The revelation of gargantuan levels of corruption in the government’s fuel subsidy programme is sparking a groundswell of activity among the opposition and civil society groups.
Opposition politicians, civic activists and trade unionists are joining forces this month to demand action against grand corruption at the heart of government. They promise it will be their biggest show of strength on Nigeria’s streets since protests in January that forced the government to back down on its plans to abolish the fuel subsidy scheme.
At the core of the opposition protests in June will be the findings of a parliamentary report released on 23 April that reveals the government presided over the loss of $6.8bn from its fuel subsidy programme from 2009-2011 through theft and mismanagement.
“The government misread public feeling on the fuel subsidy,” says Tunji Lardner, executive director of Lagos-based information platform WANGONeT. “Hundreds of thousands of small businesses and millions of jobs were set up the basis of the subsidy – protecting that and prosecuting corruptionis a popular cause,” he explains.
Adding to the opposition’s anger are allegations that more than N4.5bn ($28m) has been stolen from pension funds administered by the office of the head of the civil service. State investigators suspect the extent of pension fraud in the country is far larger.
This, together with the government’s announcement expected on 1 June that it will increase electricity tariffs by 50%, will ignite a new round of popular outrage, say activists. A government commissioned report on corruption in the oil export sector, coordinated by former anti-corruption czar Nuhu Ribadu, is also due out in the coming weeks. Insiders say it will make more explosive revelations. National secretary of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties Osita Okechukwu says: “It’s a perfect storm for the government.Weare taking them to the High Court for breaching the constitution, but you will also see protests backed by opposition parties and the trade unions.” Read more.