The complaint to the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) involves Coke and its local bottler the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC).
It alleges “serious breaches of corporate responsibility to respect the right to health of Nigerians and the failure to provide effective remedies to victim”.
SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni has signed the petition that follow’s last week’s disclosure by the Nigerian Consumer Protection Council (NCPC) of defective products – namely two half-empty cans of Sprite, filled by NBC.
Rusty bottle tops and cans
Coke and NBC also face allegations of rusty bottle crown corks, rusty cans and foreign particles in products, and failed to implement a shelf life policy for products in the country to remove expired products from sale.
SERAP alleges that both companies failed and/or neglected to subject their manufacturing process to inspection by appropriate authorities, contrary to national laws and international standards, in particular, the ‘Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework.’
These were endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011, and SERAP said it would request that the UN took action to ensure that Coca-Cola and NBC did not directly or indirectly abuse the economic and social rights of Nigerians under UN Covenant and the Guiding Principles.
“Coca-Cola and NBC are required to ensure that their activities do not directly or indirectly cause human rights abuses, and to provide effective remedies to victims in cases of abuses of human rights,” SERAP said.
“They must seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts,” it added.
‘We’ve always complied with Nigerian law’ – Coca-Cola Hellenic
Human rights abuses by Coke and NBC illustrate the lack of explicit human rights policies on the part of several firms operating in Nigeria, SERAP said, adding that even when such policies were in place they were improperly implemented for the sake of profit.
“We believe that the human rights abuses by Coca-Cola and NBC cannot be justified in the light of the letter and spirit of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the UN Guiding Principles as well as the Committee’s own jurisprudence,” SERAP said.
Commenting on SERAP’s petition, Coca-Cola Hellenic spokeswoman Katerina Giama told BeverageDaily.com today: “As you will appreciate, this matter is currently under Judicial Review. As such, it would be inappropriate for us to comment at this time.
“For your reference, we have been operating in Nigeria since 1951 and at all times have conducted our business in compliance with the country’s laws and regulatory requirements concerning our industry,” she added.
“Throughout the past 63 years we have applied processes and procedures to institute high quality standards in production, and achieve international values for all aspects of operations including those involving human rights, community support and environmental protection,” she said.