Home Economy Court Reserves Ruling in CPC’s Case against Coca-Cola

Court Reserves Ruling in CPC’s Case against Coca-Cola

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290813T.Mohammed-AdokeTobi Soniyi in Abuja

A Federal High Court in Abuja has fixed February 3, 2015 for ruling on whether or not the fiat issued by the Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke (SAN) to Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN), to prosecute Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited, its Managing Director, Mr. Adeola Adetunji, and the Chief Executive of Nigerian Bottling Company, Ben Langat, for alleged breach of the Consumers Protection Council (CPC) Act was proper.

In line with the directive of the court, both Adetunji and Langat were in court. Langat flew in from Nairobi, Kenya, to attend the proceeding.

However, despite the presence of the executives in court yesterday, the matter did not take place because the trial judge’s ruling on the legality of the fiat to prosecute the company was not ready.

Justice Elvis Chukwu had fixed Thursday for ruling to decide the competence and authority of Ojo.

However, the ruling was stalled, as the court registrar informed counsel and parties in the matter that the ruling was not ready.

The court consequently fixed February 3, 2015 for the ruling.

The office of the AGF had instituted a two separate criminal suits against Coca-Cola,  NBC alongside their Chief Executives over an alleged violation of the CPC Act.

The defendants are challenging the mandate given to   Ojo by the Attorney General of the Federation to prosecute them for alleged violation of the CPC Act.

They are also challenging the competence of the charge and the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the charge.

At the last adjourned date, counsel to the accused persons  Gbolahan Elias, SAN for  Coca-Cola and its Chief Executive and Oluseyi Ope Santa, SAN for  NBC and its Chief Executive were about to move their application objecting to the suit when the prosecution counsel informed the court that the accused persons were not present in court.

Counsel to the accused persons contended  that the accused persons did not need to be in court since they were challenging the mandate to prosecute the case and the competence of the charge.

But the prosecution counsel,  Ojo told the court that criminal trial could not commence without the presence of the accused persons.

He also reminded the court that the order  to paste the charges on the front wall of the accused offices had been complied with and that the accused ought to be in court.

The  trial judge however insisted that the accused persons must appear in court before he would hear the objections.

Moving their applications, both Elias and Opesanya prayed the court to disqualify Ojo from prosecuting the matter on the grounds that he is the counsel to CPC in a matter pending before a Lagos High Court where NBC is seeking judicial review of CPC’s decision on the subject matter.

Meanwhile, Nigerian judiciary has been urged to stick to the finest principles of adjudication in the suit between the CPC and Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited.

Speaking in Abuja, the coordinator  of the Society for Social Development and Good Leadership, Ikenna Agu stated that the judiciary  had established its reputation as an impartial arbiter and will not be swayed by extra-judicial means in procuring judgments.

Agu said this in reaction to renowned lawyer, Femi Falana’s SAN letter to the global CEO of Coca Cola in which he raised several issues unrelated to the case.

“Falana went on to pronounce Coca-Cola guilty even when he is fully aware that there is a subsisting case in court. Making such statements is tantamount to attempting to sway the judiciary and make the CPC’s case better than it is. Falana should allow the parties that are already in court continue with the judicial process without seeking to unduly influence its outcome,” Agu added.

The CPC is currently embroiled in a legal battle with Coca Cola and its bottler, the Nigerian Bottling Company, over a consumer complaint which borders on a manufacturing defect on the filling of two cans of Sprite soft. The CPC thereafter slammed a fine of N100million on both Coca Cola and NBC, a matter which the beverage companies are contesting in court. According to the CPC, N60million is for investigating the two half-filled cans of Sprite and the balance N40million as civil penalties. The consumer will be paid N50,000.

“Rather than hound companies operating in Nigeria, government agencies such as the CPC should strive to ensure that businesses meet their obligations while ensuring that the interest of the consumer is protected. This can be done without going overboard, as it is with CPC requiring Coca Cola to pay N100million for a manufacturing defect on filling of two cans of Sprite out of a massive production batch,” said Agu.

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