Nigerian government appeals against judgement banning deregulation of petrol

FG has asked the Appeal Court to set aside the judgment and dismiss the matter in its entirety.

The Federal Government on Thursday gave notice of appeal against the ruling of a Federal High Court, Abuja, in the case filed by Lagos lawyer, Bamidele Aturu, declaring the total deregulation of petroleum sector as unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.

The nine-page Notice of Appeal was filed by seven lawyers, led by Fabian Ajogwu and A. Mbamali on behalf of the Federal Government.

In his March 19, 2013 ruling in the case instituted against the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke; and the Attorney General of Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, Justice Adamu Bello agreed with Mr. Aturu that the Federal Government owed Nigerians the responsibility to fix prices of petroleum products as determined by the Petroleum Act of 2004.

Mr. Aturu, in his application, had sought the court’s declaration that the policy was in conflict with Section 16(1) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, which provides that “Government shall 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 lawyer had argued that the implementation of the policy was “illegal, unconscionable and unconstitutional and of no effect whatsoever”, as it is capable of making the freedom of movement guaranteed in section 41 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 illusory for the generality of Nigerians.

He therefore demanded an order restraining the Federal Government, through any of its agents, privies, collaborators, from deregulating the downstream sector of the petroleum industry, or failing to fix the prices of petroleum products as mandatorily required by the Petroleum Act and the Price Control Act and publishing same regularly.

In his ruling, the judge granted all the six reliefs sought by the applicant, declaring that by not fixing the prices petroleum products may be sold in Nigeria, government’s policy of deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry was unlawful and a vicious violation of the provision of section 6 of the Petroleum Act, CAP P.10, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004; and section 4 of the Price Control Act, cap P28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

But, Mr. Adoke, Mrs. Alison-Madueke and their counterpart in the Ministry of Trade and Investment, Segun Aganga, pegged the Federal Government’s appeal against the decision on five grounds.

According to the ministers, apart from the fact that the court erred in law on the question of the locus standi of the respondent and the plaintiff to sue in the matter, the trial judge misdirected himself when he held that sections 4 and 6 of the Price Control Act and the Petroleum Act imposed a legal duty on the government to the control of and regulation of prices of petroleum products.

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Besides, the ministers claimed the court erred that by declaring that the Price Control Act and the Petroleum Act the government made the economic objective in section 16(1)(b) of the Constitution in Chapter II justiceable; they also claimed that the judge erred in law when it summarily granted the reliefs in the respondent’s originating summons.

Similarly, the government noted that the judge denied it a fair hearing by failing to consider and pronounce on all the issues properly submitted before it, urging the Appeal Court to set aside the judgment and dismiss the matter in its entirety for the respondent’s lack of locus standi.

The application was accompanied by a motion for an order for a stay of execution of the judgment of the court pending the determination of the appeal against the judgment.

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the appeal or the motion for stay of execution.

Deregulation is a cardinal policy of the Federal Government aimed at divesting government’s restrictions and monopoly in the management of the economy by allowing interplay of market forces of demand and supply to determine prices of commodities.

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