By Femi Falana
The Federal Government has unleashed untold hardship on the masses of Nigeria by the unprecedented scarcity of the Naira, fuel scarcity and skyrocketing rise in fuel prices. Fuel and currency scarcity is inexplicable and unacceptable.The Federal Government has shirked its obligation to guarantee the security and welfare of the Nigerian people as provided under Section 14(2)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended.
Sporadic peaceful protests have erupted throughout the country expressing the deep displeasure of the masses.There is an urgent need for leading human and pro-democracy organisations to provide leadership in canalizing the energies and anger of the masses in order to give the protests direction and prevent anarchy, state terrorism and continued arbitrary repression of the masses.
Since it is now clear that enough Naira notes have not been printed the Central Bank should allow the old and new Naira notes to be legal tender in Nigeria. This suggestion is in line with Section 22 of the Central Bank Act which permits the replacement of old currency notes with new ones after the deadline fixed by the CBN.
Meanwhile, officials of the CBN and other banks involved in hoarding or selling the new currency notes should be prosecuted to serve as a deterent to other economic saboteurs.
The soldiers who unleashed violence on the students of the University of Benin as well as trigger happy troops who murdered a young man and injured several others at Ibadan, Oyo State should be arrested and prosecuted without any delay.
ON ARTIFICIAL FUEL SCARCITY
Against the increasing fuel scarcity across the country, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC Ltd) has said that it has two billion litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), popularly known as petrol, in stock. The artificial scarcity of fuel is designed to force Nigerians to accept the increase in the pump price of PMS. In many parts of the country, petrol is sold between N300 and N600 per litre.
To give the impression that the crisis is being addressed a Task Force headed by President Buhari was set up a couple of weeks ago. Like similar Task Forces set up in the past the new Task Force will not solve the crisis. The Minister of Petroleum Resources, President Buhari should direct the NNPCL to supply adequate fuel and ensure that the product is sold at the official price. Anyone who hoards the product or who sell it beyond the official price should be arrested and prosecuted.
ALTERNATIVE TO PMS
On January 16, 2020, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Timpere Silva announced the plan of the Federal Government to reduce the pump price of fuel by migrating from the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) at a cost of about N95 to N97 per litre. The Minister further informed the members of the public that the CNG had undergone a pilot project in Benin City, Edo State where over 10,000 vehicles are already running on it.
In order to facilitate the conversion of vehicles run on PMS to CNG the Federal Government caused the Central Bank of Nigeria to set aside a whopping sum of N250 billion for willing investors in autogas assembly plants. But in a bid to continue the fraud laden subsidy regime the Federal Government has abandoned the planned conversion of vehicles run on PMS to CNG .
Instead of committing themselves to the investigation of the massive fuel subsidy scam, some presidential candidates have threatened to remove subsidy and consequently increase the prices of petroleum products in the country if they win the election. We warn such politicians to drop the dangerous agenda unless they are prepared to rule a dead people. We are compelled to call on the Federal Government to join the list of governments in Africa that are encouraging end users to convert their conventional fuel vehicles to bio-fuel vehicles like CNG and LPG fuel as these fuels are environment friendly and have lower carbon dioxide emissions.
The currency and fuel crises constitute unprecedented challenge to economic survival of ordinary people that may threaten the 2023 elections which provide an opportunity for the people to choose a party considered to be representative of their aspirations.
Unless the twin crises of fuel and currency scarcity are immediately resolved within the timeline given by the President, ASCAB has resolved to call on the Nigerian people to commence series of peaceful mass actions in their communities to resist the unjustifiable economic hardship which may compel postponement of the forthcoming elections as INEC has hinted.
If the Federal Government fails to resolve the twin crises of fuel and currency scarcity before February 10, 2023 the country will witness nationwide peaceful mass actions by the Nigerian people.
Femi Falana SAN,
Alliance on Surviving Covid 19 and Beyond (ASCAB)