LASCOPA: A Cut Above the Rest
By Eniola Olakunri
General Manager, Lagos State Consumer Protection Agency (LASCOPA), Mr Afolabi Solebo
Indeed, Lagos is working!
On Thursday September 8th, 2022, I strolled into the Ikeja City Mall, situated along Obafemi Awolowo Way (Alausa) Ikeja-Lagos, with the intention of getting myself an earpiece.
I browsed various stores but immediately I saw “Slot”, home to phones, computers and various communication tools, I felt comfortable, believing I would get what I went for.
In no time, I settled for a bone conduction headphone with a ₦30,000.00 price tag, and promptly paid. I took the item home, charged it, and forgot about it.
The next day, I decided to call my wife and gleefully intimate her about my newly acquired gadgetry only for her to tell me she could not hear me. I turned the headphone over and tried to see if I did not do something right. I read the Manual again and saw I did everything right. Still, the item did not work.
The next day, Friday, September 9th, at about 1pm, I went back to Slot and complained about my experience. The workers took the piece, tested it and came to the same conclusion. They, too, could not hear themselves.
They told me I had two choices. Either I picked another item of the same make, or settle for another headphone with a commensurate price tag.
I explained that I live in Abuja, and would not settle for the same product. What if I get back to base and it malfunctions again? The Store Manager, a lady, responded they have offices there (in Abuja), and that those ones would always attend to me should I experience the same problem. I was dumbstruck. I could not believe she actually uttered that statement. In effect, I have no other business other than spending my precious time visiting Slot office(s) and repeatedly complaining about a bad product? I also did not want any other product they had on offer in their shop and therefore requested a refund. The Store Manager was vehement and kept saying Slot maintains a “No Refunds” policy, insisting I picked another item.
This is where it gets interesting. Unbeknownst to me and everyone around, a gentleman in a simple light-blue kaftan, worn over navy-blue loafers, and looking dapper with his fitting eyewear, had been listening to my back and forth with the Store Manager. He asked me to narrate what happened and I did. He said there’s nothing like “No Refunds” policy and that Consumers must always get value for the products they procure.
He introduced himself as Mr Afolabi Solebo, the General Manager (GM) of Lagos State Consumer Protection Agency (LASCOPA), and insisted I must be reimbursed the full amount paid.
Mr. Eniola Olakunri
The Store Manager told him that would not be possible and Mr Solebo (now turned my Rescuer-in-Chief), maintained that if the refund was not effected, he would seal the Store. The workers thought he was joking. Even I, the Main Act in the midst of all the drama, could not believe what was unfurling before my eyes.
The GM kept maintaining his position and the Store Manager started making frantic calls for the next 40 minutes; shuffling in and out the store, offering no solution. She urged me to speak with her boss on the phone at some point, but Mr Solebo insisted I should not speak with anyone. He said companies could get away with the ‘No Refunds’ nonsense elsewhere in Nigeria, but not in Lagos, where he is operating under the mandate given his Agency by the indefatigable Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
90 minutes went by, and still no answer.
The GM called on his team to come seal up the place. In a jiffy, some 8 personnel (with one holding a chain) appeared from nowhere. I was gobsmacked! How they managed to get to the scene within such a short space of time, was quite astonishing!!!
Mr Solebo sought everyone’s attention, introduced himself, and apprised them of what happened; noting that Consumers indeed have rights and must always insist on getting value for their money. He politely informed them that the place was in the process of being sealed.
Customers started moving out of the store and the Store Manager kept running helter-skelter, pleading with Mr Solebo, whilst at the same time, trying to inform her boss(es) via the phone, about the fact that the LASCOPA GM was not joking!
To cut a long story short, the Ikeja City Hall Manager waded in, spoke on the phone with the Slot Management, and a truce was reached. He got the company to agree that my refund would be effected within 24 hours (as opposed to the 48 hours they had offered after much pressure).
My Rescuer-in-Chief was not done. He insisted Slot must give an undertaking to that effect, to which the hitherto recalcitrant Store Manager eventually yielded; scribbling the same behind my purchase receipt.
Within a space of 2 hrs, I got an alert and my money was refunded fully! I promptly called Mr Solebo and thanked him profusely. (He had earlier told me to let him know if the refund was not done within the time frame spelt out in the undertaking the company gave).
My point in writing this piece is two-fold. First, to let Consumers know they can insist on their rights whenever they feel they are being shafted by companies they patronise, or perchance, they are not getting value for items purchased. They should try and live by the creed of Arnold Palmer, the charismatic American golfer (September 10, 1929 – September 25, 2016), who enjoined people to: “Always make a total effort, even when the odds are against you”.
Also, I want to give kudos to the LASCOPA Team under the able leadership of Mr Afolabi Solebo. His resolve and stoic stance (for more than 2 and a half hours), in insisting that the right thing must be done, is stuff true leaders, who know their onions, could only make manifest.
In conclusion, I remember the words of a renowned English Essayist, Samuel Johnson (September 18, 1709 – December 13, 1784); “If your determination is fixed, I do not counsel you to despair. Few things are impossible with diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strength, but perseverance”. Also, in one of the treatises put out by another popular English writer and Religious Thinker, William Penn (October 14, 1644 – July 30, 1718); “Patience and Diligence, like Faith, remove mountains”
For me, two quotes above, summarise the Essential Afolabi Solebo and his dedicated LASCOPA Team.
Indeed, Lagos is working. Other states should take a cue.
*Eniola Olakunri is a Media Consultant based in Abuja.