Hike in Fuel Price: Deregulation is illegal, Falana fumes

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By Moses Adeniyi

Human Rights Lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana has described the deregulation of the downstream oil subsector as illegal, just as he slams the performance of President Muhammadu Buhari in his over five years in office.

Fanala who spoke on Wednesday night during Channels TV Politics-Today Programme berated the Federal Government’s resort to deregulation of the downstream subsector, subjecting  fuel prices to market forces.

Citing the case of Bamidele Aturu Versus the Attorney General of the Federation, the human rights Lawyer said the Federal High Court had declared deregulation illegal with references to Section 6 of the Petroleum Act and Section 4 of the Price Control Act.

“With profound respect, deregulation is illegal. In the case of Bamidele Aturu and the Attorney General of the Federation, the Federal High Court declared deregulation illegal in the face of Section 6 of the Petroleum Act and Section 4 of the Price Control Act,” Falana said.

Adding that the provisions in the above laws are sections that impose duties on the Government to fix the prices of goods, particularly petroleum products, Falana said: “So the Government cannot say we are preaching the law, (when) we are disregarding the judgement of the Court. Please the question of deregulation doesn’t arise.”

Falana who lamented the conditions of living had worsened since President Buhari assumed the seat of Presidency in Aso rock, mentioned that the APC led government has only successfully built upon the failed legacies of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in government.

Fuming over President Buhari’s comment on Tuesday that his administration has performed and therefore should be judged fairly, Falana lamented that the worsening state of the economy premised on the blueprint of international financial institutions is recording nothing but daily losses of jobs.

“I think President Buhari has been extremely lucky. His regime has been extremely lucky, because Nigerians have been more than patient with the regime in spite of policy reversals, and policy inconsistency. And if you take some of the views being expressed here, you would be surprise whether you are living in the same Country.

“The President was saying on Tuesday that the Lagos-Ibadan rail line is up and working; How? Where? When? And other areas, if you are talking of job creation, people are losing their jobs every day because of the neo-liberal policies of the Government dictated by IMF (International Monetary Fund), and the World Bank.”

Lamenting that the present government has been hostile to recommendations, Falana questioned that “does any body listen to any adviser under this regime.”

He added that the President Buhari’s administration having trailed the line of the PDP policies, had continued to follow the established system in the oil sector, only until recently in January when it found it unsustainable, thereby seeking to embraced the long recommendations to substitute Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) with Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).

According to him, the Government has failed in its January 16 promise that by September 2020, the substitution of PMS with GNS would be effected at a price pegged between N95 and N97.

“Petroleum products are being smuggled out of Nigeria, we have suggested and that is the position of the Alliance of Surviving COVID-19 And Beyond (ASCAB); go and build filling stations in the neighboring Countries; after all our banks have branches in those Countries,” he said.

Falana who suggested that instead of PMS, the Government should invest in CNG, which according to him, was the promise of the present government said: “This government promised to build refineries. We are now told that the Government doesn’t have the money, yet Dangote Group, is building a refinery. How can you tell me that government cannot build refinery when you are giving oil blocks to individuals and they are smiling to the bank, making billions at our expense.

“The Central Bank denies the claim of the President. President Buhari said three weeks ago that $25 billion comes into Nigeria by way of foreign remittance but the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said no it is only $2.6 billion. Where is the $2.6 billion? If $25 billion comes into this Country today, the value of the Naira, will appreciate significantly against the dollar.

“The economic programme (of the present administration) is meant to promote poverty and PDP has no moral right to condemn the continuation of its own economic programme, which is what is going on. So the ruling class in Nigeria, is totally bereft of ideas.

“I felt the President was simply telling Nigerians that government has ran out of ideas. It’s a bit sad because here was a regime that came to power based on its own promises. As opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) had convinced Nigerians to believe that subsidy was a fraud perpetrated by the PDP led government.

“And Nigerians were bound to believe the flag bearer of the APC,  General Muhammadu Buhari, who had managed the oil industry in the 70s. When he flaunted his own record of achievements having managed the oil industry and having been chairman of Abacha’s Petroleum TaskForce, Nigerians believed that President Buhari has a solution to the problems and he did promise that he was going to fix the comatose refineries, and build new ones so that this country will not depend on importation of fuel, but what have we had in the last five years?”

Falana mentioned that President Buhari is far from meeting the expectations Nigerians had on him to provide solutions to the hitherto existing problems of the oil sector, lamenting that against the claim to address the issue of subsidy, the administration changed to a system called “under-recovery.”

He however called on the Government to begin concrete investment in human capacities of the Country, stating that: “Please let us address concrete problems affecting our people. Let us begin to look for solutions. Let this government begin to invest in the Nigerian people.”

Meanwhile a Former Minister of Commerce under the President Olusegun Obasanjo-led Administration, Engr. Mustafa Bello, in his appraisal of President Buhari’s performance in office so far, mentioned that it is high time the Government began identifying areas of immediate potentiality to create jobs in the short run.

“The most important thing as I said, is we need to identify and isolate what can create jobs immediately,” he said.

Speaking on addressing the hike in fuel price, he said: “I think there is need for the Government to address the issues of the leakages associated with the import and distribution of fuel in the Country. Most importantly is to have done an an end-to-end impact of that on the economy and the people; and then identify what are those palliatives that government can introduce that will actually help cushion the impact.”

President Muhammadu Buhari had on Tuesday at the closing of the first-year ministerial performance review retreat held in Abuja, said that his administration has done it’s best, stating that Nigerians should judge fairly.