Human rights lawyer Femi Falana, SAN, has described President Bola Tinubu’s one-month administration as a “moment of challenges”.
Falana responding to questions on Channels Television’s Politics Today programme on Friday about how well the Tinubu administration has performed said that the president has started well enough by carrying out reforms and policies that the past administration shied away from, especially the removal of petrol subsidy.
“The last one month has been a moment of challenges,” Falana said. “whereas the Buhari administration had cancelled fuel subsidy in the 2023 budget.”
He admitted that he was surprised by the speed with which Tinubu went about some of his breathtaking policies and reforms.
“But Nigerians had expected that the regime was not going to carry on the implementation of the removal of the fuel subsidy, but Bola Tinubu took Nigerians by surprise when at the inauguration an announcement was made to the effect that the fuel subsidy was gone forever,” he said.
“The reverberating effect had been felt particularly by the wretched of the people, especially the poor. Therefore, the government had been compelled to roll out some palliatives.”
He added that labour unions and civil liberties organisations had proactively compelled the federal government to adopt more economically beneficial palliatives than those suggested by the IMF and World Bank.
As one of his suggestions to lessen the burden of the fuel subsidy removal, the human rights lawyer asked the federal government to introduce a currency swap with countries that would accept the naira as a currency of exchange in international trade.
His advice comes as the federal government said it has been compelled by labour unions and civil liberties organisations to roll out palliatives.
Falana suggested, as already talked about, that the government drive the usage of compressed natural gas, as this would lessen the burden caused by the fuel subsidy removal.
“Can we embrace now the compressed natural gas instead of petrol?” he said.
He made reference to earlier statements made by renowned economist Bismarck Rewane, who said that the current petrol price hike isn’t over as the fuel subsidy hasn’t been completely removed.
He also talked about the impact the free floating of the naira could have on petrol prices, saying, “very soon, because of the devaluation of the national currency via dollarization, the pump price may go to N700.”
The legal luminary suggested that because of these developments, the government may be forced to rethink how best to mitigate the impact of the petrol subsidy removal by partnering with Saudi Arabia and others.
He also advised President Tinubu to adopt the Kenyan approach that removed fuel subsidy removal when President William Ruto took over the government.
He said, “Can we pay naira while we try to fix our refineries? You simply trade with countries like China and India.
“Please, we are ready to sell our oil to you. Can you pay us in naira instead of dollars in order to push up the value of the naira?
As long as we continue to devalue the naira via the US dollar, the country will continue to be in trouble.”