Unbeknownst to a lot of Nigerians, particularly those born in the 90’s there was a time you could not sell a bicycle at a price of your choosing. You also could not sell milk or sugar at a price not approved by the Government. These restrictions were made possible by a draconian law called the Price Control Act of 1977. The act basically gave the government powers through its Price Control Board, to fix price of the commodities listed below;
- Bicycles and spare parts.
- Motorcycles and spare parts.
- Motor vehicles and spare parts.
- Petroleum products.
According to Section 6 Subsection 1 of the act, It shall be unlawful for any person to sell, agree to sell or offer to sell any or employ any other person, whether or not that other person is of full age, to sell any controlled commodity at a price which exceeds the controlled price. This act was popular in the late seventies and was widely implemented in the days of General Buhari (when he has the military ruler).
Shockingly this act still exist and is yet to be repealed. This is now putting some fear in the mind of naysayers who look at the socialist tendencies of this government and believe they might dust this act up one day and impose it. In fact, some legal analysts had opined that the act should be revived and used to govern the pricing of petroleum products in Nigeria. According, to them subsidy is illegal as no law in Nigeria provides for the government to pay oil marketers any part of their cost of importing petroleum products. However, the Price Control Act can be used to regulate the price at which fuel is sold using the pricing template. As cynical as the above may sound, suggestions like this could even lead to an extension into other areas of the economy where the government wants to increase local participation.
Despite these fears, Nigeria has indeed moved from these times and are now used to a more market based economy where people are free to determine prices of goods and services. Understandably, price control still exist in some aspects of the economy and the law still exist today. Apart from petroleum products (in fact just fuel) businesses are free to price any of the goods listed above as they wish.