COVID-19: Consumer Protection Council Sues Supermarkets, Pharmacy over Alleged Price Hike

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*Court fixes June 25 for arraignment

By Alex Enumah

The federal government has dragged two supermarkets and two pharmacies before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court for allegedly hiking prices of key hygiene products such as hand sanitizer and face masks.

In the charge filed at the court by the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Council (FCCPC) the defendants were accused of taking undue advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to inflate prices of key hygiene products contrary to Section 108(1) of FCCP Act 2018.

However, when the matter was called Tuesday, prosecution counsel, Mr Babatunde Irukere, informed the court that the matter was for arraignment and that they were ready to proceed as scheduled.

But counsel to the first and second defendants (H-Medix and Sandra Ejekwu), Mr Abubakar Mohammed, announced that the second defendant could not appear in court as she was not served with the court notice.

In a separate matter of similar offence involving Bakin Gizo Pharmacy and Store, Ray Opia and Luter Irene, the defense counsel, Festus Okpe, informed the court that the second defendant, who has been in Lagos since January was unable to appear in court due to the ban on interstate travel.

Other defendants in the matter, Prince Ebeano Super Market and David Chukwuma sent an electronic communication explaining their reasons for being absent in court.

In his explanation, Chukwuma blamed his inability to appear in court on the federal government’s ban on interstate travel in order to curtail the spread of the Corona virus.

Earlier, the presiding judge, Justice Nkeonye Maha, raised the issue of jurisdiction, stressing that the matter ought to have been taken to the tribunal.

The judge however settled down to hear the matter after the issue was cleared.

After due consideration, the judge adjourned the matter till June 25 for arraignment of the defendants.

She however ordered that all parties to the matter be served with notices to ensure they are all in court on the next adjourned date.

Some of the charges are: That you, H-Medix Pharmacy &Sons Ltd, Sandra Ejekwu(f) and John Oluwagbemiga (m) at various times between the 28th day of February, 2020 and the 6th day of March, 2020, at H-Medix Pharmacy & Sores Ltd, 43 Ademola Adetokumbo crescent, Wuse 11, Abuja and other retail trading outlets of H-Medix Pharmacy and stores Ltd, within the jurisdiction of this Honorable court, did engage in making false, misleading, deceptive representation in relation to the price of sanitizers, hand-wash liquids and disinfectants of various existing brands on display at your retail outlets and thereby committed an offense contrary to Sector 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.

That you, Prince Eleanor Supermarket Ltd and David Chukwuma Ojei(m) at various times between the 28th day of February, 2020 and the 6th day of March, 2020, at Prince Eleanor Supermarket Ltd, Plot 551,Abdusalam Abubakar Way, Gaduwa, Lokogoma Junction, Abuja and other retail trading outlets of Prince Eleanor Supermarket Ltd, within the jurisdiction of this honorable court, did conspire, combine, agree and arrange to unreasonably enhance the price of sanitizers, hand wash liquids and disinfectants of various existing brands and thereby committed an offense contrary to Section 108(1) (b) of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act, 2018 and punishable under Section 108(4) of the federal competition and consumer protection Act, 2018.