Human rights activist Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Mr Femi Falana, has petitioned the United States-based Coca-Cola Company, over the failure of the company in Nigeria to respect international standards in its manufacturing process as well as its refusal to subject its products to inspection by the Consumer Protection Council of Nigeria, CPC.
The Lagos lawyer, in a letter he addressed to the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of the Coca-Cola Company, Muhtar Kent, accused Coca-Cola of exhibiting double standards as it would not breach international standards with impunity in its operations in the United States or the United Kingdom as it does in Nigeria and gave notice to drag the company to court if it continues violating the fundamental right of Nigerians to health by supplying products, which he alleged are injurious to their health.
Falana in his letter said: “I have confirmed that the refusal to effectively comply with Nigerian laws and regulations is selective on the part of your company because I am fully aware that Coca-Cola will not set out to breach international standards in its operations in the United States or the United Kingdom without serious consequences and punishment by the appropriate authorities in both countries.
“In the circumstance, the following questions are pertinent: Why has the Coca-Cola company engaged in impunity in its operations in Nigeria? Why would the Coca-Cola Company expect not to be held responsible in Nigeria when its products contain rusty bottle crown corks, rusty cans and foreign particles? Are the health conditions of Nigerians less important than those of Americans? Why would Coca-Cola Company refuse to establish a Shelf Life Policy for their products in the country which clearly would help to facilitate the removal of expired products from the market?
“I contend that the double standard clearly being exhibited by the Coca-Cola company in Nigeria is not only unethical but also inconsistent with international best practices and standards such as the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework. The Guiding Principles were endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011.
“In the light of the foregoing, I am compelled to urge Coca-Cola Company to ensure consistency in its practice and operations whether in developed countries like the United States and the United Kingdom or developing countries like Nigeria.
“Coca-Cola should show a greater level of responsibility by ensuring that its products are not harmful to the Nigerian consumers and to allow the CPC and other authorities to carry out their mandates in cases where Coca-Cola Company’s operations or services are found to be directly or indirectly injurious to the health of Nigerians.
“Take notice that if the Coca-Cola company continues to defy the authority of the Consumer Protection Council and persists in violating the fundamental right of the Nigerian people to health by supplying products which are injurious to their health we shall not hesitate to apply to the appropriate High Court for redress which will include the payment of exemplary and punitive damages and the suspension of the operations of the Coca-cola company in Nigeria until it is prepared to operate within the ambit of the law”.