Punishment for Price Increment during COVID-19 Lockdown in Lagos State.

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Punishment for Price Increment during COVID-19 Lockdown in Lagos State. Daily Law Tips (Tip 546) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LLM. ACIArb(UK)

Prices of nose masks, hand sanitizers and groceries have skyrocketed not due to forces of demand and supply, alone but due to forces of greed and selfishness. With the growing cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Nigeria, most traders, supermarkets and dealers on pharmaceuticals, groceries and basic household items, artificially inflated their prices. However, there is punishment for price increment during COVID-19 Lockdown in Lagos State.

In line with the Federal Government’s Quarantine Act of 1926, the Lagos State Governor made the Lagos State Infectious Diseases (Emergency Prevention) Regulations 2020. By the Regulation, it is an offence to increase prices of foods, drugs or other essentials goods and services. It is also an offence to hoard such goods or to refuse to render essential services. As punishment, an offender may have his goods seized and forfeited to government. The seized goods can be used by government to alleviate supply needs in the state.

Other states in Nigeria are advised to enact laws to regulate prices and supply as well as criminalise hoarding of groceries, drugs, basic household items and services, at this time of pandemic. More importantly, the President of Nigeria is advised to make amendments to the COVID-19 Regulations or make a new COVID -19 Regulations under the Quarantine Act, to regulate prices and supply of basic goods and services, across Nigeria during this pandemic. In the alternative, in the interest of consumers in Nigeria, the President of Nigeria is equally advised to make a Price Regulation under the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act of 2018 (upon the report and recommendations of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission) to regulate prices and supply of necessary goods and services across Nigeria for the period of COVID-19 pandemic or any crisis. The Federal Government may also wish to control prices and hoarding by enforcing the Price Control Act. The Act covers goods under the Controlled Commodities List, most of which are basic household items and all other commodities in Nigeria. By the Act, the Federal Minister for Commerce can make Regulations placing maximum prices for all commodities in Nigeria, including; Flour, Matches, Salt, Sugar, Milk, Petroleum products and Motor parts. However, there is need for National Assembly to amend the Price Control Act of 1977, to increase the list of controlled commodities and sanctions, among other things. However, a look at the provisions of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission Act of 2018, makes one wonder why the Price Control Act was not repealed.

My authorities are:

1. Sections 1, 2 and 8 of the Quarantine Act of 1926.

2. Sections 63, 65, 88, 107 167 and 168 of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act of 2019.

3. Sections 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 17, 18 and 18 of the Price Control Act of 1977.

4. Regulations 1, 2, 3 and 11 of the Lagos State Infectious Diseases (Emergency Prevention) Regulations 2020.

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