News

    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.
    Comments
         
    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.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.