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    Saturday, March 18, 2017

    BJAN, Practitioners, Experts Views On World Consumer Rights Day

    LR: David Okeme, Kayode Oluwasona, Goddie Ofose, Sola Salako and  Kayode Olagesin
    Brand Journalists’ Association of Nigeria (BJAN) Wednesday joined the rest of the world to celebrate World Consumer Rights Day. World Consumer Rights Day is an awareness day, which is observed on March 15, 2017. The WCRD was first celebrated in 1983 and became an important annual occasion for mobilizing citizen action and solidarity within the international consumer movement.

    The programme took place at Whitehouse Hotel, Ikeja GRA, Lagos, the theme of this year’s, symposium which is fifth edition of the annual programme was “consumer right in a digital age”.
    The objectives of the Symposium were to bring together seasoned analysts, experts, and regulators to create a convergence of views on how the consumer can be truly treated as king.
    Provide a platform for Nigerian consumers to ventilate their views on issues they face and highlight various shades of thoughts, ideas and suggestions on ways those challenges can be tackled or prevented. Stir up passion for data compilation and researches that will equip all stakeholders with accurate information that will help ensure that consumer rights are respected and protected and develop strategies for leveraging on technology to the benefit and convenience of consumers, while comprehensively dissecting its safety to all users.

    Notable practitioners and experts at the symposium include The Registrar/CEO of Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), Alhaji Bello Kankarofi, and top executives of Nigerian advertising and marketing agencies. President and Founder, Consumer Advocacy Foundation of Nigeria CAFTON), Sola Salako was.

    Eminent marketing practitioner and President of by The Advertisers' Association of Nigeria (ADVAN), David Okeme delivered the Lead paper.
    Other speakers were invited as discussants to dissect various issues thrown up by the main speakers. They include President, Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN), kayode Oluwasona and, CEO, Towncriers,  Kayode Olagesin

    The moderator Sola Salako, commends Brand Journalists’ Association of Nigeria (BJAN) for bring together seasoned analysts, experts, and regulators to create a convergence of views on how the consumer can be truly treated at the recently-celebrated World Consumer Day. She said for consumers in this part of the world did not get the freedom especially at these digital times, in spite of several efforts by some consumer rights activists and groups to give them a voice. Nigerian consumer still holds the short end of the stick and would need concerted efforts, such as the platform provided by BJAN, to be able to successfully challenge the violations of his rights, she said.
    However, expressed her delight that the Nigerian consumers are being gradually listened to, an indication that all hope is not lost as far as consumerism is concerned.

    Consumer rights bodies continue to play a strong part in protecting consumer rights as well as inherently urging businesses and brands to enhance their offering and fair practice. President, Advertiser Association of Nigeria, Chief Marketing Officer of Systemspecs, Owners of Remita, David Arome Okeme who lead the discussion at the event, highlighted the power of the consumers in the digital world and how such powers could be compromised by technology.
    He said that though the consumers’ lives are getting more enhanced in this present digital world, however, agreed that’s technology is continually laying them bare before the world, since they no longer enjoy that well-cherished privacy.
    “Though the advent of technology can be said to have driven businesses faster, with its attendant benefits for the consumers, but the fact remains that data privacy is fast becoming a thing of the past. For instance, where there are no strong laws, such as Nigeria, such private data can be used to destroy us,” he said.
    While technology had become imperative in driving today’s businesses and empowering the modern-day consumers, if not well-managed, technology might turn a nightmare for both businesses and consumers; since everything is being driven by technology. Okeme stressed the need for consumers to defend themselves by deploying tools within the cyber space to build such wall of defense.
    The chairman of BJAN, Mr Goddie Ofose, stated that the association was only providing a platform where consumer issues could again be brought to the front burner.

    “I believe everyone is a consumer.  This year’s World Consumer Rights Day gives a platform for Nigerians to ventilate their views on issues they face. It ensures that their rights are respected and protected over injustice in the market.
    Like we say, consumer is king. If we all agree that consumers are king, then, we should find it necessary treating them as such.” he said.

    According to him, while the association would not pretend it had solution to the numerous challenges facing the Nigerian consumers today, it could contribute its own quota to solving such issues by gathering experts that would discuss and proffer solutions to some of those challenges.

    Following careful deliberations and discussions at the symposium, presenters and participants observed:
    The poor level of awareness, among the average consumers, on the full strength and impact the digital platform can create in their lives, most consumers are basically helpless and defenceless against a huge, relentless and highly sophisticated onslaught from the digital world; The absence of adequate legislative frameworks to protect consumers in the cyberspace, total absence of any effective enforcement framework to protect the rights of consumers from any digital onslaught. It was aggrieved consumers only vent their grievances and move on instead of exploring avenues to seek redress to their complaints, most digital organisations and managers, because of the loose protective framework in the digital space, have become extremely daring; they now engage the market in fewer, cautious ways and have promptly set aside the age-long practice of self- regulation.

    After extensive discussions, the followings recommendations were made:
    Individual consumer MUST make conscious and consistent efforts to study and understand the power of the digital platform for their personal protection. Adequate legislations and enforcement frameworks should be put in place to protect consumers from abuse in the cyberspace
    All stakeholders’ must unite, agree and establish a code of behaviours and standards that will guide all major activities in the cyberspace. To excel in this area, organisations were advised to expand their innovation in self- regulatory practices to stand out in their online activities to attract commendations and consumer loyalty.
    All stakeholders should know that success in protecting consumer rights in today’s digital world will depend a lot on partnerships. In this light, a strong partnership was proposed amongst all stakeholders – government, the marketing industry, civil society and media practitioners. Civil society, the media and other stakeholders should engage consumers at different levels to ensure top of the mind awareness that will keep everyone alert and more rights sensitive to improve consumer advocacy.
    Instead of focusing on individuals championing consumer protectionism, institutions and systemic processes were advocated if consumer rights are to be entrenched and sustained. Individuals must take the responsibility of equipping themselves on all right issues to enhance their protection. They must take pains to study details like product/ service reviews, contents e.t.c to monitors various trends if they must note any harmful intent or when they are unduly exploited.

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