By Ebere Wabara
At times, there are conflicting perceptions of what variables constitute National Interest. One constant denominator, however, is that some issues are clinically clear and do not require any interrogation to establish their interconnectedness with our subject today. Many laws guiding the Federal Republic of Nigeria, despite the country’s complex demographic composition, are unambiguous.
In protecting the rights of Nigerian consumers, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA) 2018 represents a threshold that must be respected by all businesses. It spells out the rights of consumers and sanctions for the violation of those rights.
The FCCPA also created the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) with the mandate to, among others, protect and promote the interest of consumers as well as promote and maintain competitive markets in the Nigerian economy.
In the light of the above, the FCCPC must be allowed to function without any form of underlying hindrances. Thankfully, the current leadership of the Commission has been proactive and diligent in ensuring that its mandate is achieved. Unfortunately, that has earned the FCCPC viral media attacks by misinformed communicative entrepreneurs basking in euphoric ignorance.
On July 3, 2020, FCCPC arraigned Dr. Anu Adepoju and her plastic surgery clinic, Med Contour Services Ltd., at the Federal High Court in Lagos over alleged evasion from investigation into a failed plastic surgery.
The said investigation followed complaints received by the FCCPC regarding failed elective cosmetic surgical procedures allegedly performed by Dr. Adepoju and her colleagues at Med Contour. Incidentally, the refusal of Dr. Adepoju to honour a summons to attend the Commission’s investigation and present relevant documents is the subject of her ongoing prosecution by the FCCPC.
One wonders why such an important matter, bordering on the safety and well-being of citizens can be considered as a coordinated attack on Dr. Anu Adepoju, who allegedly conducted surgeries on her clients leading to all sorts of post-surgery complications, including death.
Vivian Onwuzuligbo, a family member of Nnneka Onwuzuligbo (a deceased client of Dr. Adepoju) reportedly made allegations to the effect that her sister died as a result of a failed cosmetic surgery carried out by the medical doctor. Other accusations in that respect litter the media space in the country.
FCCPC continues to insist that its investigation of Dr. Adepoju and Med Contour is about consumer protection and the services they are providing, and not an attempt to regulate the medical profession.
However, Dr. Adepoju’s cheerleaders are making frantic efforts to whip up sentiment and make Nigerians believe that she is being persecuted by an agency that allegedly has no powers to deal with issues bordering on the safety and welfare of her clients, in other words consumers of body- enhancement services.
Now that the matter is before a court of competent jurisdiction, it is expected that Dr. Adepoju would harness her facts and evidence and proceed to defend herself and her clinic, instead of the futile media assault against the FCCPC. She should have no problem with going to clear her name of any wrongdoing in court. Seeking public sympathy in a matter of grave consumer dissatisfaction with the services she renders is simply begging the question.
Nigerians have not lost hope in the country to the extent that alleged infractions of extant laws and possible violation of consumer rights could just be swept under the carpet. This unfortunate case is not between the leadership of FCCPC and a citizen—the matter is between the Federal Government of Nigeria and a medical practitioner. Interjectors need to understand the context of the case and the chemistry between it and the Commission. Otherwise, any subjective intervention would amount to a fiasco!
Good enough, the Commission does not appear distracted. The public urge its leadership to handle the Dr. Adepoju and Med Contour issue with utmost professionalism and arrive at a verifiable outcome that can satisfy public interest in a matter that has attracted high-level outrage and condemnation
In line with its mandate to ensure that customers are prioritized in the business value chain, a federal government agency, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), has dragged a Lagos surgeon, Dr. Anuoluwapo Adepoju, to court over alleged evasion from investigation into a failed plastic surgery.
Prior to now, Nigerian consumers continued to suffer the wanton abuse of their rights in every sector of the economy. However the current CEO of FCCPC, Barrister Babatunde Irekera, has brought in some reforms into the agency in a way that consumers’ rights and unhealthy competition are properly checked.
To a large extent, the regulatory agency has restored some level of human dignity to the relationship between businesses and consumers. It is in pursuit of this objective that the Commission recently commenced the prosecution of Dr. Adepoju at the Federal High Court in Lagos.
The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) had in April, sealed the second defendant (MedContour), a plastic surgery hospital, over suspicions of illegal activities. Also, in April, the FCCPC revealed on its official Twitter handle that it had commenced an investigation into a case of failed plastic surgery performed by the first defendant, Dr. Anuoluwapo of Med Contour.
In a five-count charge brought against the defendants on Friday, the prosecution alleged that without sufficient cause, the first defendant failed to appear before the FCCPC in compliance with the Commission’s summons dated April 15.
The prosecution also alleged that without sufficient cause, the first defendant refused and failed to produce documents which she was required to produce in compliance with the Commission’s notice of investigation dated April 14. It was further alleged that the defendant prevented and obstructed the commission from carrying out its investigation into the said issue.
The offences were said to have contravened the provisions of sections 11(1) (a), 33(1) (a), 110, 113(1) (a) and 159(4) of the FCCPC Act, 2018. The defendant, however, pleaded not guilty to all counts. After her plea, defence counsel, Mrs. Maria Jonnes, informed the court of a preliminary objection challenging the charge.
She had argued that the law setting up the FCCPC does not empower the court to entertain the case filed by the commission, adding that the defence had already filed a pending suit before a brother judge, Justice C. Aneke challenging the Act of the commission.
In response, the prosecutor who is Director-General of the FCCPC, Mr. Babatunde Irukera, argued that there was no legal basis for the preliminary objection of the defence. According to him, the subject before the court is not on the issue of violation, and so, there is nothing in the preliminary objection that can stand. He also submitted that the objection that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case is misinformed.
As this case subsists in the high court, let reason—not illogic—prevail in the interest of Nigeria instead of individualism. No amount of media diatribe or deliberate mischief can reconstruct or mitigate what had happened or abort efforts at conflict resolution. National Interest is greater than any other interest—personal or institutional.