By Nwafor Sunday
Following the statement credited to the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, over the weekend, where it mistakenly published a template announcing N212.6 per litre, as the new price of petrol, a human right activist, Mr Femi Falan, SAN, Monday, spoke against the modus operandi of the Nigerian government.
In an interview with VanguardLive, the outspoken lawyer faulted the alleged fuel hike, noting that no one was fired for committing such blunder against the Nigerian people.
“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.”
When asked if he was against the government bringing back the fuel subsidy regime, Mr Falana opined: “You see, I’m not going to apologize 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 bases, 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 liters of fuel from Nigeria to neighboring 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 export of fuel.
“In Nigeria case, what we are making from the exportation of crude oil, is allegedly spent on 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 neighboring countries, and selling fuel at a control price, will render smuggling totally unprofitable. After all, our banks, telecommunication companies are operating in our neighboring 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 business man, 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.
However, speaking extensively when he was asked to comment if some people are deliberately making the system to fail, Falana said: “No, the government has swallowed hook line and sinker the neo-liberal policies dictated by IMF and the World bank, whose implementation have continued to pauperized the Nigerian people. The government has not be 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, NNPC, 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 pipe lines etc. For goodness sake, there are scientific solutions for dealing with pipe lines. 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 N4trillion 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 say publicly, that they will spend N4trillion 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 is 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.”