President Goodluck Jonathan and some human rights activists including former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Prof Tam David-West and prominent lawyer, Femi Falana yesterday openly disagreed on the human rights record of the government at the 3rd Memorial Lecture for late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, organised by the Gani Fawehinmi Memorial Organisation.
The President lauded the contributions of Fawehinmi to nation building, saying the thrust of his administration was built on his ideals and struggle for egalitarian society.
This was, however, punctured by Prof David-West and Falana, who accused him of inflicting avoided pains on Nigerians, by removing 'a non-existing' fuel subsidy.
Speaking at the lecture, the President, who was represented by his Senior Special Assistant on Civil Society and International Media, Ken Saro-Wiwa Jnr. said Gani, like other past heroes, would never be forgotten.
According to the President: “Whether you like it or not, Gani Fawehinmi was a defender of the poor, a defender of the rule of law, an unrepentant believer in justice, fairness and equal rights. He was a patriot and indeed a statesman who did not allow his personal preferences to cloud his struggles for justice and fair play. His love for Nigeria and the well-being of her people were unparalleled.
“It is in that belief and struggle of Gani that this administration has tapped into to pursue vigorously the signing of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act. It is in the same shared belief with Gani that we will continue building this administration on the foundation of rule of law, freedom of the press, freedom of association and respect for the rights of every Nigerian irrespective of tribe, ethnicity, religion or political affiliation,” the President stated.
However, in his lecture entitled; ‘Fuel Subsidy Regime: Myth or Reality and the Fuel it has Added to the Flame of Corruption in Nigeria,’ David-West said Gani would have unleashed heat on Jonathan administration if he were to be alive to witness the series of lies coming from the government quarters on the alleged subsidy regime of the Federal Government.
“There is no fuel subsidy. So, you cannot remove what does not exist. Throughout the fuel subsidy protest, the government could not define what subsidy is to Nigerians.
“Fuel subsidy is the greatest fraud founded and rooted in governmental lies. If the government is sure of its policy, let it put the fact before the public. Nigerians are no fools,” the former minister said.
He said the discordant pronouncements from the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as regards the proceeds from the fuel subsidy have shown that the government itself ‘does not know the amount of money to be realized from the subsidy policies.’
While challenging the Finance Minister to a public debate of the fuel subsidy controversy, the former minister insisted that the pump price for Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) in the country should not be more than N40 per litre, urging those in government to think less of themselves and more of the masses.
In his lecture titled; ‘Corruption in the Oil Sector and the Way Out’, Falana called for the prosecution of all those indicted in the looting of the treasury, while Nigerians should stand up against the planned privatization of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
Falana also called for the disbandment of the Nigerian Economic Team as constituted by the President, saying the body is non-existent in the nation’s constitution.