Legal Framework For Consumer Rights In Nigeria With Particular Focus On Telecommunications Industry And Power Sector – Product Liability & Safety

Table of content:


i. Who is a consumer?

ii. Does a consumer have a right? If yes, can such rights be
protected? How can such rights be protected?

iii. Types of Consumer Protection Cases?

iv. The legal frameworks and enforceability of consumer rights
action in Nigeria?

v. Challenges Telecommunication subscribers face in Nigeria?

vi. Case study of electricity consumers in Nigeria?

vii. Suggestion and needed reforms in Nigeria Consumer
Protection Rights Act?




Due to little attention paid to protection of consumer rights in
Nigeria, fraudulent and abusive practices by manufacturers and
merchants of goods and services are widespread.

Nigeria like other countries around the world, boasts of
well-crafted legal framework that guards against abusive business
practices or infringement upon the rights of consumers by merchants
of goods and services. Under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal
Republic of Nigeria, (As amended) sections 35 and 42 provides for
fundamental rights to liberty and discrimination from abusive
practices in any form or manner of rendering of goods and services
to consumers. These rights are also protected by The African
Charter on Human and Peoples Rights ratified by Cap A9, Laws of the
Federation of Nigeria, 1990.

This paper addresses the legal framework for consumer rights in
Nigeria with particular focus on telecommunication and power sector
in Nigeria.

i. Who is a consumer?

A consumer has been defined by the Consumer Protection
Council Act, CAP C25 Laws of the Federation, 2004
as an
individual who purchases, uses, maintains or disposes of products
or services.

ii. Does a consumer have a right? If yes, Can such rights be
protected? How can such rights be protected?

A consumer, being the last link in the production chain, has
vested legal rights from producers of the goods and services being
offered in the market. These rights are as follows:

a. The right to safety and protection from hazardous goods and
fraudulent services or business practices;

b. A consumer has absolute right to information, education of
products and awareness to the processes, uses and guidelines to the
products and services he is being rendered by manufacturers;

c. The right of choice is key to a consumer of product, to
enable such consumer to make the right choice from a competitive
and predatory market with beaming adverts and prices from a number
of products in circulation;

d. A consumer has the right to be satisfied that the product is
of standard quality and also will be of benefit to his basic

e. A consumer has the fundamental right of being heard as
contained in the constitution as well as redress and compensation
whenever his rights are being infringed upon by a manufacturer or

f. Also, a consumer has a right to safe and secure environment
from noxious industrial chemicals, pollutants and toxic wastes from
manufacturing plants.

If yes, can such rights be protected?

As it has been established that a consumer has a fundamental
right to be protected from unfair and abusive business practices of
manufacturers and merchants, it follows that the 1999 Constitution
of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Consumer Protection Rights Act,
Nigerian Communications Commission Act, Electric Power Sector
Reform Act, and other enabling laws has guaranteed such rights.
These are group of laws designed to ensure that the rights of
consumers are protected and as well ensure that fair trade
competition and the free flow of truthful information in the market
place is achieved through the instrumentality and mechanisms of
these laws.

In the case of Ransome-Kuti v. Attorney General of the
Federation (1985) 2 NWLR (Pt.6) 211
, the court held that:
“A fundamental right is a right which stands above the
ordinary laws of the land and which is antecedent to the political
society. It is a precondition to a civilized existence…, the
entrenchment of a right in the constitution does not create rights
where none existed before; rather it is merely intended to protect
existing rights from subsequent legislative interference and to
enable their assertion against arbitrary, oppressive and illegal
executive action”.

How can such rights be protected?

A consumer, whose rights have been infringed upon by
manufacturers, is entitled under the Nigerian laws to seek redress
in the appropriate court of law for possible compensation and
punishment of errant manufacturers and merchants. In the case of
Nwosu v. Nwosu (2012) 8 NWLR (Pt.1301) 5, the
court held that: “A legal right is a right cognizable in law.
It means a right recognized by law and capable of being enforced by
the plaintiff. It is the right of a party recognized and protected
by a rule of law, the violation of which would be a legal wrong
done to the interest of the plaintiff, even though no action is

i. Types of Consumer Protection Cases?

Basically, there are two types of consumer protection rights
cases as follows:

a. Individual law suit, and

b. Class action law suit.

a. Individual law suit:

The celebrated case of Donoghue v. Stevenson (1932) AC
also known as “the snail in the bottle case”
established the first three basic legal principles of
“negligence”, “duty of care” and “neighbor
principle”, where an individual can institute a civil action
against a manufacturer if the respondent’s negligence caused
the plaintiff some injury or loss of property. Legal action under
consumer protection rights laws can be instituted at the federal as
well as state high courts in all states across Nigeria. Where a
victim files a complaint against any company for unfair business
practice, such actions can also be enforced by government agencies
and offices of attorneys general.

A class action law suit involves a group of affected individuals
or consumers whose rights have been infringed upon by a
manufacturer, company or merchant of products, goods and services.
A familiar case in this type of action is the 1996 Kano
trovafloxacin trial litigation involving Abdullahi v.
and Adamu v. Pfizer where five children given
trovafloxacin died as well as six of those given ceftriaxone; on
February 23, 2011 pfizer announced an out of court settlement of
the sum of $75 million to affected families.

In the above type of case, the balance of power tips in favour
of the consumer. An individual whose rights have been violated can
join together with others who have similar claims against the same
defendant due to the economic scale that exists with a class action

ii. The legal frameworks and enforceability of consumer rights
action in Nigeria?

The Federal Government of Nigeria has promulgated several laws
tailored towards protecting the rights of consumers. For the
purpose of this paper, our focus will be on laws that govern the
telecommunications and power sector as follows:

a. Nigerian Communications Commission Act, CAP N97, LFN, 2004,

b. Electric Power Sector Reform Act, No. 6, 2005.

a. The Nigerian Communications Commission Act CAP N97,
LFN 2004

This Nigerian Communications Commission Act 2004 established the
Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) as a body corporate with
power to sue and be sued. The Act is very comprehensive in scope
and covers subjects such as formulation of national policy on
frequency management; requirements for issuance of class licences
to telecoms operators. The powers conferred on NCC by virtue of
section 2 of the Act are as follows:

a. To create a regulatory environment for the supply of
telecommunications services, facilities and to promote fair
competition and efficient market conduct;

b. To facilitate the entry into markets for telecommunications
services and facilities, of persons wishing to supply such services
and facilities;

c. To ensure that licenses or authorized carriers and other
providers of telecommunications services and infrastructure, meet
their commercial obligations and such other obligations specified
under this Act, in a manner which promotes cooperation and

d. To protect licensees and the public from unfair conduct of
other providers of telecommunications services, with regard to
quality of service and to the payment of tariffs;

e. To ensure that licensees achieve the highest possible level
of accountability and responsiveness to customer and community

f. To ensure that standard telephone services are supplied as
efficiently and economically as possible and at such performance
standards which reasonably meet the social, industrial and
commercial needs of the community;

g. To promote the development of other sectors of the Nigerian
economy through the commercial supply of modern telecommunications
services within the framework of the Act;

h. To establish technical standards and promote the development
of Nigeria’s telecommunications capabilities, industries and

i. To ensure that the Nigerian public have growing access to
telecommunications facilities; and

j. To optimize the use of telecommunications facilities in
Nigeria, with due consideration for the rights of the licensees and
the public interest.

  • Electric Power Sector Reform Act, No. 6,

By virtue of section 31 of this Act, the Nigerian Electricity
Regulatory Commission was established and empowered by section 32
to perform the following principal objectives:

i. To create, promote and preserve efficient industry and market
structures and to ensure the optimal utilization of resources for
the provision of electricity;

ii. To maximize access to electricity services by promoting and
facilitating consumer connections to distribution systems in both
rural and urban areas;

iii. To ensure that an adequate supply of electricity is
available to consumers;

iv. To ensure that the prices charged by licensees are fair to
consumers and are sufficient to allow the licencees to finance
their activities and to allow for reasonable earnings for efficient

v. To ensure the safety, security, reliability and quality of
service in the production and delivery of electricity to

vi. To ensure that regulations is fair and balanced for
licencees, consumers, investors and other stakeholders, and

vii. To present quarterly reports to the President and National
Assembly on its activities.

Further to the objectives of Nigerian Electricity Regulatory
Commission, section 32 (2) of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act
outlines the functions of NERC as follows:

i. Promote competition and private sector participation, when
and where feasible;

ii. Establish appropriate consumer rights and obligations
regarding the provision and use of electricity services;

iii. License and regulate persons engaged in the generation,
transmission system operation, distribution and trading of

iv. Approve amendments to market rules;

v. Monitor the operation of the electricity markets, and

vi. Undertake such other activities which are necessary or
convenient for better carrying out of or giving effect to the
objectives of the commission.

Enforceability of consumer rights action in Nigeria?

For a consumer to succeed in an action under consumer protection
rights law, the complainant must show that the defendant owes him a
duty of care and that he has suffered damage in consequence of the
defendant’s breach of duty of care towards him. See the case of
Igheriniovo v. S.C.C nig Ltd (2013) 10 NWLR (Pt.1361) at
paras E-G, page 150 where the court

“Negligence is the omission to do something which a
reasonable man, guided by those ordinary considerations which
ordinarily regulate human affairs, would do, or the doing of
something which a reasonable and prudent man would not do. It is
conduct which falls below the standard established by law for the
protection of other against unreasonable risk of harm. A departure
from the conduct expected of a reasonably prudent person under like
circumstances. Negligence is a breach of duty of care which causes
a loss. It is strictly a question of fact, which must be decided in
the light of its own facts”

This duty of care under tort of negligence ranges from
inadvertence that is hardly more than accidental to sinful
disregard of the safety of others. What amounts to negligence is a
question of fact not law, and each case must be decided in the
light of its own facts and circumstances. See the case of
Lufthansa German Airlines v. Ballanyne (2013) 1 NWLR
(Pt.1336) 527-page 544 para-B
where the court held:

“Negligence in law ranges from inadvertence that is
hardly more than accidental to sinful disregard of the safety of

The term negligence connotes a failure to exercise the standard
of care that a reasonable prudent person would have exercised in a
given similar situation. It denotes any conduct or act that falls
below the legal standard established to protect other persons
against unreasonable risk of harm, except for conduct that is
intentionally, wantonly or willfully disregardful of other
person’s rights. See the case of Bouygues Nig Ltd v. O
Marine Services Ltd (2013) 3 NWLR (Pt.1342) 429

For a consumer’s right in negligence to be actionable, the
complainant has the onus to establish that:

a. The defendant owed the complainant a duty of care;

b. The duty of care was breached by the defendant;

c. The breach of the duty of care in question caused damages to
the complainant. See Orhue v. NEPA (1998) 7 NWLR (Pt.557)

Until a complainant can prove by evidence the actual breach of
legal duty of care against the defendant, the action must fail. In
order to find a defendant liable for negligence, there must be
either admission by him or sufficient evidence adduced to support a
finding on his part. Such evidence may be direct or inferential
depending on the circumstance of each particular case. See the case
of Iwunze v. FRN (2013) 1 NWLR (Pt.1334) 119.

  1. Challenges Telecommunication subscribers face in

Nigerian GSM subscribers are the most short-changed consumers in
the world, even when the telecommunication operators generate most
profits from these consumers. In the case of Adegboruwa v.
Nigerian Communications Commission
, the complainant sued the
respondents for poor service delivery and arbitrary hike in tariff
plan by telecommunication operators in Nigeria; the courts seem
rather complacent to reach judgment in favour of teeming Nigerian
consumers who have been subjected to disparaging exploitation by
GSM operators since 2002 that the matter was instituted in

For years now, millions of Nigerian helpless subscribers have
borne the brunt of poor service delivery with little or no effort
made by the judiciary or government agencies to bring perpetrators
to book.

Other noticeable challenges in the telecommunication sector as
witnessed by subscribers are high cost of internet subscription,
poor ICT infrastructure, lack of maintenance of base stations and
weak fire optic cable services.

Every day, cases of abuse of consumer rights are brought to
public glare in the telecommunication sector but they naturally
fizzle out as a result of weak regulatory system.

  1. Case study of electricity consumers in

Electric power generation began in 1896 and since then, so many
reforms have been carried out by various regimes and
administrations, but there seems to be no end to the epileptic
power supply, unfair and fraudulent business practices witnessed in
the power sector. See pages 20 and 21 of The Guardian Newspapers of
Sunday, August 9, 2015.

The challenges faced by consumers in the power sector apart from
poor power supply are: high electricity tariff, poor metering
system, inadequately maintained transformers and cables, power
fluctuation and high voltage.

With the present poor state of power supply which has affected
businesses across all sectors of the economy, it is considered that
an improved power supply in Nigeria will gladden the mind of
consumers, investors and foreigners who would want to invest in

iv. Suggestion and needed reforms for Consumer Protection
Rights in Nigeria?

At this point, to protect consumers from these abusive, unfair
and fraudulent business practices in the telecommunications and
power sector, the following suggestions and reforms have been


i. There should be more awareness campaign by the Consumer
protection council of consumer rights and existing laws which can
help victims to obtain compensation from manufacturers;

ii. Consumer protection council are encouraged to use various
channels of information dissemination to publish banned and faked
products in the market;

iii. Telecommunication operators are encourage to boast their
customer care service baseline to effectively deliver services in
the internet connectivity, tariff plan and other value added

iv. Government should encourage more private participation in
the power sector, to boost competition and discourage the
monopolistic practices of the existing companies,

v. A reduction in the fixed price as currently charged by the
distribution companies, will encourage the patronage of


i. Government reforms are needed in issuance of generation,
distribution and transmission licenses in the power sector to
encourage private participation and boost healthy competition;

ii. The fundamental nature of consumer protection rights action
should be the yardstick for the judiciary to be speedier in
dispensation of justice;


The fundamental right to be heard has been guaranteed by the
1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
This means that every consumer’s right has been protected under
the law and as such if any consumer have the believe that a company
or merchant has violated or infringed upon any of his or her rights
by abusive and fraudulent business practices, should not hesitate
to seek legal advice from a lawyer and possible redress where


  1. 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as

  2. The African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights ratified by CAP
    A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990;

  3. Consumer Protection Council Act, CAP C25 Laws of the
    Federation, 2004;

  4. Ransome-Kuti v. Attorney General of the Federation (1985) 2
    NWLR (Pt.6) 211;

  5. Nwosu v. Nwosu (2012) 8 NWLR (Pt.1301) 5;

  6. Donoghue v. Stevenson (1932) AC 562;

  7. Abdullahi v. Pfizer;

  8. Adamu v.Pfizer;

  9. Nigerian Communications Commission Act, CAP N97, LFN,

  10. Electric Power Sector Reform Act, No. 6, 2005;

  11. Igheriniovo v. S.C.C nig Ltd (2013) 10 NWLR (Pt.1361) at

  12. Lufthansa German Airlines v. Ballanyne (2013) 1 NWLR (Pt.1336)

  13. Bouygues Nig Ltd v. O Marine Services Ltd (2013) 3 NWLR
    (Pt.1342) 429;

  14. Orhue v. NEPA (1998) 7 NWLR (Pt.557) 187;

  15. Iwunze v. FRN (2013) 1 NWLR (Pt.1334) 119;

  16. Adegboruwa v. Nigerian Communications Commission;

  17. Pages 20 and 21 of the Guardian Newspapers of Sunday, August 9,

Originally Published 8 January 2024

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.


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