I had a battle embedding the Fuelling Poverty documentary by Ishaya Bako to my last post and I got frustrated. I was thinking, “Is the Nigerian Government battling with me on the internet?” The Nigerian Government is now watching us! I’m still in London so I’m not part of the us yet. It was just WordPress. I don’t know what happened but I fought the embedding war and won! I didn’t want to make the last post too long so I broke it down. Just two parts. I thought I would share some things that stood out to me in the documentary.
The first is that Wole Soyinka mentioned the oil subsidy scam involving key government ministries, a state owned company and oil marketeers. This was the $7 billion dollar fraud on the Nigerian people known as the oil subsidy scheme. Nigerians were promised, once again, that they would be given oil subsidy which would keep fuel costs low and affordable. Yes, Nigerians were given the subsidy but it was soon taken away. The price went from 65 to 141 Naira per litre which was an 115% increase. After the ten day protest, “Occupy Nigeria”, the fuel costs were reduced to 97 Naira per litre but there are talks by the Government of the fuel price being increased once again in 2o13. This subsidy scheme also involved the situation between Femi Otedola, Nigerian businessman and oil company chairman, and Farouk Lawan, the former Chairman of the House Ad hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Regime. Femi Otedola alleged that the former chairman accepted a bribe of $620,000 to remove his oil companies from the subsidy regime. They both alleged things about the other but in my opinion, they are both guilty. This situation is too long for me to write about so if you want to read up on it, you can read it here. I haven’t heard anything else and neither one has been prosecuted.
To make it easier, I’m going to list the things I thought were interesting in the documentary.
1. Emmanuel Tom Ekin, barber and engineer- Nigeria has no government. It deceives Nigerians to their faces and all the campaign promises they made were not delivered. Politicians tend to make some promises that they cannot keep but Nigerian politicians can take it far!
2. Femi Falana, Nigerian lawyer and human rights activist- “Fuel subsidy is a product of fraud and indolence on the part of the Government”.
3. Subsidies were originally only meant to last for 6 months but they have lasted over 24 years!
4. Fuel prices have continuously gone up administration after administration.
5. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Finance Minister- “We feel that the present fuel subsidy we have now does not work for the poor in our society and that’s why we want to ship the resources to help them… we are going in the direction that Femi Falana… have outlined and that is to work for the poorer members of society”. She said this at the fuel subsidy debate held in Lagos. I don’t know whether she listened to herself as she was speaking. If the poor are struggling with the fuel prices, how does she think that raising the fuel price by removing the subsidy is going to help them?
6. Diezani Alison-Madueke, Minister of Petroleum- “It is not necessarily a subsidy removal… it is actually a subsidy transfer because we are looking at real benefits to the economy and to Nigerians and that all Nigerians across the spectrum will feel and see from the get go”. She also said this at the fuel subsidy debate. Of course it is a fuel subsidy transfer, when the money is being transferred into people’s pockets and the average Nigerian suffers as a result. Nigerians are still waiting to ‘feel and see’. Not only in terms of fuel prices but roads, hospitals, electricity, water… need I go on?
7. Lamido Sanusi, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria- (also at the fuel subsidy debate) There were other things more important than fuel subsidy like people dying of aids and bad roads and basically said that people should assess their “hierarchy of priorities”. Yes, those that are ruling should assess their hierarchy of priorities, not the Nigerians that elected you (subject to vote tampering) to act right and do things properly.
8. Mohammed Fawehinmi, Nigerian lawyer and activist- The “people” of the former governors are being settled with the fuel subsidy money and the money ends up not being enough.
9. Seun Kuti, musician- Africa has to chart its course and develop in its own way. The only social service the Government provides is the fuel subsidy. What does Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala know about the people and how they are surviving? Nigerians have to sacrifice more. Nigerians have sacrificed everything. There’s nothing left to sacrifice… it’s the Government’s turn to sacrifice. The standard of living in Nigeria remains the same and the cost of living increases regularly. Expecting Nigerians to pay more for fuel has repercussions i.e. increase in cost of food, transport prices and etc. therefore the Government is basically trying to do some magic and squeeze water or blood (take your pick) out of a stone! When Seun was talking I was thinking “Preach!”. He makes so much sense!
10. Japheth Omojuwa, social entrepreneur- When Nigerians were thinking it’s a new year and things will be better, President Goodluck Jonathan announces that there will be an increase in fuel prices. 115% INCREASE! This was after the Government claimed on several occasions that they would not remove the fuel subsidy. It’s amazing and takes strong will power for Nigerians to not storm the houses of all of these politicians and Aso Rock itself. The same person that can ask for an increase in the annual cost of his food is the same person that can turn around and tell people that they cannot provide fuel subsidies. Smh.
11. President Goodluck Jonathan- The Government will not inflict pains on ourselves (Nigeria). It was elected by ordinary Nigerians and to inflict pain will go against God. What he said speaks for itself.
12. The protesters could not protest peacefully. Soldiers threw tear gas to disperse the crowds and also shot at them. People died and no one was prosecuted.
13. State oil is being mismanaged. Officials did not know what the amount spent on the subsidy was even though a specific amount of $1.5 million was set in the beginning.
14. Politicians get off with light sentences. Tafa Balogun, the former Inspector General of Police spent 6 months in jail for money laundering. James Ibori, former Governor of Delta State, was acquitted three times in Nigeria of money laundering charges. He was charged in the UK and is currently in jail for 13 years. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) wanted to try him again. Really? Didn’t you do that before? It took another country to try him and jail him. Former Governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha (Jonathan succeeded him) jumped bail in London on charges of money laundering and spent two years in a Nigerian jail.
15. Farouk Lawan’s investigation is still ongoing. *rolls eyes* Is there anyone that is surprised? Eze Onyekpere, Lead Director of the Centre for Social Justice believes that the Otedola-Lawan situation diverts attention away from Nigerians calling for the prosecution of the people who stole the subsidy money. I agree with this. He also said that Lawan, if guilty of taking the bribe, should be prosecuted and that the felons who took the subsidy money should be in cells but are instead of the ruling elite with their private sector collaborations.
16. Onyekachi Ogbodo- If the average Nigerian should steal seasoning from the market, they will be jailed. Nothing happens to the ministers and politicians. You see them on the news, hear and read about them but there is no punishment.
17. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala- There was something that she said about being interested in finding out the facts of the subsidy scheme and wanting to know what corruption or whatever she said took place. This is the same person that avoided the question on corruption about Mr Alamieyeseigha being granted a pardon after his money laundering. Here’s the interview:
Ultimately, the documentary is showing that as Nigerians, we should stand up to the Government and we have the power in our hands. Whatever has to be done to stamp out corruption in Nigeria will not be easy.
Thank you for reading. This literally took me most of my day. I am numb. 🙂