Amid the lingering fuel scarcity in several major cities in the country, a human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, on Friday, argued against the Federal Government’s plan to remove subsidy in June 2023.
Falana, who made a live appearance on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, decried Nigeria’s inability to meet its oil production quota of 1.8 million barrels per day due to crude oil theft and pipeline vandals.
He described it as illogical that the government wants to end fuel subsidy payments because of smugglers, saying the policy will “create more poverty” in the country.
“I can never (support total subsidy removal). You know why? I am saying Section 14 of the constitution – it’s not my own making – provides that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of the government.
“So, the government has to take care of the welfare of the people and ensure that in providing subsidy for the needy, you do not enrich criminals as it is going on now.
“And that is why you have a government in place, to deal with those who are committing crimes – economic crimes and other types of crimes. And that is what is going on in our country,” he said.
Describing himself as “totally against subsidy removal,” Falana said there was no basis for it, arguing that there was no country in the world that did not subsidise the poor.
He cited subsidy allocations in the US, which he described as the “hotbed of capitalism,”, especially at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Former President Donald Trump, on March 28, 2020, signed into law a $2 trillion rescue plan to salvage the US economy crippled by the coronavirus.
The senior lawyer also called attention to alleged corruption by known criminals at the point of oil extraction as well as during the importation of the refined product.
“The duty of the government is to combat theft from the root. And we are telling the government, just like they are doing now, they’ve gone to hire a private organisation and the revelations are simply amazing,” he said.
On solutions to the fuel subsidy debate, Falana said the National Assembly had failed in its oversight responsibilities, despite the lawmakers frequently conducting what he described as all manner of investigations on fuel supply and fuel subsidy, among others.
“At the end of the day, when the budget is presented, details are not given,” he stated. “You are simply told, ‘This is a supplementary budget increasing fuel subsidy from N443 billion to N4 trillion (for instance).’
“What are the details? Daily, how much fuel do we consume? The Comptroller General of Customs has said, ‘Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) is lying by saying it is 68 million (litres per day we consume).’
“At a stage, NNPC said it was 102 million litres per day, whereas the Department of Petroleum Resources said it was 32.8 million litres. Which of these figures are we dealing with?”