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Promoting Good Governance.

Nigeria govt sues H-Medix, Bakan Gizo, others over price gouging of hand sanitizers, face masks

THE Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) on behalf of the Nigerian government, has sued four supermarkets in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) over price gouging of hand sanitizers, disinfectants, hand-wash liquids and face masks.

The ICIR learned that the stores and their proprietors are to answer to a six-count charge bordering on allegations of “false, misleading, deceptive representation in relation to the price of sanitizers, hand-wash liquids and disinfectants of various existing brands on display at their retail outlets.”

The accused stores in addition to their pharmacies include; H-Medix Pharmacy & Stores Limited, and the representatives, Sandra Ejekwu and John Oluwagbemiga and Prince Ebeano Supermarket Limited and its proprietor, David Ojei.

The others are Bakan Gizo Pharmacy & Stores Nigeria Limited, and the representatives, Ray Opia and Luter Irene, as well as Faxx Stores & Trading Limited and the representative, Adogah Ahmed.

Following the record of coronavirus cases in Nigeria, items such as hand sanitizers, disinfectants and face masks have become necessities.

Due to the increase in demand, some retailers resulted in hiking prices of such items which caused several outcries on social media.

To the effect, the FCCPC issued directives on February 28 and March 24, warning supermarkets and retailers against using the coronavirus pandemic as a means to increase prices of products needed to ward off the virus.

After registering complaints and carrying out investigations, these four stores were found wanting.

According to reports, the charges against them were for violating Section 125 (1) (a) of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act, 2018 and punishable under Section 155 of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act, 2018.

PREMIUM TIMES reports that in the statement of claim filed before the Federal High court, Abuja, the charges were spelled out to be; “exploiting the national public health emergency of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic to engage in price gouging of hand sanitizers and surgical disposable face masks of various existing brands and thereby engaged in the use of undue influence, pressure, unfair tactics and other obnoxious practices in connection with the supply of goods.”

It was gathered that the Commission accused Bakan Gizo Pharmacy & Stores Nigeria Ltd of committing the offences between February 1 and March 9, 2020, across its retail stores and also accused Prince Ebeano Supermarket Limited and H-Medix Pharmacy & Stores Ltd of committing the offences between February 28 and March 6, 2020.

FAXX Stores & Trading Ltd was accused of committing the offences between February 1 and March 24, 2020.

Meanwhile, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), has warned that smokers are at higher risk of developing fatal complications if they contract coronavirus.

Quoting a research, the group said “12.4 per cent of current smokers either died, were admitted to an intensive care unit or required mechanical ventilation, compared with 4.7% of non-smokers. Along similar lines, 21.2per cent of current smokers had severe symptoms, as opposed to 14.5% of non-smokers”.

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