By Femi Falana
As an opposition political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) had claimed that fuel subsidy was a fraud perpetrated by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led administrations. Its presidential candidate then, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) had promised to stop such fraudulent subsidy. He also pledged to make the comatose refineries in the country work and build new ones, if elected by Nigerians. Being a former minister of Petroleum Resources, Nigerians believed the APC flag bearer as he spoke so authoritatively, while flaunting his record of performance in the management of the petroleum industry in the 1970s.
But as soon as the APC won the 2015 general elections, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was made to change fuel subsidy to the “under recovery” of petroleum products. After five years in power, the APC-led government has neither fixed the ailing refineries nor built new ones. Having run out of ideas, like other factions of the ruling class, the Buhari administration has decided to impose economic hardship on the Nigerian people through a rash of increases of the value added tax (VAT), stamp duty, bank charges, interest rates, electricity tariff and fuel price hike.
Unprovoked Attack On Activists
For daring to challenge the recycling of neo-liberal policies, which have continued to increase poverty, unemployment and insecurity in the land, the Federal Government has declared a war on the Nigerian people in general and activists in particular. Thus, in his closing address at the first ministerial performance review retreat held at Abuja on Tuesday, September 8, President Buhari said inter alia, “I have to charge all of you to defend the government vigorously and not allow irresponsible and politically motivated activists to keep spreading patent falsehoods about this government. Information to the public should be better packaged. Go on the offensive…” Despite the official threat oozing out of the Presidential Villa, we have decided to join issues with the Federal Government over its decision to make the masses of our people bear the brunt of the International Monetary Fund-inspired neo-liberal policies, which have continued to promote poverty in the midst of plenty of human and natural resources.
Since President Buhari once said that “we have no other country than Nigeria”, we are going to stay here and fight the mortgaging of the sovereignty of the nation through questionable local and foreign loans, as well as the implementation of the conditionalities attached to the IMF palliative loan of $3.5 billion.
Having handed over the fixing of prices of goods and services to the so-called market forces, the Federal Government has turned round to blame “irresponsible and politically motivated activists” for pointing out that the duty of fixing the prices of petroleum products has been imposed on the Minister of Petroleum Resources by section 6 of the Petroleum Act. We have been accused of spreading falsehood for citing the case of Bamidele Aturu v Minister of Petroleum Resources (2015) 1NHRLR 73, where the Federal High Court declared the deregulation of petroleum products illegal, null and void, pursuant to the combined effect of section 6 of the Petroleum Act and section 4 of the Price Control Act.
Unlike in the past when the fuel hike was blamed on the criminal activities of smugglers, privatisation or deregulation, the Federal Government has now pointed accusing fingers at the coronavirus pandemic. But contrary to such escapist rationalisation, we insist that the latest fuel hike was instigated by the devaluation of the naira via the dollarisation of the neo-colonial economy by the Central Bank of Nigeria. Since the naira is being rendered increasingly worthless because it is said to be overvalued by the IMF, the Federal Government has openly declared that the prices of petrol, the premium motor spirit (PMS), will continue to increase.
Having provoked the Nigerian people to anger and fury, the Federal Government should be told that no amount of intimation will cow the people to submission.
I salute the Alliance on Surviving Covid 19 and Beyond (ASCAB) for organising public protests against economic policies that are considered inimical to the interests of the Nigerian people. In spite of the official campaign of calumny against activists, we have decided to challenge the Federal Government for implementing anti-people policies and programmes.