Nigeria, Our Orphan By Ayisha Osori

‘Individuals feel relieved of responsibility when they know that others have heard the same request for help’. 

This is the key learning from an old experiment conducted by social psychologists Richard Nisbett and Eugene Borgida.  In the experiment, people were placed in individual booths and invited to speak for 2 minutes at a time over the intercom about their personal lives and problems. One of the participants – unknown to the others, was a plant. The plant spoke  first and following the script prepared by the experimenters, said he was struggling to adjust to life in New York and had embarrassing seizures which were triggered by stress. All the participants spoke and the microphone went back to the plant. As he talked his speech became incoherent and he said he was having a seizure. He started to make choking sounds and asked for help saying he was going to die. Eventually, the two minutes ran out and the microphone became automatically inactive.

Only four out of fifteen of those who participated responded immediately to the call for help. Six never got up and five only came out of their booths long after the ‘victim’ had choked. It seems, because everyone heard the cry at the same time, many made the assumption that ‘someone’ (not them) would do something.

Nigeria is choking; hemorrhaging and pleading insistently and loudly for help but the majority of us are deaf because Nigeria is populated only by people who identify with their faith and/or ethnic groups.

If Nigeria was not an orphan –not somehow really and truly all alone, then today – the day when the House of Representatives is to sit in plenary to review and adopt the House Ad Hoc Committee’s probe on fuel subsidy between 2009-2011, then the country should be completely shut down. Ground to a halt in every conceivable way to send a clear and unequivocal message to this administration that enough is enough, we are mad as hell and we are not going to take it any more.

Mere days after the fuel subsidy protests by Nigerians began in January 2012, it was no longer about the alleged removal of the subsidy but about corruption. Yet the administration of President Jonathan muzzled us with guns and tanks without delivering any meaningful promises or actions to do something about the main complaint: the fact that years of corrupt leadership and bad governance is costing Nigeria more than it can afford and we are at breaking point.

“So here we are. Back where we started on January 2,2012 – but this time with a lot more information; the stakes are higher and everyone knows it. The usual back room compromise discussions amongst the political elite have begun and the papers are peppered with rebuttals. What are we going to do?”


Since the subsidy protests were forced to end, dozens of committees have been thrown at the problem but none so far have come up with any results, reports or recommendations, except for the one driven by the pleas of Nigerians. The House Committee finally released the Report on its probe of fuel subsidy last week and the findings are incendiary. Now the House is allegedly under pressure from this administration and its usual friends and supporters to abandon it and continue as usual.

Here is a little of what they do not want Nigerians to know and react to.

One, government officials’ lied to us about the reason for the increase in the cost of fuel subsidy. The House Committee found out that by December 31 2011 we had paid N2.5T for  subsidy. The explanation for why subsidy costs increased from N261.1B in 2006, N278.8B in 2007 and N346.7B in 2008, to ten times the amount in 2011 is “endemic corruption and entrenched inefficiency”. According to the Report, “it is therefore apparent that the insistence by government officials that the subsidy figures was for products consumed was a clear attempt to mislead Nigerians”.

Two, the sleaze has been going on for a long time and the Report implicates past and present ministers of finance and petroleum, past and present Accountant Generals of the Federation, the NNPC, PPPRA, past and present Directors General of the Budget Office, the Nigerian Ports Authority and Customs.

Three, that NNPC is the pit latrine of iniquity and has amongst other things been withdrawing money  – up to N847.942 Billion (over 5 billion US Dollars) in 2009 alone which was not budgeted to it and willfully paying out subsidy for Kerosene despite a Presidential directive in 2009 to stop subsidy on Kerosene.

Four, with the collusion of PPPRA and NNPC some marketers claimed and collected N230B (1.4 Billion U Dollars) in subsidy payments for products not supplied.

Five, there are a lot of mysteries thrown up by the probe. For instance within 24 hours between 12th and 13th

of January 2009 (President Yar’adua’s tenure) 128 equal payments for N999 Million were paid by the office of the Accountant General (Dankwambo’s time) to yet-to-be disclosed beneficiaries. This equals N127B (US $808M). Who approved these payments? Where did the payments go?

Six, that based on the investigations of the House, the generally accepted 445,000 barrels of crude per day allocated to NNPC is enough to provide us with 40 million liters of PMS a day (according to the Report we consume 33 million liters a day); 10 million liters of Kerosene a day and 8.9 million liters of Diesel a day. We are told that NNPC alone can make up the difference we need since our refineries are allegedly working at 53% – so why do we need 140 Marketers?

Seven– part of what funds our petroleum subsidy fund (PSF) Account is ‘over recovery’ from Marketers which applies when the product landing cost is lower than Ex-Depot price. However, there is no evidence so far that the Marketers–who owe the PSF over N8B, have credited the PSF Account.

And eight, that the House Committee have made many recommendations including that NNPC, PPRA and the Marketers should refund over 1 trillion naira to the PSF Account – money which could have been spent by the 3 tiers of government (or arguably stolen by them).

So here we are. Back where we started on January 2 ,2012 – but this time with a lot more information; the stakes are higher and everyone knows it. The usual back room compromise discussions amongst the political elite have begun and the papers are peppered with rebuttals. What are we going to do?

Compelling evidence  – such as Ibori’s indictment, this Report and what our eyes, ears and hearts tell us about those who want to be called leaders – might not change our long-held beliefs. What should change though is the idea that ‘someone else’ will take responsibility and ‘do something’. Nigeria is calling – and we have all heard. We can’t leave this to a handful of people – every single Nigerian has a role to play and the voice of every single Nigerian is required to tell this government, nay any government, that the time for this type of flagrant corruption is over. Today.


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