities, as well as key operatives, demonstrates that, there is no operational basis or sufficiently diminished/acute reduction in product availability at both supply and retail points in the value chain to justify the hardship and constraints otherwise emerging,” the statement said.

“The Commission adopts the Advisory issued by NMDPRA on May 29, 2023, advising consumers not to engage in panic purchases or otherwise stockpiling products in a manner inconsistent with regular periodic purchases and consumption.

“Petroleum products are generally flammable and require transportation, dispensation, consumption and storage in strictly controlled and regulated manners. Any contrary approach to these strictly regulated manners constitutes danger and risk of significant losses, even fatality.

“As such, and in accordance with the assurances of the NMDPRA and MOMAN that existing supplies are not insufficient for regularly established consumption levels, the Commission encourages consumers not to modify their regular purchase and consumption patterns.”

The statement stated that the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act, 2018 (FCCPA) prohibits deceptive or unconscionable business practices; obnoxious practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers by companies, trade associations, and even individuals; and any mutual understanding or decisions with a purpose or effect that prevents, restricts or distorts competition, specifically, and particularly including price-fixing or limiting distribution or supply.

It noted further that section 108 (1) prohibits any arrangements that unduly limit the production, transportation, storage and or supply of products, including for the purpose of enhancing price; while section 127 (1) prohibits supplying products at prices or on terms that are manifestly unfair, unreasonable or unjust.

“The Commission has today agreed with LASCOPA, (and its expanding participation) on a Joint Inter-Agency Task Force to enforce the provisions of the law, ensure compliance and prevent hardship on citizens,” the statement said.

“The Commission possesses the will and desire, and is committed to the strictest enforcement of the law. Product marketers have been informed that any infringement which distorts the market or enables others to exploit consumers and perpetuate inconvenience will be subject to the aggravated and highest spectrum of penalties where evidence supports violation.

“Organised marketing or trading associations/platforms such as MOMAN and the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) are in particular invited to note this and their collective and individual possible exposure in the event of evidence-supported violations.”

The commission said it will continue to engage and update consumers, adding that Nigerians can also provide credible information about any conduct or practices they experience which they perceive to be a possible violation of the law.

“Such information may be sent through our normal channels, in particular, [email protected],” the statement said.

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