AN ANALYSIS OF THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR REGULATION OF BOTTLED WATER IN NIGERIA
Water is essential to the survival of living matter. It plays a major role in the metabolic breakdown of molecules as proteins and carbohydrates in animals. An average man (of 53 kg – 63 kg body weight) requires about 3 litres of water in liquid and food daily to keep healthy. Water can also constitute a threat to animals including humans if not properly managed or treated before drinking. The quality and quantity of treated public water supply in Nigeria, especially pipe borne water, is almost endemic and inadequate for the growing population.
The alternative to adequate water supply is found in packaged sachet and bottled water, which have gone through purification processes and preserved into a hygienic container. To ensure that there is compliance with the packaging of water for consumption, laws are made to regulate and guide the activities of manufacturers or businessmen who engage in bottled water business in Nigeria and the world at large. The laws are the Food, Drugs and Unwholesome Products (Registration, etc.) Act, 1993; Counterfeit and Fake Drugs and Unwholesome Processed Food (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1999; National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control Act, 1993; Standard Organisation of Nigeria Act, 2015 and Consumer Protection council Act, 1992. Also, the regulations include the Bottled Water (Registration) Regulations 1996, Bottled Water (Labelling) Registrations 1996, Bottled Water (Advertisement) Regulation 1995, and the Guidelines for the establishment of packaged water plants in Nigeria.
Several researches have been done in this area in law, to the best knowledge of the researcher none have focused on the analyses of the legal framework for regulation of bottled water in Nigeria. Hitherto, laws regulating bottled water in Nigeria have not been given prominence in the public domain, considering the health hazard involved in the consumption of the product. The low level of concern regarding how inadequate the laws are reflecting lack of public interest and awareness of the health hazard of consumption of contaminated bottled water in Nigeria.
Laws regulating bottled water are not in conformity with the standard set by the World Health Organisation and the International Bottled Water Association respectively. Recent regulations on bottled water such as adoption of allowable levels of certain disinfectants and disinfection by products in the quality standard for bottled water and publication of a feasibility study on the appropriate methods for providing consumers with information on the contents of bottled water are not enshrined in the laws regulating bottled water in Nigeria.
The aim of the research is to analyse the legal framework for regulation of bottled water in Nigeria. The specific objectives were to;
(i) identify and analyse the legal framework for regulation of bottled water in Nigeria with a view to determining its adequacy or otherwise in protecting consumers of bottled water.;
(ii) determine the adequacy or otherwise of the relevant statutes in protecting consumers of bottled water in Nigeria; and
(iii) determine the conformity of the relevant statutes and regulations with international standards. The study is doctrinal.
It adopted the descriptive, analytical and comparative approach.
It involved collection and review of relevant laws and literature on bottled water. Reliance was placed on primary and secondary sources of data. The primary sources of data employed in this study are statutes, and international treaties.
The secondary sources of data are textbooks, journal, articles, newspaper articles, judgments of court as contain in law reports, internet materials, conference papers, seminar papers, and case law. The data analysis was done by descriptive approach and content analysis.
The laws regulating bottled water in Nigeria are inadequate. The study recommends that the National Assembly and NAFDAC should make laws, and guidelines respectively to address important issues identified in this study including measures for effective enforcement.
1.0. Background to the Study
Water is essential to the survival of living matter. It plays a major role in the metabolic breakdown of molecules as proteins and carbohydrates in animals. An average man (of 53 kg – 63 kg body weight) requires about 3 litres of water in liquid and food daily to keep healthy. In the past, water did not constitute an object of commercial enterprise as water sources were mainly natural sources such as rivers, streams, lakes and rainfall. Water can also constitute a threat to animals including humans if not properly managed or treated before drinking. Comprising over 70% of the earth surface, water is undoubtedly the most precious natural resources that exist on our planet without the seemingly invaluable compound. Comprised of hydrogen and oxygen; life on earth would be non-existent: it is essential for everything on our planet to grow and prosper. However in its usage and exploitation, humans seem to contaminate the water. Water contamination occurs when a body of water is adversely affected due to the addition of water pollution is a major problem in the global context, it is the leading worldwide cause of death and diseases, and that it accounts for the death of more than 14,000 people daily.
An estimated 1,000 Indian children die of diarrheal sickness every day and 63.4 millions rural inhabitants lack access to clean water. Some 90% of china’s cities suffer from some degree of water pollution, and nearly 500 million people lack access to safe drinking water, 43.7 million people living in rural areas lack access to clean. 663 million people globally are still without clean water and the vast majority of them 5.22 millions live in rural areas. Advancement in technology has also contributed to contamination of streams, lakes, underground water, bays, or oceans by substances harmful to living things.
The quality and quantity of treated public water supply in Nigeria, especially the pipe borne water, is almost endemic and inadequate for the growing population. Recent statistics by the World Health Organisation (WHO) show that over 4,000 children worldwide die daily from water-borne diseases for lack of pure potable water; the result shows that about 166 children die per hour, and three children every other minute. From the above statistics, the alternative to inadequate water supply is found in packaged sachet and bottled water, which have gone through purification processes and preserved into a hygienic container. This paves the way for mitigating the effects of the ravaging threat of diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid as primary killers of children and adults in Africa, particularly Nigeria. To ensure safety of bottled water, laws are made to regulate and guide the activities of manufacturers or businessmen who engage in the business in Nigeria and the world at large.
In Nigeria, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC) is one of the regulatory agencies saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that manufacturers follow quality guidelines in producing packaged water, as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Bottled/packaged water undergo rigorous scrutiny by NAFDAC which results in certification and allocation of approval number commonly known as NAFDAC registration number.
To complement the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards for bottled water, the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) “developed a set of standards that should be used as minimum standards for the members of the association to subscribe to, and to encourage state agencies to adopt it as a model for their own bottled water regulations”. Despite the code of practice of IBWA, which ought to eliminate health challenges emanating from the consumption of bottled water, there have been several traces of health complaints emanating from the consumption of bottled water.
In Nigeria, it has been observed that bottled/packaged water regulations are abused ranging from non-registration, incomplete registration, non-compliance with the environmental laws or other laws which were handed over to the manufacturers after their registration with NAFDAC. Genuine or not, virtually all products in the market display certification numbers, some in an attempt to deceive the populace. It thus appears hard to prevent producers using fake NAFDAC numbers on the package (bottle). Even those who were registered have been observed to fall below expected standard once registration has been approved.
In a bid to eliminate hazardous products in circulation and to ensure compliance with bottled water regulations, other federal government agencies such as Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and Consumer Protection Council (CPC) collaborate with NAFDAC. The collaboration aims at ensuring compliance by producers and manufacturers with set standards so as to ensure quality and safety of consumer goods. They also ensure that the quality of materials, equipment and treatment chemicals used for the supply of drinking water, meet the required standards and system certification. They receive complaints and/or observe lapses and use appropriate institutional framework to ensure adequate correction. They also seek redress and compensation for aggrieved consumer or community as provided in the CPC Act.
This research, therefore, reviews the legal framework for regulation of bottled water in Nigeria based on the standards stipulated by the World Health Organisation, the International Bottled Water Association, and other countries with a view to proffering solutions to fill the gaps in bottled water guidelines in Nigeria.
1.1. Statement of the Problem
A major turning point in the water business evolution was the introduction of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, patented in 1973. In Nigeria, due to the state of public utilities, most households, especially in urban areas, have private boreholes as their major source of water, even though the purification system is often poor. Consequently, majority of Nigerians depend largely on packaged water for survival.Based on the high demand for bottled water for household, there have been increases in circulation of illegal bottled water in the markets. To meet the market demand of bottled water, some manufacturers indulge in sharp practices such as packaging of untreated water, production under unhygienic conditions, use of non-food grade plastic, unknown source of water, improper usage of treatment chemicals and the release of water without date of registration markings.
Worse still, unlicensed producers copy the same packaging number as those labels recognised by NAFDAC. Most bottled water labels in Nigeria do not supply detailed information to the consumer. The bottle designs are almost the same, thereby creating room for the activities of adulterators. There is also the issue of parasites, due to lack of proper treatment of water before packaging. There have been several cases of objects found in bottled water because some manufacturers use bottles without treatment or proper washing. Furthermore, most of the bottled water violations are not reported, even when reported, NAFDAC only imposes for administrative fine or shutting down of the premises.
1.2. Research Questions
1. Is the legal framework for the regulation of bottled water in Nigeria adequate and in conformity with international standards?
2. How can the relevant statutes be strengthened in order to better protect consumers of bottled water in Nigeria?
1.3. Aim and Objectives of the Study
The main aim of this research is to identify and analyse the legal framework regulating bottled water in Nigeria with a view to determining its adequacy or otherwise in protecting consumers of bottled water through the following objectives:
(i) Identify and analyse the legal framework regulating bottled water in Nigeria;
(ii) Determine the adequacy or otherwise of the relevant statutes in protecting consumers of bottled water in Nigeria;
(iii) Determine the conformity of the relevant statutes and regulations with international standards; and
(iv) Make recommendations on how the relevant statutes and regulations can be strengthened to achieve better protection for consumers of bottled water in Nigeria.
1.4. Significance of the Study
The findings of this research will significantly help scholars and researchers to appreciate why bottled water regulations ought to be reviewed regularly. Generally, the academic, government agencies and manufacturers of bottled water will have an additional literature on bottled water. It will help to properly guide the general public since most people wrongly take it for granted that any bottled water is portable. It provides a framework to assess the on-going vulnerability and the current state of the laws regulating bottled water in Nigeria. Furthermore, the issues to be analysed will give NAFDAC, SON, and CPC a clear insight into the state of affairs in this field.
The study is doctrinal and empirical. It adopted the descriptive, analytical and comparative approach.It involved collection and review of relevant laws and literature on bottled water. Reliance was placed on primary and secondary sources of data.The primary sources of data employed in this study are statutes, and international treaties. The secondary sources of data are textbooks, journal, articles, newspaper articles, judgments of court as contain in law reports, internet materials, conference papers, seminar papers, and case law. Maximum uses of the above materials were done to ensure that the aim of this study is achieved. The data analysis was done by descriptive approach and content analysis.