Former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba
Former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Chief Olisa Agbakoba, has said the deregulation policy decision was hazy in view of the fact that government had not done adequate consultations with relevant stakeholders before coming up with its pronouncement.
Agbakoba noted that while it is imperative for government to remove subsidy on petrol, it should come up with a comprehensive framework on how it intends to implement the policy that would be beneficial to Nigerians.
“Conceptually, there is nothing like a free market and also conceptually, there is nothing wrong with subsidy. I think it is a good idea but there are also issues and we need to be careful on how we go about it. Nobody is against government discussing how it can work better. We are simply saying that the information exchange needs more interrogation.
“Must we remove subsidy now? Can’t we take say, one year to discuss more and if at the end of one year government really needs to have subsidy removed? I don’t think anybody will say no to that. The other issue is that government also needs to make sacrifices. We also need to have government to sacrifice. Let governors who have say N3 billion security votes give up about 50 per cent of it.
The government is not showing any example to sacrifice for the economy to improve. We have sacrificed for Nigeria but government has not sacrificed. Let us not give subsidy a bad name because subsidy in itself is not a bad thing. Even the American government subsidises.
“In conclusion, nobody is against the removal of subsidy but information is missing. If you show us the value and create the relevant framework, I can assure you that we will all come along,” he said.
Human rights lawyer Femi Falana rejected the policy outright on the ground that its implementation is not going to be anything different from previous deregulation exercise. He maintained that it was wrong to allow Nigerians bear the inefficiencies of government who had not in any way show commitment on how to move the economy forward.
He stressed the need for government to re-evaluate its problems by building more refineries and ensuring that all existing refineries operate at optimal capacity before embarking on the removal of subsidy.
“It is a fallacy of generalisation to blame all Nigerians for corruption when we know those that are corrupt. The former President Olusegun Obasanjo administration increased pump prices six times in eight years, what did we get at the end of the day, nothing. Okonjo-Iweala was the Minister of Finance during the Obasanjo regime and we were told the same thing. I believe government has a problem and we all have a duty to help government and I want to appeal to government that it must listen to alternative suggestion and that is the only way to move this debate forward.
“Another issue is that laws that are enacted in the country are not being enforced. Let us enforce that law. Every user of petrol and diesel is required to contribute five per cent for the maintenance of our roads. What we are seeing today has also been captured in the PPPRA law, but the problem we have is that PPPRA has not been allowed to do its work. Under the law, it is the business of PPPRA to check the fraudulent practice by importers, to identify genuine importers and pay after verifying what they have brought into the country. But that law has not been allowed to be operated. Therefore, let us go back,” he said.
But he described the appointment of Mr. Reginald Stanley as the new Executive Secretary of PPPRA as a genuine step by the Federal Government to stamp out massive fraud that has characterised the agency.