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How Ozekhome Took on FG over Fuel Subsidy Removal 37 Years Ago

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Constitutional Lawyer and human rights advocate, Prof Mike Ozekhome SAN,  has narrated how, 37 years ago, he took on the Federal Government of Nigeria over the removal of fuel subsidy in his continuous and sustained efforts to advocate the interest of every Nigerian and the good of the country.

The narration is presented in the eye of the learned silk as presented below:

MIKE OZEKHOME, A NIGERIAN WHO ALWAYS PEERS INTO THE FUTURE FOR THE GOOD OF THE COUNTRY

As far back as December 29, 1987 (37 years ago), Prof Mike Ozekhome, SAN, CON, OFR, had already taken on the Federal Government of Nigeria on behalf of the Nigerian masses regarding the issue of subsidy removal on petroleum products.

Ozekhome had sued the then military dictator, President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, joining the then Ahmed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) and the Attorney General of the Federation, against removal of petroleum subsidy. This is a matter that is still generating ripples across Nigeria till date, as it is the likewire, heart and soul of the Nigerian economy.

Ozekhome had argued that it was a misnomer for government to talk about removing oil or petroleum subsidy since no one can subsidize his God-given natural product. He had posited that the government did not take cognisance of the fact that oil was produced in Nigeria as against the countries copiously cited by the government where oil was supposedly cheaper.

He had also argued that government’s position was akin to a farmer measuring his piece of yam before eating it by comparing its worth or price with what it is sold to people who do not themselves produce yams. He further argued that government’s argument as put forth in the media was not enough to warrant any sudden or gradual withdrawal of petroleum subsidy. The Honourable Justice Idowu Agoro, then of the High Court of Lagos State, disagreed with Ozekhome in his ruling on the preliminary objection filed by late Moshood Adio, the then Director of Civil litigation (later Chief Judge of Oyo State and Justice of the Supreme Court of the Gambia). He struck out the suit on 29th December, 1987. The government through Adio had argued that Ozekhome lacked the locus standi to institute the action; that the action was speculative; and that the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the case. The court agreed with him and held that no citizen could question or prevent “the merit, desirability or expediency” of anything done or planned to be by the country’s president or the Ahmed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC).

The court also ruled that the decision “whether or not to to remove subsidy on petroleum is a matter within the absolute power of the AFRC which no court could dabble into”. He however, ended by assuring the plaintiff (Ozekhome) that all hope was not lost “since the record of the present military regime showed that it was a listening government”, and that he believed “all shades of opinion would be considered and evaluated before taking a decision on whether or not to remove the subsidy on petroleum”.

That optimism was apparently not shared by the IBB regime as the government went ahead anyway to remove the subsidy and hike prices of petroleum products on four different consecutive occasions -1986- from 20k to 39.5k per litre; 1988, from 39.5k to 42k); 1989, from 42k to 60k; and 1991, from 60k to 70k). These increases in the fuel price per litre triggered mass protests across the streets by Nigerians who kicked against the IMF-dictated economic policy. A littre today sells anything between N620 and N850. Had the then government up to the present one listened, Nigeria would not be in her dire straits today.

Thus, what Prof Ozekhome saw and fought for in 1987 (37 years ago) has come to hunt us ever since and even till date. This is like the case of a motion for return to the old more meaningful and aggregative National Anthem which he had also championed and won by the consensus of the 492 delegates on the 2nd of July, 2014, at the 2014 National Confab. This eventually came to pass ten years later on 28th May, 2024, when President Bola Ahmed Tinubu assented to a bill that returned the old National anthem.

Surely, some patriots sit down, think and plan ahead for the good of the Nigerian nation. Following is the National Concord newspaper report of the story as published on December 30, 1987.

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ECOWAS Court Finds FG Guilty of Violating Rights of #EndSARS Protesters

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The Community Court of Justice, ECOWAS, has ruled that the Federal Republic of Nigeria violated the human rights of Obianuju Udeh and two others.

The court found Nigeria in breach of Articles 1, 4, 6, 9, 10, and 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, specifically on the right to life, security of person, freedom of expression, assembly and association, prohibition of torture, the duty of the state to investigate, and the right to effective remedy.

The applicants, Obianuju Udeh, Perpetual Kamsi and Dabiraoluwa Adeyinka, alleged that these violations occurred during the peaceful protests at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos State on October 20 and 21, 2020.

The presiding judge, Justice Koroma Sengu, who delivered the judgment, dismissed the allegation that the right to life as guaranteed under article 4 of the ACPHR is violated.

He, however, said that the Federal Government must pay each applicant N2 million as compensation for violations of their security of person, prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association, duty to investigate human rights violations, and right to effective remedy.

Additionally, he said the Federal Government must adhere to its obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, investigate and prosecute its agents responsible for these violations, and report to the court within six months on the measures taken to implement this judgment.

The applicants alleged that during the peaceful protests against the SARS unit of the Nigerian Police Force at Lekki Toll Gate on October 20 and 21, 2020, the respondent committed several human rights violations.

Triggered by the alleged killing of Daniel Chibuike, the protests aimed to address police harassment and brutality.

The first applicant’s claims include that the soldiers shot protesters, resulting in deaths and injuries, which she live-streamed, subsequently receiving threatening phone calls that forced her into hiding and eventual asylum.

The second applicant, responsible for protesters’ welfare, described how soldiers began shooting after a power cut, leading to her hospitalisation due to police tear gas.

The third applicant recounted narrowly escaping being shot, observing the refusal of ambulance entry by soldiers, and later witnessing inadequate hospital care for victims.

She argued that she and her colleagues took over the victims’ care and she faced ongoing threats and surveillance, believed to be by respondent’s agents.

The applicants sought declaratory relief and compensation from the court for these violations.

The respondent denied all claims made by the applicants, asserting that the protesters unlawfully assembled at the Lekki toll gate on October 20, 2020, under the guise of protesting against SARS.

The respondent also maintained that its agents followed strict rules of engagement and did not shoot or kill protesters.

It argued that the first applicant incited the crowd by playing music and using her Instagram page to stir disaffection against law enforcement, who were targeting escapee members of Boko Haram and bandits.

The respondent contended that the second applicant’s logistics and welfare support provision indicated her support for the violent protest.

It claimed that soldiers were present to restore peace until the police arrived, denying any harm inflicted on protesters and the refusal of ambulance access.

The respondent also denied that the third applicant’s presence was peaceful, asserting it was meant to escalate violence.

It argued that the Lagos State Government managed the treatment and care of the injured and submits that the applicants have not provided credible evidence to support their claims, or the reliefs sought.

In its judgment, the court found there was no violation of the right to life.

However, the court held that the respondent breached several articles of the ACPHR which occasioned fundamental breaches of human rights violation therein.

Furthermore, the court declared that the applicants were denied the right to an effective remedy.

The court ordered that the respondent make reparations to the applicants for the violation of their fundamental human rights.

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We’re Already Preparing 2025 Budget, Pro-Wike Lawmakers Are Gone – Fubara

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The Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, on Wednesday, said his administration has started the process of preparing the 2025 budget.

The governor also dismissed the threat by the Martin Amaewhule-led faction of the state House of Assembly that he should present the 2024 budget again, saying that having defected to the All Progressives Congress from the Peoples Democratic Party platform on which they got election, their seats remained vacant.

Fubara said this when he received on a solidarity visit, the leadership structure, critical stakeholders, opinion leaders, women and youths of Etche and Omuma Local Government Areas, led by Ogbakor Etche, the apex socio-cultural organisation of Etche Ethnic Nationality Worldwide, at the Government House, Port Harcourt.

In a statement issued by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Nelson Chukwudi, and sent to newsmen, the governor described the recent ranting of the Amaewhule faction as noise-making from delusional folks.

He urged the “25 former lawmakers” to wake up from their slumber, adding that the ship of governance in the state was sailing smoothly.

The lawmakers loyal to the former governor and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, had been having issues with Fubara over the political control of the state.

After an unsuccessful attempt to oust the governor, resulting in the demolition of the Assembly quarters, the lawmakers announced their defection to the APC, a move the state PDP latched on to declare their seats vacant.

A Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, the state capital, granted an interim injunction restraining the pro-Wike lawmakers from parading themselves as legislators in the state.

However, the Court of Appeal in Abuja, on July 4, affirmed Amaewhule and 24 other lawmakers as members of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

Holding a session at the state Legislative Quarters on Monday, the court-reinstated lawmakers asked Fubara to re-present the 2024 budget to the Assembly and gave him a one-week ultimatum.

The government, in a swift move, approached the court to restrain the state Chief Judge and others from recognising the Amaewhule-led Assembly, while it also appealed the judgment of the Appeal Court at the Supreme Court.

Foreclosing the idea of presenting the 2024 budget again, Fubara said his administration had commenced preparing details of the 2025 Appropriation Bill, with priority placed on education, healthcare and agriculture.

“Let me assure you that agriculture is an area that we have promised the very special and peace-loving people of Rivers State that our 2025 budget, which we have already started preparing, will address.

“Don’t bother about those people that are delusional. They think we are still sleeping. Let me tell you people so that they can hear anywhere they are.

“I wanted to help them, sincerely because I know them. And I have said it before, these are people that I have helped. I paid their children’s school fees. I paid their house rent. So, I wanted to help them.

“We all knew what happened when they crossed (defected), and how did they cross? Because of our God, for them to make that mistake, they crossed. They are gone, and they are gone. Now, let me tell you: when I wanted to help them, I accepted to help them because we are all one. We disagree to agree as it is said,” he said.

He added, “They thought they were smart. What is holding them is the declaration of their seats vacant as done on December 13, 2023. We are not doing any budget to nullify that decision. It is what will send them to their villages.

“As I am talking to you, I have started preparing my budget for 2025, which I am going to present very soon. And, in that budget, my key areas will be education, healthcare and agriculture.”

Fubara said the three priority areas would ensure that even if more roads were constructed, emphasis would be placed on quality healthcare services for the people of the state.

“Our children need to go to quality schools. Even if they can’t go to private schools, let them go to the public ones that have standards. We need to go to good health facilities owned by the government and get standard healthcare services.

“Even if we cannot afford those private hospitals, when you go to the public ones, you can get the same services with qualified professionals. That is our thinking.

“And when we get to the issue of agriculture, it will address the issue of unemployment. When we start engaging our youths, they won’t have time to be involved in crime. So, our thinking is to secure and protect our state,” he added.

He reiterated that he was fighting nobody as insinuated, adding that being loyal did not mean losing one’s liberty, sense of discretion and doing what was right.

“I want to assure you of one thing: we are not fighting anybody. We appreciate what God has used people to also do in our lives. But, we are not going to rule (govern) this state on our bent knees. We will rule standing this way I am standing.

“If it is only being on our knees to rule that is the way that they will see us as being loyal, then, I will pack my few things that I have here, and go and relax in my house comfortably, because it will be a disaster, not just to me but to everyone in the state and even my generation.

“So, I will continue to stand tall and stand on the side of the truth. Let me thank the President General (of Ogbakor Etche) for bringing your people, the great people of Etche and Omuma together to come and pay us a solidarity visit,” he said.

Fubara urged the people of Etche Nation to sustain their support for his administration because its vision was clear and encompassing to advance the well-being of all Rivers people.

He promised to work with the Nigeria Police to resolve the issue of herdsmen attacks on farmlands and farmers in the area, including the issue of illegal dredging activities.

The Punch

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Yoruba Elders Council Rejects Agitation for Yoruba Nation

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The Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) has voiced its opposition to idea of carving out Yoruba Nation from Nigeria.

The group, through a statement on Sunday, said it would rather commit to true federalism in Nigeria.

The statement read: “We have perused the document on the position of YSDM on the state of the Nation and their views for the Yoruba race to be separated from Nigeria. The Yoruba Council of Elders remains firm in its position that the entity called and known as Nigeria should remain as one Nigeria.

“Accordingly, the YCE has pooled-in all shades of thoughts, which show that majority of the Yoruba race feel cheated by the present lop-sided arrangement of the federating powers but they are solidly against going away from the Nigerian arrangement. They would rather go back to the agreement of our founding fathers when the Region administration was autonomous.

“YCE, therefore, stands firmly on the position of the founding fathers, who maintained togetherness but operated independently and contributed their quota to foster administration at the centre. To this extent, we would rather have a restructured Nigeria which will allow states to function independently as part of a whole.

“YCE wants Nigeria to remain one but, like the American arrangement, stay and function administratively devoid of interference by the centre. Let it be known that the strength of the unity lies in the socio-cultural inheritance of each section of the country and these can be deployed through education and efficiency of management. Our great country must rise again and we all will be in it together,” it added.

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