By Rasheed Sobowale
Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana, in an interview with VanguardLive TV, has claimed that the Federal Government was buying time towards increasing the fuel price.
Falana, who was responding to a question regarding the purported fuel price hike across the nation, stated that the PPRA who released a statement regarding fuel pricing lacks the constitutional power to do so.
According to him, such power as mandated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) belongs to the market forces.
Meanwhile, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPR, had earlier clarified its stance.
In a press statement obtained by Vanguard, the Agency noted that its releases which were quoted to be indicative of price hike “was only indicative of current market trends and do not translate to an increase in the pump price of PMS.
“However, publications by the media to this effect have been misconstrued and thus misleading.
“The Agency wishes to remind the general public of the introduction of the Market-Based Pricing Regime for PMS Regulation 2020 as gazetted by the Federal Government.
“Based on this regulation, prices are expected to be determined by market realities in line with the dictates of market forces.”
However, Mr Falana argued the Federal Government halted the plan for the price hike based “on security reports that Nigerians were prepared to challenge the increase”.
He postulated that the fuel price increase would have been effected if FG had only thought it would only need the agreement of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and Trade Union Congress, TUC.
“That is no longer the case. You will recall that when the last announcement was made, the government came out to say we are under pressure from the IMF. And that henceforth, market forces will determine the prices of petroleum in Nigeria.
“I am convinced beyond any shadow of a doubt that any unpopular measure will be fought by common Nigerian people.”
Meanwhile, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, had said there will be no increment in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) until the conclusion of consultation with Organised Labour.
“Neither Mr President [Muhammadu Buhari] who is the Minister of Petroleum Resources, nor myself who deputises for him as minister of state has approved that petrol price should be increased by one naira.”
Likewise, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige said there will be no increase in the price of PMS for now, as discussions were still ongoing between the government and the organised labour as well as other stakeholders on the matter.
According to Ngige, “I have made contact with the relevant authorities. the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the NNPC, and wish to assure members of the public, especially the organised labour and workers, that there is no such increase for now.
“We have ongoing discussions and standing committees comprising labour and government on one hand and another, comprising the office of the Vice President, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Group Managing Director of (NNPC) and the Ministers of Labour, Petroleum and Finance.”
It is left to be seen if the ultimate decision to adjust the fuel price will be influenced by an agreement reached between the federal government and organised labour as noted by the ministers of labour and petroleum resources or would be in consideration of typical Nigerians’ predicament as predicted by Falana to have been the reason there is no increase yet.