Nigerian Legislators Call for Prosecution in Fuel Subsidy Corruption

A woman walks past cars buying fuel at a gas station in Lagos, Nigeria, April 24, 2012.
A woman walks past cars buying fuel at a gas station in Lagos, Nigeria, April 24, 2012.
Anne Look

Nigeria's House of Representatives says high-level officials should be prosecuted for alleged theft and mismanagement of the state fuel subsidy. The fuel subsidy remains a flashpoint issue in Nigeria after attempts to lift it in January sparked a strike and deadly protests that paralyzed the nation. Nigeria is already bracing for renewed unrest if the government does not act on the parliament's findings.

Nigerian lawmakers say "sleaze" and "incompetence" by high-level officials involved in the fuel subsidy system cost the country $6.8 billion between 2009 and 2011.

The House of Representatives launched the investigation into apparent overspending on the fuel subsidy in January - after attempts to remove the subsidy led to deadly, nationwide unrest.

Chairman of the investigative committee, Faruk Lawal, opened debate on the findings in the House this week.

"You will discover a sector that has remained non-transparent, that has remained opaque and that has not been subjected to public scrutiny for many years. Perhaps, because of that, all manner of things happen," said Lawal.

And, according to the committee, they did.

The report says the government has been paying suppliers for fuel that was either never imported or was sold abroad. Lawmakers said the number of firms licensed by authorities to import fuel exploded from 5 in 2006 to 140 in 2011. Many of those firms, lawmakers say, did even not have the capacity to import fuel.

Many individuals named in the report have already denied involvement in fraud and threatened to sue. The House says it will hear testimony from fuel marketers not questioned for the original report before it votes on the findings.

The House says high-level officials, including the former head of the state petroleum regulating agency, should face prosecution.

However, anti-graft efforts in Nigeria rarely lead to successful prosecutions, particularly against senior officials. Critics say the few cases that are brought tend to fizzle in the courts.

Nigeria is the continent's largest oil producer. But its refineries are in ruins, meaning the nation must import its fuel.

The fuel subsidy has kept gas cheap for consumers, however economists say the subsidy is an unsustainable drain on the nation's mammoth budget. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has called on African nations, like Nigeria, to remove fuel subsidies that it says do more to promote corruption than help the poor.

However, the government's abrupt lifting of the subsidy in January doubled fuel and transport prices overnight. Unions declared a nationwide strike. Thousands took to the streets nationwide for three days of protests. The government backpedalled and partially reinstated the subsidy.

The damning parliamentary report marks Nigeria's most extensive anti-graft investigation to date. Still, few believe it will lead to meaningful prosecutions.

Head of the civil society Save Nigeria Group, Pastor Tunde Bakare, says the report could prove a key test for President Goodluck Jonathan’s government.

"If the government rises up to the occasion and does what is right and brings those who are guilty to book, then it would have scored a high mark in the reckoning of the citizens," said Bakare.  "Other than that, only God knows where this will end because there is an outrage."

The House is expected to vote on an amended version of the report in coming weeks. The report would then be passed on to the executive branch for implementation.

The finance minister has already fired two auditing firms associated with the fuel subsidy system.

The presidential adviser on National Assembly matters said Wednesday that the presidency was "on the same page" as legislators and "would not spare" anyone indicted of wrongdoing.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs