By Emmanuel Adeleke
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the Federal Government to fix the prices of goods and petroleum products within seven days.
Justice Ambrose Lewis-Allagoa gave the order on Wednesday while delivering judgement on a suit filed by human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), against the Price Control Board and the Attorney-General of the Federation, listed as the first and second defendants.
Justice Lewis-Allagoa specifically ordered the government to fix the price of milk, flour, salt, sugar, bicycles and their spare parts, matches, motorcycles and their spare parts, motor vehicles and their spare parts as well as petroleum products, which include diesel, petrol and kerosene.
Falana had approached the court in May 2023 to determine whether by virtue of Section 4 of the Price Control Act., the first respondent is carrying out its duty to impose a price on any goods that are of the kind specified in the First Schedule to the Price Control Act.
“Failure or refusal of the respondents to fix the prices of bicycles and spare parts; flour, matches, milk, motorcycles and spare parts, motor vehicles and spare parts, salt, sugar and petroleum products including diesel, petrol, and kerosene is illegal as it offends the provision of Section 4 of the Price Control Act, Cap., Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004,” Falana said.
At the hearing of the case on Wednesday, Falana informed the court that the motion on notice was premised on Section 4 (1) of the Price Control Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
He also told the court that the defendants in the suit have been served with the processes since it was filed in May 2023, but they refused and failed to file any response or counter motion to it.
Falana consequently urged the court to grant all the reliefs sought since there is no counter motion from the respondents.
Justice Lewis-Allagoa, after listening to Falana’s submission, observed that the respondents did not file any counter motion to the suit.
The judge cited decided cases and held that, “all the reliefs contained in the motion paper are hereby granted as prayed.”
Falana, in an affidavit to support the motion, deposed to by a lawyer in his chambers, Taiwo E. Olawanle, stated that the first defendant, the Price Control Board, was established by the Price Control Act, and it is saddled with the responsibility to fix a price on goods to stabilise the general price level, prevention of hoarding of goods, protection of customers from exorbitant prices, among others.
The second defendant is the Chief Law Officer of the country.
He also stated that the plaintiff has been involved in the defence and promotion of human rights in Africa for over three decades and that on account of his human rights works, the plaintiff has been honoured by many local and international organisations.
The deponent averred that on January 3, 2023, he was informed by the plaintiff “that the following commodities are listed in the Price Control Act: bicycles and its spare parts, flour, matches, milk, motorcycles and spare parts, motor vehicles and spare parts, petroleum products, salt and sugar.”
“The Act basically gave the first respondent powers to fix the prices of the wide array of commodities listed above.
“Though the price of the commodities listed above is supposed to be imposed by the first respondent, only petroleum products are fixed to a certain amount are not being enforced.
“That the price of a bag of rice which was formerly N8,000 has risen to N45,000 in the market.
“The situation in the market is by each passing day becoming unbearable for consumers as prices of goods kept rising daily.
“Sellers are not always sincere as they are so desperate to make excessive profits at the expense of the buyers.
“Food prices which human beings should not be deprived of are on the high side due to lack of price fixing by the first defendant. And buyers are at the receiving end when the prices of goods are increased as they tend to suffer for it more,” Olawanle averred.