HISTORY OF TIME....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".

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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 littre; 1988,from 39.5k to 42k); 1989,from 42k to 60k; and 1991,from 60k to 70k ). These increases in the fuel price per littre 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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