A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja yesterday ruled that the deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry by the Federal Government was unconstitutional, null and void
The judgement comes the same day as President Goodluck Jonathan declares that the Federal Government would press ahead with removing the fuel subsidy.
The ruling, delivered by Justice Adamu Bello, was as a suit filed by Lagos lawyer and human rights activist, Bamidele Aturu which also had the Minister of Petroleum Resources and the Attorney-General of the Federation as co-defendants.
The Federal Government had filed an objection challenging the plaintiff’s locus standi to sustain the case, which the judge dismissed.
“That the policy decision of the Defendants to deregulate the downstream sector of the petroleum industry by not fixing the prices at which petroleum products may be sold in Nigeria is unlawful, illegal, null, void and of no effect whatsoever being in flagrant violation of the mandatory provision of section 4 of the Price Control Act, cap P28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004,” the judge said.
He further held that the deregulation policy was in conflict with Section 16(1)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 which provided that the Government should control the national economy in such manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity.
The court also held that the policy had the effect of making the freedom of movement guaranteed in section 41 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 illusory for the plaintiff and the generality of Nigerians and was therefore illegal, unconscionable and unconstitutional and of no effect whatsoever.
He thus ordered that the Federal Government immediately stopped the deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry and immediately fix the prices for petroleum products as required by the Petroleum Act and the Price Control Act.
In his reaction to the judgement, the plaintiff, Aturu expressed gratitude to Justice Bello for what he described as the judge’s “unparalleled erudition and sound logic.” He also praised the Nigerian people “for having confidence in the rule of law.”
“The judge has done his own bit. It is now left for Nigerians to be alert to challenge any wicked increase in the prices of petroleum products,” Aturu said.