In response to the recent declaration of a state of emergency on food security by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), Mr. Babatunde Irukera, has taken a firm stance against market associations that have formed illegal cartels to manipulate food prices in Nigeria.
During the “Fair Food Prices in Nigeria, Multi-stakeholder Workshop” organized by the FCCPC and the foreign non-governmental organization Consumer International in Lagos State, Irukera issued a warning on Tuesday, signaling the commission’s intent to take action against those responsible for driving food prices upwards.
Irukera emphasized that it is these associations, both in input supplies such as fertilizers and market traders’ associations, that are fostering cartels and inflating food prices. He cited price gouging, anti-competitive conduct, and other commercial factors as contributors to the unreasonably high food prices. The FCCPC aims to identify these issues and develop strategies to combat them effectively.
While acknowledging the importance of trade associations to the business community and society at large, Irukera made it clear that their involvement in discussions about pricing, supply restrictions, or manipulations is unacceptable. He stressed that market associations should promote commerce and trade, rather than hinder it through control of supplies or price-fixing.
In addition to advocacy, Irukera urged governments and regulators to display the will and commitment necessary to make difficult decisions and enforce strategies that effectively address these cartels.
The FCCPC’s role extends beyond regulating big companies and the formal sector; it also encompasses regulating the informal sector. Irukera clarified that competition regulation is essential for unlocking the market’s potential and allowing prices to be negotiated between sellers and buyers, ensuring a fair and transparent market.
Irukera expressed his disappointment that associations would collude to determine prices and restrict trade within specific markets, such as limiting the sale of rice or beans to their members only. Such practices are detrimental, especially in a country like Nigeria with rising poverty rates, a growing population, and inflation, which disproportionately affect citizens with limited income and disposable income spent on food.
However, Mr. Ayo Abiola, a representative of the Marketers and Traders Association of Nigeria, disputed the allegations, attributing food price hikes to factors such as multiple taxations and extortions that occur from the farm to the market. He emphasized that traders should not be held responsible for these problems.
Mrs. Davine Minayo, a specialist in Fair Food Prices in Africa and representative of Consumer International, emphasized the importance of ensuring food safety and fair pricing. She called for support for competition authorities and increased involvement of stakeholders, especially consumers and small-scale producers, in addressing these issues.
As the FCCPC takes a stand against illegal cartels manipulating food prices, Nigerians eagerly await the implementation of strategies that will safeguard fair market competition and protect citizens from exploitation.