Experts optimistic about changing landscape for competition and consumer protection
Experts at the seminar organised by Nigerian law firm Jackson, Etti & Edu in collaboration with international law firm, Norton Rose Fulbright on Tuesday June 18th, 2019, have expressed hope that the new legislation would bring about best practices in competition, anti-trust and in encouraging business growth.
Giving his keynote speech at the event, Hon. Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, who set the conversations of the day in motion, shared a historic overview of the developments in competition law in the global scene in a bid to highlight developments in the sphere of competition law up till the current Act.
He spoke extensively on the positive change the new legislation would bring about best practices in competition and anti-trust and in encouraging business growth. Dimgba concluded by commending the realistic approach of the Act, adding that the new Act could be likened to a new Riot Act, with the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) as the new sheriff to keep everybody in line.
The seminar, which had four sessions, was attended by industry specialists, regulators, manufacturers, businessmen, finance and legal service providers and other players in the competition and consumer protection sphere.
Each session covered unique angles on the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA) constituted of three panel sessions and a lone presentation by Mark Griffin of Norton Rose Fulbright.
Earlier, Mark Griffins, Director, Norton Rose Fulbright, in his opening remarks set the tempo for what turned out to be a most enlightening and engaging series of discussion on dicey issues pertaining to the new Act, which the event had in focus.
The first full session was a panel discussion moderated by Kunle Soyibo of Jackson, Etti and Edu, and was constituted by Babatunde Irukera, Chief Executive of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, Prof. Ademola Oyedije, Profesor Emeritus, Department of Economics, University of Ibadan), Hon. Justice Dr. Nnamdi Dimgba (Competition Expert and Justice of the Federal High Court) and Mrs. Folasade Olusanya, (Industry Specialist and Partner, Corporate Commercial Practice, Jackson, Etti and Edu.
The topic ‘The FCCPA and what it means for business in Nigeria; an expert’s perspective’ and it was aimed at unraveling the realities the new act was set to introduce into the business sector, addressed from the combined viewpoint of industry specialists, academic specialists and the key regulator.
They touched on issues such as how the FCCPC intends to manage the transition into a new competition landscape, the formula for prioritization the various needs for rules and regulations on different areas of concern, the Commissions approach to delineating regulations and guidelines affected players can follow in obeisance with the new Act as well as options businesses can exploit towards ensuring compliance with the New Act across board.
The second session was a singular presentation by competition specialist and cross-jurisdictional competition practitioner, Mark Griffin on the topic ‘Trend in Competition Laws in other jurisdiction’. Griffin engaged the audience with a rich exposition on the competition law systems of other African countries, highlighting areas of similarities between the FCCPA and the competition laws of other jurisdictions and possible areas of operational focus from comparative perspective.
He particularly directed attention to key areas the FCCPC may be likely to address first in the nascent stages of its operations, drawing from trends noticed in other countries; pointing out merger control and cartel enforcement as key suspects. He concluded by emphasizing the need for regulations to provide clear-cut rubrics on such areas as merger control and restrictive agreements, particularly advising a more relaxed approach towards authorization for agreements with restrictive implications.
The third session was another panel discussion, moderated by Taiwo Adeshina of Jackson, Etti and Edu, and had Thompson Akpabio (Deputy-Director of NECA) Abidemi Ademola, General Counsel, GN and Company Secretary to Unilever Nigeria PLC, obechukwu Okigbo, Executive, Corporate Relations MTN Nigeria, Olusola Carrena (Head of Corporate Finance, Stanbic IBTC Capital Limited), and Obafemi Agaba, Partner and FMCG Sector Head, Jackson, Etti and Edu giving industry insight to the implications of the new regime introduced by the FCCPA, to complement earlier discussion on the Act from the experts perspective during the first panel.
Abidemi Ademola shared her perspective on how the act affects her company, highlighting that their approach was that of first understanding the act thoroughly rather than jumping into a frenzy, and to subsequently devise a road map towards dealing with the future as created by the Act. Tobechukwu Okigbo, averred that as for his company, being a player in the communications scene, they already had strict regulatory rubrics to work within at the instance of the NCC. He was however quick to note that they are positively disposed to regulation as it may not only be necessary to protect everybody but could also have positive business implications for them too.
His only concern, as he noted was how well the various agencies now having concurrent jurisdiction in industries like his such as the NCC and the FCCPC, would be able to properly navigate through cross agency relations and work towards an inclusive, robust and efficient regulatory environment. He shared that with respect to companies with dominate status the new regime should focus more on breaches of competition laws per say, rather than taking an ex ante approach aimed at limiting dominance rather than punishing its abuse.
The Final engagement for the day was another panel session, moderated by Mr. Okey Nnebedum and had Dafe Akpeneye, Commissioner Legal, Licensing and Compliance, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, Mfon Bassey, Deputy Director, Mergers and Acquisitions Division of the Securities and Exchange Commision, and Dr. Terhemen Andzenge, Head of Strategy and Planning, Bureau of Public Enterprises, who wound down the sessions with insights into the regulators perspective on the new regime.
Dr. Terhemen Andzenge noted that the new Act has its opponents, some being other industry regulators, due to its radical approach to revitalizing the competition plains in the country but insisted that the Act would be a success. He shared that the Act rather than being divisive, created a forum of sorts where regulators can come together under one single mandate and work in synergy.
Mfon Bassey averred that monopoly is the enemy of development and insisted that shifting of it’s merger control mandate to the FCCPC need be viewed from a utility perspective as it is a move to further counter the true evil.
Dafe Akpeneye enthused that the relationship between NERC and the FCCPC was completely complimentary and creates as avenue for a more robust engagement towards more utility for consumers across board. He further shared his disagreement with the viewpoint that FCCPC was to be a regulator of regulators as regulators are equally given mandate within definite parameters, without one being necessarily above another.
The sessions were wound down by the event compere, Adewale Fajana of Jackson, Etti and Edu, who gave a quick vote of thanks to the speakers, panelists and audience for their brilliant indulgence, while Ms. Folashade Olusanya, giving a quick summary of the discussions of the day and highlighted the key takeaways from the engagement to bring the event to a close, shortly afterwards.