Mr Afolabi Adebayo Solebo is the General Manager of Lagos State Consumer Protection Agency, LASCOPA. In this interview, he spoke with Adeola Ogunrinde on how important the agency is to every Lagosian.
Can you tell us what LASCOPA is all about?
Lagos State Consumer Protection Agency is an agency created by law in 2015. This came about as a result of the avalanche of complaints from the public that they buy substandard products or sometimes they go to supermarkets and they find out that the products they are buying have expired. And it is in line of these that Lagos State created an agency, though it was a unit under the Ministry of Justice and now an agency to ensure that consumers do get value for the money, also to ensure that Lagos gets rid of people selling substandard products and expired products. That is basically why the agency was created.
Since you assumed office, how has it been? What has been the challenges?
It’s been a great challenge. In this part of the world, especially in Africa, most people don’t know about consumer protection, which is one of the reason why the agency was created to enlighten the public and to educate them on product protection and their rights. But to a very large extent, we’ve been able to have some modest achievements because people are now much more aware, than before. We have also been able to resolve so many cases, get a refund for some people, the law also gives us permission to seal places like supermarkets where expired products are found because those are hazardous products that are dangerous to human and which could lead to deformity or death. So now, a lot of people are aware, but we will continue to do public enlightenment.
What level of confidence does Lagosians have for LASCOPA right now?
Yeah, to a very large extent, I could say without mixing boards that Lagosians, not all, some Lagosians are now aware of the kind of job we do. We have treated at least over 70 to 80% of cases of electricity, which was resolved amicably in this office, some of them later give testimonies. We have also resolved failed online transaction, and all these come with no price tag. LASCOPA is here for Lagosians.This year’s Consumer Protection Day comes up March 15, we will be talking about digitalisation, people that do transaction online like banks and retail store. We like to thank Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu for his support. LASCOPA no longer have just one office. We now have offices in local government areas; in Badagry, Ikorodu, Ikoyi-Obalende and Bariga and we are planning to spread the more in line with Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s THEMES agenda.
How is LASCOPA dealing with small eateries in Lagos State, because Governor Sanwo-Olu governs both the rich and the poor?
Like you said, Mr. Governor is not just for the rich, but for everybody in Lagos State. What you have asked is not something that is new to us. That is why we have the monitoring and enforcement unit of this agency. Yes, we have been going round, that’s the essence of this public enlightenment, to enlighten the people. You shouldn’t be going to places that you know that when you go there, you end up in the hospital. People should come over and lodge complaint. Recently we got a complaint about a particular restaurant that we had to visit the kitchen, because somebody complained that they don’t even know what they do there. That sometimes when they bring out the food it is sour, so we went there and we told them that, maybe they are not aware, now they are aware, don’t let us come back and see your food still taste sour. We also go round schools and markets to educate them.There’s a particular one now that we’re very much concerned about people that are exposing bottle drinks, especially water and soft drinks under the sun, it is dangerous, we are still doing the enlightenment to people now. There will be a time that we will need to be talking about it again, once we find out that we had exposing plastic bottles or notice sunlight, we have the job to confiscate it and prosecute you or ensure that you pay fines to the coffers of Lagos State government.
LASCOPA is all about mediating and resolving crisis as it relates to consumer protection. How many cases have you been able to resolve of recent?
Since we assumed office, a number of complaints have been taken care of. In the last one year, we had about 3,659 cases reported and about 3,402 has been resolved amicably through mediation and reconciliation. About 105 cases areongoing, we referred 152 cases to other sister agencies because the complaints is not consumer protection related matter. For now we have about 15 cases in court.
What role did LASCOPA play during COVID-19?
If you’re talking about COVID, you know, it’s got to do with something eating and our environment. Recently, I wanted to buy shawama somewhere. The guy that was preparing it had his face mask on his jaw, I said you can’t be preparing food for me and talking. The nose mask is not covering your mouth, so that’s part of the education. That’s probably one of the topics we’re going to be discussing in this year’s food safety programme which will come up shortly. So, when somebody is preparing something for you, the person should not be talking. That is why we have LASCOPA and our services are free, thanks to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.