A human rights activist, Femi Falana, SAN, on Monday decried events in Nigeria and said that nobody is in control of the country.
Falana’s comment was in response to the recent statement by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, claiming it mistakenly published a template announcing N212.6 as the new price per litre of petrol.
He accused the Federal Government of being carelessness in handling governance, saying that he expected people to be fired over the incident but nothing happened.
The legal luminary told Vanguard, “So these are the issues, nobody is in control of our country, hence the PPPRA could just wake up one day and say oh we are going to sale a litre of fuel for N212, and the President as the minister of petroleum resources was not aware and nobody has been fired.”
While speaking on whether he was not in support of the government to bring back the fuel subsidy regime, Falana maintained that “You see, I’m not going to apologise for the irresponsibility of the Nigerian government. I am not going to enter into any debate on fuel subsidy. This is an oil-producing country, which in the 1970s had four functional refineries. On yearly basis, a huge sum of money is earmarked for fixing and maintaining the refineries.
“If those refineries are not working, if new refineries have not been built by the government, if we now have to import fuel from abroad including from African countries that do not produce oil, there can be no justification for visiting the responsibility of the government on the Nigerian people.
“Again, what do you call subsidy? The government claims that smugglers are moving litres of fuel from Nigeria to neighbouring countries. Again, do you blame the Nigerian people, if the government cannot curb the criminality of smugglers? All the suggestions that have been made to the government to curb the menace of smugglers have been rejected. So, I cannot offer any apology for the mismanagement of addressing the challenge of supplying fuel to Nigerians.
“Other oil-producing countries including Angola, Algeria, Saudi-Arabia etc, apart from meeting domestic requirements are making billions of dollars from the export of fuel. In Nigeria case, what we are making from the exportation of crude oil, is allegedly spent on the importation of fuel. It is a disgraceful act on the part of the government.
“Take the issue of smuggling, for instance, I have suggested to the government that merely building mega stations in those neighbouring countries, and selling fuel at a control price will render smuggling totally unprofitable. After all, our banks, telecommunication companies are operating in our neighbouring countries, why is it so difficult to build mega stations in Benin Republic, Togo, Ghana and other places.
“Niger has oil, Chad has oil, so what is the big deal. I have said it before now, it is not rocket science to build modular refineries within nine months, one year, the government can build modular refineries.
“Can you imagine that top officials of the government have announced to Nigerians to expect a miracle when the Dangote refinery commences the refining of fuel? Isn’t that a shame, that a government is saying that a businessman, an individual can build a refinery that will refine six hundred thousand barrels of oil per day, while the government cannot maintain four refineries and build new ones? It is not acceptable.
While fielding question if some forces are deliberately punishing the masses with bad policies, he said “No, the government has swallowed hook line and sinker the known liberal policies dictated by the IMF and the World Bank, whose implementations have continued to pauperised the Nigerian people.
“The government has not been able to confront its imperialists masters with old grown ideas in addressing the monumental crisis confronting the economy.
“If you are following the debate in the National Assembly with respect to House of Reps, with respect to the diversion of over N4trn by the Nigeria National Petroleum Cooperation between 2010 and 2016, as confirmed by the Auditor General of the Federation, and what is the answer. We are using the money to fix pipelines etc. For goodness sake, there are scientific solutions for dealing with pipelines. In one of the offices of the NNPC, you can install a system that will monitor all the pipelines in the country.
“But the NNPC is not prepared to acquire the system. So, the N4trn was alleged to have been spent on maintaining pipelines. But as far as the law is concerned all revenues generated by the country shall be paid to the federation account. The President cannot spend a dime without appropriations. So how can an agency of the government fail publicly, that they will spend N4trn without appropriation?
“That can only happen in a ‘Banana Republic’. So these are the issues, nobody is in control of our country, hence the PPPRA could just wake up one day and say oh we are going to sell a litre of fuel for N212, and the President as the minister of petroleum resources was not aware and nobody has been fired.
“These are the issues; we have to address. Is there governance in the country? Does anybody care about the rule of law? Because by virtue of section 6 of the petroleum Act, “It is only the Minister of Petroleum Resources that are empowered to fix and determine the prices of petroleum products, not Market forces, not PPPRA, not NNPC. I didn’t write the law. If you don’t want to transfer the power to fix and determine the prices of petroleum products to market forces, you have to amend the law.”