By Alex Agbo
Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has criticized President Muhammadu Buhari for attending the just concluded G7 meeting with a shopping list of Nigeria’s problems.
Mr. Falana spoke Wednesday at a civil society round table on the state of the nation organized by the Nigerians United for Democracy in Lagos.
The group of seven industrialized nations had urged Mr. Buhari to attend the Munich event with a “wish list” for their consideration and assistance.
“Our president went to the G7 and we are happy. And he went there with a bowl, ‘please do this for us, do this for us,’” said Mr. Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
“Again we must interrogate that; has our situation become so bad that we have to ask for external support when we have not mobilized the energy, the potentials of our people to turn this country around?
“And please, let the new regime be told that the dangerous prescriptions of the IMF and the World Bank and the G7 that we have followed since 1986 that the Structural Adjustment Programme was imposed on Nigeria, those prescriptions have reduced Nigeria to a banana republic. Since then we have been managing poverty, what they call poverty alleviation, not poverty eradication, because this system can never abolish poverty.”
The lawyer called on Nigerians to challenge the government over its choice of economic policies.
“There are alternative economic programmes to the ones that are forced on Nigerians every time,” Mr. Falana said.
“It’s either it is privatization, which is the selling of our public assets, or retrenchment or downsizing of workers, or trade liberalisation so that all manner of goods are brought to our country to destroy our industries.
“And that is what has happened today, all the textiles industries in Kaduna and Kano and Aswani all of them are gone. All those warehouses in Oregun, Apapa, and the rest were for storing goods produced locally. Now they are all becoming churches and event centres.”
On some states’ inability to pay their workers, Mr. Falana blamed it on the indolence of their governors.
“I’ve seen our media in the last week trying to concentrate all attention on Osun State, whereas Osun is owing six months,” said Mr. Falana.
“There are states that are owing 9-10 months. I’m not saying this to justify what is going on. Please, can we have a broader perspective with respect to the management of the affairs of our country?”
In his presentation, Henry Boyo, an economist, noted that the cost of fuel importation to fuel marketers, including local charges, is N137 per litre, according to the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency. When subsidy, at N50.93 per litre, is deducted, the selling price comes down to the official N87 per litre.
“The question is what happens if we are to produce in Nigeria without bringing it from abroad?” Mr. Boyo asked.
“The only way we can determine that is to start with the C & F element which we determined earlier as N110, and we also subtract five percent from that. Five percent is a huge provision, it should not be up to five percent, maybe one or two percent.
“But let’s be liberal and take that amount of N5.52 from 110, you’ll get a price of about N104.82 per litre. In addition to that you’ll still have to pay the miscellaneous but you will not be paying the bridging fund, bridging fund is a form of subsidy. And you’ll have a total N9.34, plus the N104 to bring N114 per litre.”
Mr. Boyo said that although the N114 per litre is still above the regulated price of N87 per litre, it is still cheaper to produce fuel locally than to import, noting that the significance would be that there would no longer be subsidy payment. He also said that it is not realistic to expect cheaper petrol prices if there are refineries all over the place.
“If the Naira appreciates by 50 percent (at N100 to $1), the unsubsidised price of petroleum products will be N52.41. But then if you still have to pay the retailers and transporters and dealers and bridging fund, you will have N9.34, at the end of the day you’ll have a pump price of N61.75,” he said.
“If on the other hand, the Naira depreciates from N200 per dollar to N400 per dollar, the same thing that costs N61.75 will now cost N218.98 per litre.”
Monday Ubani, the immediate past president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja branch, called on Nigerians to rise up against corruption.
“No single fight was waged under the last dispensation against corruption and corrupt practices. Agencies like the EFCC and ICPC that were created by law to fight and end corruption were purposely and brazenly crippled,” said Mr. Ubani.
“It got to a stage under this last dispensation that another name for Nigeria was corruption, so he has come to fight corruption.”
Mr. Ubani said that most Nigerians voted for President Buhari in the last election because of his pedigree and his stance against corruption.
“Though his assets are yet to be declared publicly, the information at the disposal of some of the persons close to him indicate that he’s a man of moderate means despite positions of authority and lucrative assignments he has carried out on behalf of the Nigerian state in the past,” he said.
“He was a governor, a minister of petroleum resources, a head of state, and chairman Petroleum Trust Fund that he could have used to enrich himself.
“There is corruption in the public sector and the private sector. In the public sector we have the corruption of the political elites or the political class which is very pervasive, destructive and harmful.
“We have the corruption of the civil service, which more deadly and possesses the potency of mass destruction of anything both living and non-living.”