In an unprecedented judgment in Lagos, a Federal High Court, on Wednesday ordered the federal government to fix the prices of goods and petroleum products within seven days.
But the bets are on whether President Bola Tinubu will exploit this window to ease the excruciating pain of the economic hardship rocking the Nigerians or will appeal the judgment.
Justice Ambose Lewis-Allagoa granted the order after an originating motion filed and argued by the applicant and human rights activist, Femi Falana SAN.
“I have had the applicant Femi Falana in a suit no San, FHC/L/CS/869/2023 and I have also discovered that despite the service of the Originating motion on the respondents namely Attorney-General of the Federation and the Price Control Board, no opposition to it by way of counter affidavit, which is law that all the facts deposed in the affidavit attached to the originating motion are all deemed admitted.
“Consequently, all prayers that are sought for in the motion papers are hereby granted as prayed,” the judge said
He ordered the Nigerian government to fix the price of Milk, Flour, salt, sugar, bicycles and it’s spare parts, matches, motorcycles and its spare parts, motor vehicles and it’s spare parts as well as Petroleum products, which include: diesel, petrol motor spirit (PMS) and kerosene.
Falana (SAN) had sought the following:
“whether by virtue of Section 4 of the Price Control Act., the first defendant is carrying out its duty to impose a price on any goods that are of the kind specified in the First Schedule to the Price Control Act.
“A declaration that by virtue of Section 4 of the Price Control Act Cap, the defendants are under a legal obligation to fix the prices of bicycles and spare parts; flour; matches; milk; motorcycles and spare parts; motor vehicles and spare parts; salt; sugar and petroleum products including diesel, petrol motor spirit and kerosene.
“A declaration that the failure or refusal of the Defendants to fix the prices of bicycles and spare parts; flour; matches; milk; motorcycles and spare parts; motor vehicles and spare parts; salt; sugar and petroleum products including diesel, petrol motor spirit and kerosene is illegal as it offends the provision of Section 4 of the Price Control Act, Cap…., Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
“An order directing the defendants to fix the prices of bicycles and spare parts; flour; matches; milk; motorcycles and spare parts; motor vehicles and spare parts; salt; sugar and petroleum products including diesel, petrol motor spirit and kerosene not later than 7 days after the delivery of the Judgment of this Honourable Court.”
Recall that the Federal Government, fearing further protests over rising cost of essential commodities, on Tuesday convened an emergency meeting. Youths in Minna and Kano this week protested the rising cost of food.
Presided over by the Chief of Staff to the President, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila in his office at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the meeting was attended by members of the Special Presidential Committee on Emergency Food Intervention and was aimed at arresting the brewing crisis as a result of the soaring prices of food items.
Briefing journalists after the meeting the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, said that there is enough food in the country, added that some elements are trying to take advantage of the high food prices and the depreciation of naira to cause havoc.
He said, “We just rounded off a meeting. It is a special presidential committee to address the issue of food shortage or lack of enough food on the table of most Nigerians.
“This is just the beginning of that meeting. It is going to continue tomorrow and day after tomorrow. The government is very concerned about what Nigerians are going through, especially what has happened in Minna … and therefore government is taking some action to ensure that Nigerians have some relief in terms of the availability of food on the table.
“Of course, this meeting is not by itself exhaustive. It’s just like I said, the beginning. It is going to continue tomorrow and the day after.
“Now, some of these will involve unlocking the foods that are available in most of the storage facilities (National Food Reserve) around the country. You know that the Federal Minister of Agriculture has some food reserve. That is going to be made available to Nigerians.
“The government is also talking to major millers and major commodity traders, to also see what is available in their stores. To open it up, so that government will provide some intervention, discuss with them, provide some intervention to make this food available to Nigerians.
“What the government is noticing is that actually there is still food in this country. Some people are taking advantage of the situation especially because of the high cost, the depreciation in the value of our currency that has led to the cost of these food items also going up.
“So all these issues were discussed. The governor of central bank was here. The Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister for the Economy is in that meeting. Of course, the Chief of Staff, the National Security Adviser, because he also has some national security implications. So all these have been discussed. And like I said, this conversation or discussion is going to continue.
“What I will tell Nigerians is that the President has directed that government needs to step in to stem this tide. Government will not fold its arms and see the way Nigerians are suffering in terms of the availability of these food items.
“So I want to plead with you to understand with the government. By the time these meetings are concluded, we’ll be able to issue a definite statement on what the position of government is in this regard. But all I can say is that discussions are ongoing, and very soon a solution is in sight for Nigerians.”