A Federal High Court in Abuja has upheld the power of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) to impound products considered to be harmful or constitute health hazard to the unsuspecting Nigerian public.
The plaintiff, the Creation Commercial Ventures Limited, the sole distributor of Superkings cigarette in Nigeria for Imperial Tobacco, United Kingdom, had instituted a legal action against the CPC challenging its powers to confiscate some cigarette products imported into the country.
The company in an originating summons had approached the court, pursuant to Sections 6, 36, 44 and 46(3) of the 1999 Constitution seeking the court to declare as a violation of its fundamental right the seizure and detention of over 3,000 cartons of Superkings cigarette by the CPC.
In the application filed on its behalf by its lead counsel, Mr. Kemi Pinheiro, and three other lawyers, the company had sought an order of the court for the immediate release of the seized cigarettes and an injunction restraining CPC from further seizing and detaining its products.
The cigarette distributing company also sought a compensation of N300million as damages from the council for the seizure of its products.
However, CPC, in an argument, through its counsel, Mr. Rotimi Oguneso (SAN) had submitted that its actions were within the provisions of Section 15(2e) of its enabling Act and Section 44(1x) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
The council had further argued that the health warning on the Superkings cigarette, being marketed in Nigeria, failed to occupy 30 per cent of the lower part of each panel of the packets of the cigarette, thereby constituting a violation of the Nigerian Industrial Standard (NIS).
CPC also submitted that contrary to the requirements of the NIS the name and location address of the manufacturer or distributor of Superkings cigarette were not legibly marked on each side of the packets of the cigarette.
Delivering judgment in the suit, Justice Evoh Stephen Chukwu of the Federal High Court in Abuja held that the right to property was not absolute, affirming that CPC had shown that the Superkings cigarette which the plaintiff was marketing in Nigeria was not in conformity with the laws and regulations of the country.
Having found the operations of the cigarette distributing company to be in breach of the Nigerian law, the judge subsequently dismissed the case.
CPC had in February 2013 made an inspection visit to the companyâ€™s warehouse in Kano and seized and detained over 3,000 cartons of Superkings cigarette as a result of the productâ€™s non-compliance with relevant articles of the NIS for tobacco and tobacco products, NIS 463:2008.
The Nigerian health warning for tobacco products was introduced to show the negative consequence of tobacco and also discourage under-aged smoking, while the marking of the name and address of the manufacturer or distributor on each side of the packet of cigarette aids traceability of the product and resolution of consumer complaints were not there.