Raising consumer protection awareness as Nigeria marks 2021 World Consumer Rights Day

*The global community nay Nigeria mark 2021 World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) Monday, March 15 to further intensify awareness campaigns towards promoting consumers’ rights and needs in economies

*Nigerian Communications Commission’s Executive Vice-Chairman, Prof. Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, addresses a virtual world press conference to highlight initiatives on electronic waste (e-waste) management and other hazards in the country’s ecosystem

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

“Consumers by definition, include us all…. They are the largest economic group, affecting and affected by almost every public and private economic decision. Yet, they are the only important group … whose views are often not heard.”

The global community, again, recalls the above favourite quotation by former United States President John F. Kennedy as it marks the World Consumer Rights Day March 15 every year.

ConsumerConnect reports the World Consumer Rights Day 2021 is being observed Monday, March 15, and the day is remembered to further raise awareness about a consumers’ rights and needs the world over.

World Consumer Rights Day is an annual international event that signifies celebration and solidarity in the transnational consumer movement, so that consumer rights are to be respected and protected.

On the day, consumer rights groups usually organise events, conferences, campaigns, and protests to mobilise action on significant consumer-centric issues, including market abuses that undermine consumer rights.

Tackling the global menace of plastic pollution  Photo: Consumers International

There is a specific theme to this day each year that addresses diverse concerns regarding all consumers, and the theme of the World Consumer Rights Day 2021 is: “Tackle Plastic Pollution”.

The theme aims to create and raise awareness against the use of plastic to save our ecosystem for the ultimate wellbeing of consumers.

Besides, the World Consumer Rights Day is observed to demand that “the rights of all consumers are respected and protected, and to protest against market abuses and social injustices” in economies across the world.

This is with a view to empowering all consumers of products and services with the much needed consumer education in order to advance responsible production, consumption, and excellent service delivery to improve the economic space for populations worldwide.

Significance of ‘Tackle Plastic Pollution’ theme of World Consumer Rights Day 2021

In relation to the importance of the theme this year’s World Consumer Rights Day, Consumers International, a global consumer movement, the consumer rights awareness campaign on the day will raise awareness and engage consumers globally to adopt and promote more sustainable practices.

The organisation noted that building on last year’s theme of ‘The Sustainable Consumer’, “the campaign will also focus on the central role that consumer advocates, governments and businesses can play in tackling the global plastic pollution crisis.”

It noted in a piece on its Web site though plastics are a highly useful material in our everyday lives, our consumption and production of plastics, especially single-use plastic, have become unsustainable.

“This is impacting our ecosystems, causing negative environmental consequences, including pollution of the local and international environment, and threatening human health,” the group stated.

In reference to the Pew Charitable Trusts & SystemIQ report ‘Breaking the Plastic Wave’, released August 2020, Consumers International said the calculated and highlighted “a tripling of the flow of plastic materials into the ocean by 2040, if major policy changes, innovations and changes in behaviour do not occur.”

Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice-Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Communications Commission

Tackling plastic pollution is a global challenge which requires coordinated, international solutions, it said, noting that as a global consumer movement, “we can play a critical role in tackling this issue and promoting the sustainable consumption and production of plastics.”

NCC spotlights initiatives on e-waste management and consumer protection

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has planned to organise a special world press conference to mark this year’s edition of the World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) in line with its consumer-centric regulatory approach.

Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, Director of Public Affairs at NCC, in a statement Thursday, March 11, said Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice-Chairman (EVC)/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Commission, would address the world press conference virtually Monday, March 15, from the Commission’s Headquarters in Abuja, FCT.

The statement noted that in line with the WCRD global theme, “Tackling Plastic Pollution”, which is aimed at raising awareness and engaging consumers to adopt and promote more sustainable practices, Prof. Danbatta will use the media briefing to present NCC’s initiatives on electronic waste (e-waste) management and other hazards in Nigeria.

The NCC stated the EVC would also spotlight the Commission’s initiatives in ensuring accessible, affordable, and available telecoms services to Nigerian telecom consumers while delving into other initiatives through which the telecom regulator protects, informs, and empowers the consumers.

The highlight of the press conference will be the launching of the NCC Consumer Handbook.

It is a document that provides relevant information on the rights and privileges of the consumers, and how the consumer can seek redress when their rights are violated by service providers or any stakeholder in the ecosystem in the country, the statement added.

ConsumerConnect reports that in commemoration of the World Consumer Rights Day 2021, the Lagos State Consumer Protection Agency (LASCOPA), organised a rally on the need for Lagosians also to engage and protect consumers’ interests with a view to promoting more sustainable practices.

In his message via the Lagos State Government Web site, Mr. Afolabi Solebo Esq, General Manager of LASCOPA, felicitated with consumers worldwide as the country marks the day.

Addressing the issue of microplastics in the Nigeria’s freshwaters

Earlier in his paper on ‘Why microplastics found in Nigeria’s freshwaters raise a red flag’, Emmanuel O. Akindele, Senior Lecturer at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, also emphasised current concerns about plastic pollution in the country.

Akindele stressed that freshwater ecosystems are a priority for environmental scientists because they affect the health of animals and plants on land too – as well as people. “They provide food, water, transport and flood control. Freshwater ecosystems also keep nutrients moving among organisms and support diverse forms of life,” said he.

The paper also noted that freshwater systems make a big difference to the quality of life in any human society.

However, they are under great pressure, as freshwater biodiversity is declining faster than terrestrial biodiversity.

Akindele said: “One of the biggest stresses on freshwater ecosystems is the presence of plastics. Some microplastics – tiny pieces of plastic that have broken down from bigger pieces – get into water from various sources.

“Some are introduced from industrial sources like cosmetics, toothpaste and shaving cream. Another major source is dumping of plastic waste like bags and bottles.”

In regard to the history, significance and theme of this observance of the World Consumer Rights Day, it is recalled that the day was inspired by erstwhile US President Kennedy via his historic message to the US Congress March 15, 1962.

The President in his message ‘formally’ addressed the issue of consumer rights in the country ahead of the consumer movement that later started on the date in 1983.

Subsequently, consumer rights got international recognition April 9, 1985, when the United Nations (UN) approved the general guidelines for consumer protection across the globe.

Additional reporting by Isola Moses

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