A recent and noteworthy achievement was the imposition of a $110m penalty on British American Tobacco Nigeria, for the violation of the FCCPC Act.
Former executive vice chairman of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, Babatunde Irukera, has said that he left a strong Institutional advocate and an outstanding team in the agency that would work for the cause of fair markets.
Irukera, in a post on X on Monday, also expressed gratitude for the time and opportunity to serve the country.
“Grateful for the opportunity to have served the incredibly vibrant & loyal Nigerian citizens/consumers. They deserve a better deal.
“I leave behind a strong Institutional advocate in the FCCPC, & an outstanding team of soldiers who work there daily for the cause of fair markets.”
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, had on Monday sacked the FCCPC boss, as well as the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Alexander Ayoola Okoh.
In a statement, the president, through his special adviser on media and publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, said the dismissal is in line with the plans of the government to restructure and reposition critical agencies of the Federal Government towards protecting the rights of Nigerian consumers and providing a strong basis for enhanced contributions to the nation’s economy by key growth-enabling institutions.
However, the FCCPC under Irukera has – since 2019 – recorded numerous milestones and strategic interventions cutting across diverse sectors, including but not limited to healthcare, digital finance, electricity and aviation.
Last year Irukera revealed that the commission has had five years of a zero loss record in judicial processes.
The FCCPC under Irukera has also received many awards of recognition for exceptional service.
The most recent and arguably the most eye-catching among many noteworthy achievements of Irukera’s FCCPC is the imposition of a $110m penalty on British American Tobacco Nigeria Limited, for the violation of the FCCPC Act among other infractions.
n an interview on December 28, Irukera revealed that the $110 million fine that BAT Nigeria incurred was a reduced penalty as the company went through an administrative route in order to avoid judicial prosecution, which in turn, earned them a reduced penalty.
The FCCPC boss, speaking on the investigation which started in 2020, and it’s conclusion said, “What the evidence ultimately showed was that the company and affiliates or associates had engaged in certain anti-competitive conduct and then violations of prevailing tobacco controls and public health measures.
“From an anti-competitive standpoint, investigation and market studies show that the company is a dominant player, and there are rules when you’re dominant, rules about your conduct. You shouldn’t act unilaterally in a way that distorts the market or potentially excludes competitors from having the opportunity to thrive in the market.
“But some of the things we found out showed that this company had abused its dominant position, including using its reach and muscle to try and prevent the market entry of products of competitors, including working with elements within, even making requests to government institutions with how to characterise or tax devices or products of the competition.”
He revealed that BAT Nigeria representatives expressed a desire to resolve the issue without prosecution or a full blown investigation, which entitled them to benefits, such as their penalty reduced to $110 million, as they prevented the hassle of the judicial route.
“Like most plea bargain regimes, when you save a regulator or a prosecutor or an investigator the time of having to go through the whole hog and prosecute a case, there are some benefits that come for that.”
Speaking on the reason for such high penalties for these offences, Irukera said this is what the law stipulates, and that this law is not local to Nigeria, but is the same globally.
He said, “You’ve got to understand that distorting the market affects economies, affects nations in ways that you cannot. Just think about, first, the consumer effect of it. Consumers don’t get the best possible deal. And secondly, think about the fact that other businesses cannot enter into that space and thrive.
“Some just barely survive because of the conduct of a big one in the space, and some don’t even come in. Just imagine the amount of work the federal government is doing, including the president, going out there trying to promote investments and trying to attract investors. At the end of the day, when we talk about how harsh the environment is, sometimes we focus entirely on what we think is the conduct of government. But in reality, many times, the biggest entry barriers are not government, it’s other businesses in concentrated markets.”
Impact and Awards
Under Irukera, the FCCPC was know for its zero-tolerance for fake products as well as proactive measures against unregistered digital money lenders.
The Commission, led by Irukera, collaborated with the Nigeria Customs Service and Nigeria Police Force to conduct a raid on traders involved in importing contaminated rice in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. The traders were apprehended, and the products were confiscated and suspects prosecuted.
The FCCPC further collaborated with various regulatory agencies and stakeholders to promote consumer protection and competition. Some of these are, NCC, NERC, NCAA, NITDA, SON, NAFDAC, NSC, JAMB, NDPB, ICPC, EFCC, CBN, and FRSC.
In the electricity sector, the Commission has implemented various programs and initiatives to improve service delivery and promote transparency and accountability.
Some of these programs which were supported by MacArthur Foundation, include awareness campaigns, town hall meetings, and an electricity consumer complaint resolution platform.
In recognition of its strides, the FCCPC has in 2023 received multiple awards from various quarters.
It was awarded ‘Regulator of the Year’ by the Brand Journalist Association of Nigeria (BJAN), a group of media specialists who cover the entire marketing industry and consumer related matters in the country.
It was also acknowledged as the most efficient and transparent government agency in Nigeria in an online poll.
The survey was conducted on three online platforms; LinkedIn, The Bureau Newspaper website, and Nairaland, in order to measure the public’s view of the efficiency and performance of particular Nigerian government agencies.
The evaluated agencies included the FCCPC, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), and Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON).
The FCCPC was also named Government Agency of the Year 2023 by the Leadership Newspaper for promoting fairness, regulatory stability and consumer protection within the Nigerian marketplace.
Transition To Self-Funding
Under Irukera, the FCCPC transited from a government-funded agency with revenue of N167 million to a self-funded commission with revenue of N56 billion.
Irukera revealed late last year that the N56 billion in Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) came from issuing penalties to erring companies in 2023.
He said of the amount, the sum of N22.4 billion was remitted to the federation account as operating surplus, compared to N5.2 billion recorded in the previous year, out of which N2.6 billion went into government’s coffers.