The Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), Babatunde Irukera, yesterday said the commission has established a case against five shipping companies allegedly involved in influencing high freight rates including the associated costs to the country.
He said the commission had also executed a judicial search warrant and order of the Federal High Court to search and gather evidence in furtherance of an open and active investigation of potential infringements of the Federal Competition & Consumer Protection Act 2018 (FCCPA) by the affected firms.
In a statement, he was quoted to have also said initial intelligence had indicated that the, “five companies identified in the warrant, as well as others who were neither subject of the warrant nor targets of the search, have over a period of time, within and outside Nigeria participated in, or coordinated anti-competitive conduct that materially affect or distort the market in Nigeria, including preventing fair competition, and engendering continuing high freight rates and associated costs to, and in Nigeria.”
He said prior to the execution of the search warrant and order of the court, the FCCPC had gathered credible and actionable intelligence sufficient to establish probable cause and reasonable basis for the court to issue a warrant and enter an order permitting executives and operatives of the commission to conduct a search of the companies named in the warrant and order.
Irukera said targets of the execution of the search warrant were largely cooperative with minimal exceptions, which exceptions included, physically and verbally assaulting officials and authorised persons of the Commission, as well as resisting, delaying, impeding or obstructing the investigatory process in violation of law.
He said: “These exceptions are currently being processed for further criminal and other judicial procedures in accordance with the FCCPA and extant criminal procedure laws.”
He, however, stressed that “These are the early stages of the investigation, and the commission expects it will include gathering more information from operatives of the current targets in accordance with the FCCPA, and expand to other companies in the same industry where required.”
The commission, further encouraged persons who may have any information, and or complaints/dissatisfaction or aware of illegal/suspicious conduct with respect to services, rates or activities within the industry, including agents or employees of companies in the industry to provide same to the commission including anonymously, or in exchange for immunity or other available protection from personal liability or responsibility for conduct in violation of law under the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Investigative Cooperation/Assistance Rules & Procedures 2021.
He said: “The Commission also invites other companies in the industry who may wish to take advantage of leniency provisions in the FCCPA to immediately engage before they become specific targets, and the investigation extends to their activities.”