By Chris Udochukwu
Human Rights Lawyer, Femi Falana, has secured an order of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, mandating the Nigerian government to regulate the prices of essential goods and petroleum products within seven days.
Precise Post recalls that Economists view this as a controversial ruling that is likely going to impact Nigeria’s economic situation negatively.
The decision, handed down by Justice Ambrose Lewis-Allagoa, comes as a response to an originating motion filed by prominent human rights activist, Femi Falana SAN.
In the ruling, Justice Lewis-Allagoa held: “I have had the applicant Femi Falana in a suit no San, FHC/L/CS/869/2023 and I have also discovered that despite the service of the Originating motion on the respondents namely Attorney-General of the Federation and the Price Control Board, no opposition to it by way of counter affidavit, which is law that all the facts deposed in the affidavit attached to the originating motion are all deemed admitted.
“Consequently, all prayers that are sought for in the motion papers are hereby granted as prayed.”
This effectively compels the government to take action on setting prices for a range of commodities outlined in Falana’s petition.
Falana’s motion addressed various items, including bicycles and spare parts, flour, matches, milk, motorcycles and their spare parts, motor vehicles and their spare parts, salt, sugar, and petroleum products such as diesel, petrol motor spirit (PMS), and kerosene.
Falana’s legal arguments centered on the government’s obligation under Section 4 of the Price Control Act to fix prices for specified goods. He sought declarations from the court affirming this duty and compelling the government to adhere to it.
In his submission, Falana argued, whether by virtue of Section 4 of the Price Control Act., “the first defendant 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.”
He thus prayed the court for the following: “A declaration that by virtue of Section 4 of the Price Control Act Cap, the defendants are under a legal obligation 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 motor spirit, and kerosene.
“A declaration that the failure or refusal of the Defendants 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 motor spirit, 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.
“An order directing the defendants 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 motor spirit and kerosene not later than 7 days after the delivery of the Judgment of this Honourable Court.”
Falana urged the court to order the government to act swiftly, setting a deadline of seven days for compliance.
Potential Ramifications of Judicial Price Fixing
While the court’s decision aims to address concerns about price gouging and ensure affordability for essential goods, it raises several concerns and potential drawbacks.
Market Distortion: Price fixing can distort market dynamics, leading to imbalances in supply and demand. Artificially imposed prices may discourage producers from supplying goods or incentivize hoarding, creating shortages.
Inefficiency: Government-mandated price controls often result in inefficiencies in resource allocation. Without the flexibility of market-driven prices, producers may lack the incentive to innovate or invest in improving productivity.
Black Market Activity: Price controls can fuel black market activity as sellers seek to circumvent regulations to maximize profits. This can undermine the effectiveness of the government’s efforts to control prices and exacerbate issues of scarcity.
Long-Term Consequences: While immediate price controls may provide temporary relief, they may not address underlying issues such as supply chain disruptions or inflationary pressures. Failure to address these root causes could lead to prolonged economic challenges.
Overall, while the court’s intervention may address short-term concerns about price stability, the long-term ramifications of judicial price fixing warrant careful consideration. Balancing the need for affordability with market dynamics and economic efficiency is essential to ensuring sustainable solutions to the rising cost of goods and services caused by high inflation.(TEKEDIA)