January 3, 2013 by Friday Olokor, Simon Utebor and Ade Adesomoju
Minister of Information, Labaran Maku
Nigerian Bar Association and two prominent legal practitioners, Prof. Itsay Sagay (SAN) and Mr. Bamidele Aturu, on Tuesday berated the Federal Government over its failure to enforce the sale of petrol at N97.
Their reactions came on the heels of the comments credited to the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, who on Monday, criticised civil society groups for blaming the FG over the sale of petrol above the approved price.
Maku had said, “Wherever you go outside Lagos and Abuja, fuel is hardly sold for N97 per litre. Civil society organisations are not speaking against this. They only attack the government. Government cannot be at all filling stations.”
However, the Chairman of Ikeja Branch of the NBA, Mr. Monday Ubani, condemned the comments, saying the FG “has demonstrated incapacity and incompetence in managing virtually every matter under its care”.
He said, “His (Maku) master squandered N161bn under a few days under the pretence that he will ensure sufficient supply of fuel during Christmas. What did we get? Scarcity everywhere. He should bury his head in shame and shut up his loud mouth.”
Sagay and Aturu, a human rights lawyer, said the blame for the sale of petrol above N97 was entirely that of the FG.
“The civil society groups are being fair and very accurate. They put the blame exactly where it belongs,” Sagay said.
He attributed the sale of fuel and other petroleum products at arbitrary prices to the failure of government to build more refineries.
Sagay said, “If the FG had built refineries, producing more than demand, the price would have gone done down to even N40 a litre.
“But the government slept on that issue and by its own conduct, encourages importation, subsidy, fraud and shortage leading to exploitation of the consumers. So the whole faults lie with the FG, there is no question about that.”
Aturu said, “I don’t believe Maku said that because I don’t expect the government to think that way. Fundamentally, the duty of enforcing regulations and law rests squarely on the shoulders of the government and its agencies like the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Department of Petroleum Resources and the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency.
“I have been wondering myself why the government would allow people to sell petrol beyond the regulated price and the DPR and other agents are not doing anything and nobody has been removed from these offices.
“If Maku had said that, it will be very sad indeed and lamentable.”
On his part, spokesman for the Save Nigeria Group, Mr. Yinka Odumakin said Maku’s comments had confirmed that the government was “clueless”.
He said, “Maku does not understand the responsibility of his office. It is the duty of the government to make the subsidy regime to work and not the civil society groups.
“It is those in government who should make their regime work and not the CSOs except they (those in government) are admitting they are clueless.”
Chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, Mr. Debo Adeniran, “There is hardly any civilised action that could be taken against the regime that has not been taken. We have been on the street where the government repressed us with brute force.
“We have been to court where we were told we had no locus. We have been to the National Assembly where the same people being appealed to were the brains behind the crimes against humanity being perpetrated in the soil sector.”
Executive Secretary of the Anti-Corruption Network and former member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dino Melaye, in an interview with The PUNCH on the telephone from United Kingdom, said both the oil marketers, the Ministry of Finance and Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi, should be blamed for the problem.
He said, “Maku is suffering from emergency wealth and this emergency wealth has affected his faculty of reasoning. For him to accuse civil society of inaction shows that there is a great disconnect between the Gooluck Jonathan administration and the people.”
How many of the oil marketers that are under trial have been indicted? How many of them have been prosecuted? We ask again that the oil marketers did not dip their hands into the coffers of government to steal our commonwealth.
“There was and there is a satanic collaboration between the oil marketers and the civil servants; the oil marketers did not pay themselves. Their products are being evaluated by the PPPRA. Who are the civil servants in CBN that released that money? Who are also the collaborators in the Ministry of Finance that inspected the payment of money to the oil thieves?
“No single civil servant has been invited for questioning by any of the anti-graft agencies knowing fully well that these oil marketers did not pay themselves. So the oil marketers are as guilty as the civil servants and the Ministers in charge of these Ministries, including the governor of CBN, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.”