Several Nigerian consumers and interested organisations appear eager to know President Bola Tinubu’s choice for the position of chief executive officer of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Council (FCCPC).
Babatunde Irukera, an accomplished lawyer whom many have credited with restructuring the consumer protection agency, was recently removed from the position by the President.
A salient point to take note of in President Tinubu’s action statement is his recognition of the FCCPC as a critical institution and his “plans to restructure and reposition” it. The President also wishes that the agency protects “the rights of Nigerian consumers” while providing “a strong basis for enhanced contributions to the nation’s economy.”
Clearly in the president’s reckoning, the FCCPC lists “growth-enabling institutions” to achieve his administration’s programmes.
Nigerians are taking President Tinubu at his word and expect that he will appoint a worthy, respectable, and experienced individual who will drive the FCCPC to greater heights. To do otherwise definitely is to vanquish the little gains so far recorded in the advancement of consumer and competition law in the country.
As stakeholders, the Coalition of Consumer Protection Champions (CCPC) is nudging President Tinubu towards the successes of the Lagos State Consumer Protection Council (LASCOPA) under its general manager, Afolabi Solebo. A lawyer and competition law expert, Solebo parades sterling public service records and accomplishments, thereby making him eligible to lead the FCCPC. A native of Ikorodu, Lagos State, Solebo bagged a Bachelor of Law degree in 1997 from the Lagos State University and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2001.
Right from the inception of his civil service career in Lagos State, Solebo has worked more on the side of the people especially common Nigerians. He had served in the Lagos State Directorate for Citizens Rights; Directorate for Civil Litigation; Administrator of Peoples Advice Center, later rechristened Public Advice Center.
His knowledge of the law always came handy in the several cases he prosecuted while working in the Lagos State Directorate of Public Prosecutions. It is worthy to note that Solebo excelled in the matters he handled, be it at the High Court of Lagos, the Court of Appeal, or the Supreme Court.
As the first Board Secretary and head of the legal unit of the Lagos State Sports Commission, Solebo’s contributions and outstanding advice offered remarkable impetus to sports development and administration at the time. Similarly, he held the position of Registrar, Land Use Charge Assessment Appeal Tribunal before he was appointed in 2020 to lead the LASCOPA. In addition, he has acquired professional training both locally and internationally in Mediation and Conciliation, Human Rights Development, Effective Public Prosecution and Defense, Forensic workshop on Crime Scene Management, Working for Peace in the midst of Conflict among others.
Afolabi Solebo’s unquenching quest for knowledge saw him attend various courses in South Africa, United Kingdom and the USA. The fecundity of his mind became a major factor responsible for LASCOPA’s growth and its ability to attract public trust and confidence. As part of the growth process and to ensure inclusiveness and create more accessibility to the public, especially the grassroots, LASCOPA established five (5) Liaison Offices in Ikorodu, Badagry, Bariga, Ikoyi-Obalende and Ojo, and it still plans to establish more. Going by the testimonials from members of the Lagos public, LASCOPA has empowered the hitherto powerless consumers and given them a voice to be heard Several instances have been reported in the media of how Solebo solely carried out product checks in the market, which exposed some fake and expired products that are injurious to consumer health. Such is the passion, courage, and boundless energy he brings to bear on the job.
So far, under his watch, the agency has handled 8,667 consumer complaints, out of which 8,343 were resolved successfully. Solebo has led LASCOPA’s interventions in various sectors and in situations bordering on breaches of consumer trust, while also promoting an ethically driven business atmosphere and a fair market. LASCOPA has resolved consumer issues in different markets, such as the automobile market, home appliances, hospitality, telecommunication, banking, property, e-commerce, transportation, fast-moving consumer goods, and the energy sector.
Based on the foregoing, the agency has recovered for consumers involved in issues with product manufacturers and service providers a whopping N309,578,550.59 and $30,250.49.
It also recovered ₦ 77,075,974.6 and ₦27,711,073.36 from two major power distribution companies on behalf of consumers. Not a few bank customers will attest to the effectiveness of the agency under Solebo in helping to recover the sums of N23,043,423.14 and $4,370.00 in failed bank transactions. The agency replicated the same feat in the insurance sector, as it helped to reclaim the sum of ₦ 16,356,416 or unpaid dividends and premiums. With such remarkable records, President Tinubu need not look further to get a capable hand to head the FCCPC, as Solebo fits the bill.
In terms of leadership and managerial skills, expertise and experience, negotiation and conflict resolution skills, strong vision and critical thinking, integrity—you name it—Solebo ticks the boxes.
Coalition of Consumer Protection Champions (CCPC) is based in Abuja