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Tinubu, Falana disagree on fuel subsidy removal

A former Lagos State Governor and National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has described the decision of the President Buhari-led Federal Government to remove petrol subsidy as courageous.

The government, through the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, on Wednesday, announced the removal of the subsidy on petrol, pegging the upper limit at N145 per litre from N86.50k.

In a statement in Lagos on Thursday, Tinubu said though the decision was a difficult one, it would ultimately become beneficial to the generality of the people instead of enriching the pockets of a few Nigerians, who enjoyed the fraud of the subsidy regime.

However, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, disagreed with Tinubu’s position, condemning the Federal Government decision on the price increase and described the action as illegal and immoral and warned Buhari not to allow the “parasitic ruling class” to hijack his administration.

Falana, in a statement on Thursday, said the hike in the petrol pump price was contrary to the promise made by Buhari to the Nigerian masses while campaigning to be President.

He said by deregulating the downstream sector, the Federal Government was disobeying a court judgment obtained by the late human rights lawyer, Bamidele Aturu, against the Federal Government in a suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/591/2009.

According to Falana, the court had declared as unlawful the deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry because it was contrary to the combined provisions of the Price Control Act and the Petroleum Act.

Tinubu, however, argued that the subsidy regime on petrol had been bastardised beyond redemption, saying it would be a waste of time to attempt to sanitise subsidy payments.

The ex-governor added, “The president’s decision to reallocate funds once earmarked for the fuel subsidy and commit those funds to other more socially productive services and undertakings was a difficult decision. It was also a necessary one.

“Over the years, the operation of the measure was distorted to where it no longer functioned for the benefit of the masses but for the undue enrichment of a small club of businessmen, some legitimate in their work, some not.

“Instead of remaining a positive aspect of the social contract, the subsidy was transformed into an opaque haven of intrigue and malfeasance. It was turned into a shadowy process from which the unscrupulous extracted large sums of money without providing the services and products duly paid for. Fake businessmen became true billionaires over- night as if by supernatural force.

“To allow this unfairness to continue would have been a breach of the promise made by this government to the people.”

Tinubu added that the way out of the fraud inherent in the payment of subsidy on petroleum products was to end it altogether.

He stated, “It became a weapon of profiteering. The machinery of the subsidy had become so polluted that it was no longer feasible to talk about reforming it. Either it had to cease or we would have to surrender to the corruption now inherent in it.