Business

Curtailing business owners’ fraud against clients

Weight and Measuring Department of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investments, last week, clamped down on some fuel stations, cement depots and business outlets that cheat unsuspecting customers, ABDULWAHAB ISA reports

Majority of unsuspecting customers had, at one time or another, experienced one form of cheating in the course of business transactions. In many of the instances, customers are either ignorant of the act by a service provider or willingly let go of the cheating. Over time, the unfair dealings, unethical business practices and ripping off of customers by service providers in the course of trade transactions have assumed an intolerable dimension in Nigeria’s customertrader relationship. Fuel pump stations are typical examples.

Majority of fuel stations tamper with their fuel pump machines. They dispense fuel to unsuspecting motorists, cyclists and numerous fuel users from adjusted machines. The cheating goes beyond fuel filling stations. It has extended to other business transaction points, including shopping malls, supermarkets, cement depots, dates and fruits, among others. These designated business points indulge in undercutting of ignorant customers. Dishonest individuals dealing mostly in those line of businesses cut corners. They undermine integrity and sanctity, two most important fulcrum rules of business engagement to rip off customers. The Federal Government is conscious of such underhand dealings, cheating of unsuspecting customers by traders. To check and arrest the trend, the responsibility is domiciled at the Weights and Measures department of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investments. The department is supervised by a director with professionals trained in weights and measuring scales. Essentially, the mission of the Weights and Measures Department is to facilitate fair trade by ensuring use of accurate weighing and measuring equipment, promoting fair business practices and protecting the consumer against exploitation in the sale of goods and services.

Department goes tough on cheats

The Weight and Measuring Department of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investments clamped down on business outlets last week. Department Director, Mallam Abubakar Dan Galadima, led his team on a random surveillance and compliance exercise. The exercise, which kicked off last week in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), is billed for extension to the 36 states of the federation. Galadima and his enforcement team swooped on filling stations, bakery complexes, cement depots, supermarket and shopping malls unannounced. The team’s first point of call was NIPCO filling station located along Airport- Lugbe axis. The officers conducted a ran dom check on fuel dispensing meters using the department’s scale to test their accuracy. The team was satisfied with NIPCO’s meter. It displayed N162.4 a liter on the dispensing machine. Armed with the measurement tool, the team poured 20.38 liters of pms amounting to N3,330.48 into its measurement scale. In another machine, the meter read 20.50 liters amounting to N3, 329.2. A different scenario played out at other filling stations and sales outlets. Among filling stations inspected by the Weigh and Measurements enforcement team included MRS, Dan Oil, Saddi Kemil, Emadeb Energy and Shema. At Shema filling station located along Airport Road, the team sealed the premises for under dispensing of fuel to motorists. The outfit, in addition, failed to produce a certificate, an action said to be denying the government its revenue. The team discovered the station was shortchanging customers in the sale of diesel. At the Shoprite supermarket located along Airport road, the inspecting team discovered the accuracy of scales at its pastry, butchery and grocery points were good. It, however, directed the management to rectify two faulty scales discovered. The faulty measurement scale gave the wrong figure when fruits and dates were weighted on them by a difference of a kilo. At Idu , FCT industrial layout, the team sealed a private cement depot after inspection. Some bags of cements weighed 44kg per bag against 50kg.

Exercise to cover 36 states

The surveillance exercise will be replicated in every state of the federation. Galadima said similar exercises had been held across the entire 36 states and FCT last year. He described it as a routine exercise that would be sustained. Addressing the media before the team embarked on the surveillance exercise, he said: “As you are aware, we have a duty to embark on this verification exercise which of course is a routine one. We want to make sure reports of what we are getting from our field officers are correct. We will dispatch our team across all states in the federation to monitor compliance with accurate measurement. We have the task of ensuring Nigerians are not robbed, to ensure they get value for their money.” Galadima said the surveillance exercise was to ensure that the pumps, scales and metering in filling stations, departmental stores and companies were not faulty and were dispensing and measuring accurately, giving the public value for their money. “Many people use vehicles and generators. Nigerians use petrol always, if we find anything going contrary to our justification we are not going to allow it,’’ he noted. He explained that the department had an act, rules and regulations empowering it to act and prosecute erring companies in collaboration with its legal department. “We have officers nationwide. Traditionally we are starting the surveillance from Abuja; afterwards teams will be dispersed to various states to make sure that Nigerians are not shortchanged,” he said.

Strengthening penalty

The Act setting up the Weight and Measurements Department is long overdue for review. Some sections of the Act are said to be obsolete and weak, thus limiting punishment for offenders. Galadima said the Act was long due for review. He said efforts were being made in respect to that. The Act, according to him, was enacted 20 years ago with a small amount being charged for such offences and not enough to punish people to stop. “Part of what we are doing is to make sure that the fees charged are jacked up to serve as a big punishment to defaulters. Once we review the Act, we can now recommend high fines for offenders. We have to follow the procedure, through the National Assembly to make sure that it is amended,’’ he said. According to a section of the Act relating to fraudulent practices in use of weights, etc, it said: “ Where any fraud is willfully committed in the use of any weight, measure, weighing or measuring instrument for trade, the person committing such fraud, and every person party to such fraud, shall be guilty of an offence and such weight, measure, weighing instrument or measuring instrument shall be liable to forfeiture” Section 20 of the Act states that refusal to produce weights, etc is an offence. “Any person who refuses when requested by an inspector to produce to the inspector any weight, measure, weighing instrument or measuring instrument in his possession or custody or obstructs, or hinders any inspector in any examination under this Act of any weight, measure, weighing instrument or measuring instrument, shall be guilty of an offence. Section 21 stipulates the consequences of importing unjust weights and measures. “Any person who imports, makes or sells or causes to be imported, made or sold any unjust weight, measure, weighing instrument, measuring instrument or goods, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction in respect of a first offence to a fine of not less than N 100 and, in respect of a second or any subsequent offence, to a fine of not less than N 200 or more than N 300 or to imprisonment for a term of twelve months,” it noted.

Last line

The clamp down by the Weight and Measurement Department on business outlets cutting corners by cheating ignorant customers is a commendable exercise. The penalty for offenders should be reviewed upward to serve as a deterrent to others.

 

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