Lagos beams searchlight on supermarkets, grocery stores over hidden price tags

For Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, there exists a thin line between his humanity and propensity for citizens’ welfare. Rising against suspicion that some supermarkets and grocery stores in Lagos deliberately conceal the price tags of their products to deceive unsuspecting customers, Lagos State Consumer Protection Agency (LASCOPA) recently threatened to seal up erring supermarkets and grocery stores over the dubious act. Insisting that such practice violate consumers’ rights and the state’s law, LASCOPA’s General Manager, Mr. Afolabi Solebo stressed the importance of adhering to government regulations adding that absence of tags denies consumers their protection rights.

Intentional as LASEPA decision was, the directive has yet to resonate meaningfully among some super stores in Lagos. A recent visit to some supermarkets along Ayobo-Ipaja area of Lagos showed a high compliance level by the big ones compared to their smaller versions. The big departmental stores pasted the price tags on the shelves and affixed tags on some goods to guide customers. That was not unexpected of brands which have names to protect and won’t risk their integrity for peanuts.

This writer’s check on few other stores in the same area presented a different picture. It was obvious that some of the tags on shelves had not been updated. At a particular supermarket along Ipaja-Ayobo axis, the tags were already peeling off and could not be linked to the goods on display. Regardless, I picked a few items hoping to leverage on that to engage the salesgirl. I asked if she was aware her supermarket flouted government directive on fixing price tags to displayed wares. The salesgirl was indifferent in her response. Her body language showed she was getting the information for the first time. In between the fear I could be an undercover investigator and being caught in her ignorance, she kept nodding her head in acquiescence. 

My encounter with the salesgirl underlines the fact LASCOPA directive was yet to impact the services of a chunk of the Lagos business community. Experiences have shown such directive requires sensitisation and strict enforcement to yield gains. That again brings to fore, Sanwo-Olu’s eagerness for establishment of state police. During his last media chat, a passionate governor unveiled his blueprint for the take off of state police once government gave the go ahead. He lamented the manners some Lagosians flouted government directives with impunity. “People perceived there would be no consequences for their wrongdoings because they felt nobody would go after them”, he said.

Like some state’s laws encumbered by capacity for total enforcement,  LASEPA’s directive to supermarkets is yet to register in the public consciousness. But all that may change soon as Sanwo-Olu has approved the recruitment of 4,000 Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Watch (Neighbourhood Watch) personnel in addition to the existing 6,000. With 10,000 men on stand by to transmute into state policemen, Lagos is good to go as soon as the coast is clear on state police.  This number will enhance the state’s capacity to implement its laws fully, Sanwo-Olu reassured.

Flashback to the last three months during which the state government rolled out intervention programmes to cushion the effects of rising costs of goods and services caused by removal of petroleum subsidy and floating of the naira. The Federal Government on her part intervened through the Central Bank of Nigeria with policies that have seen naira appreciating in value against the dollar. With that, Nigerians had anticipated a corresponding reduction in prices in shopping malls and grocery stores since they usually tie their prices to exchange rates. But rather than reduction in prices, inflationary figures are on the rise.

Meanwhile, the suspicion was that some supermarkets deliberately hid their prices from unsuspecting customers so that they don’t relate the prices to the  appreciating value  of the Naira. This underhand dealing sometimes leave some customers stranded or cause misunderstanding between the customer and salesboy/girl at the point of sale. 

For a government that holds dearly the welfare of its citizens, this is one malpractice the Sanwo-Olu-led administration is determined to nip in the bud.

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