The reality today, however, is that the economy is in deep crisis, millions of Nigerians have lost their livelihoods, the cost of living is unbearable and what people remember is that our president promised us that he would fix these problems and he has not. In consequence, there is much anger in the country and the demands for accountability are therefore justified.


On Wednesday, the government raised the price of petrol to N160 a litre, the third increase in a few weeks. Since then, there have been massive complaints and calls for action. The phrases – Occupy Nigeria, Enough is Enough, Revolution Now and Days of Rage – have been trending in the social media. It is not only fuel that is at issue, electricity tariff too has gone up and food prices are galloping. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) is meeting to plan its response to these and Nigerians are calling on President Buhari to resign. We all remember that in 2015, in spite of a consensus in his party, the president refused to raise the price of fuel, arguing that the masses would suffer too much and that is his problem today. After five years, he has raised prices without addressing the complementary parts of the solution we proposed in 2012 – fix the refineries, produce fuel locally and stop the deep-rooted corruption in the fuel subsidy regime and in government.

Nigerians have a consensus on only one issue – government must provide cheap fuel, and we do not want to know how or at what cost this will be done. We believe that our only benefit as citizens of a petroleum rich country is cheap fuel and we have always been ready to struggle for it; or haven’t we? I have seen social media messages attacking leaders of the 2012 Occupy Nigeria movement for keeping quiet this time – have they checked out of the struggle? I was one of the leaders at that time and it was indeed a great struggle; or wasn’t it?

We called ourselves BLUF – Building Leverage and Unity on Fuel Subsidy Struggle – and released a CITIZENS’ CHARTER OF DEMANDS on January 5, 2012. We lamented that on New Year day, President Goodluck Jonathan broke his bond on creating conditions for Nigerians to enjoy a breath of fresh air by increasing the pump price of petrol (PMS). By his act, Nigerians were guaranteed to suffer extremely high costs of transportation, food and other essentials. We argued that: “It is a policy decision aimed at deepening poverty and the suffering of Nigerians.” This fact is even more true today. We angrily declared that as Nigerian citizens we were ready to confront the president’s bluff that he could make us suffer as he pleased and get away with it. We insulted him for being the lap dog of imperialism and servility to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Nigeria, we asserted, was a sovereign and democratic country and its citizens have the right to direct the president to do what they want, rather than implement his own agenda. The president has the constitutional obligation to promote the rights and welfare of Nigerians and removing fuel subsidy was a contravention of this.

One person who consistently agreed with our position was a certain opposition politician called Muhammadu Buhari. Today, fuel subsidy has been removed under his watch and it is in this context that the president has a lot of explanations to make to Nigerians. After five years in government, how come things have not changed for the better?


Our Charter drew attention to the fact that the price of petroleum products had been increased, at that time, eighteen times in 26 years, starting from a raise in the pump price of petrol from 3.15 kobo per litre to 20 kobo per litre in April 1985. All the attempts by successive governments to remove the so-called “fuel subsidy” failed because Nigerians resisted the imposition of more suffering on them. We were on the barricades for four days with our allies in the NLC and we had two representatives in the negotiating team until the real night for negotiations, to which we were not invited. They negotiated and called off the protests and the first time we heard that Occupy Nigeria had ended was on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) channel. Today, I remember Muyideen Mustapha, the first protestor to be killed in Ilorin on January 3, 2012. Over the next three days, 15 other Nigerians were killed in Lagos, Maiduguri, Kano, Benin and Gusau, as we successfully occupied Nigeria. No one remembered these martyrs during the midnight negotiation.

The Jonathan administration had argued that the amount it spent on fuel subsidy was so large that this had forced the government to abandon its development goals, while this also accelerated indebtedness. Our response was that the reality was that ‘fuel subsidy’ was the greatest fraud in our nation’s history, as monumental amounts of money were being criminally paid out to government cronies, who returned the money to their political godfathers. One person who consistently agreed with our position was a certain opposition politician called Muhammadu Buhari. Today, fuel subsidy has been removed under his watch and it is in this context that the president has a lot of explanations to make to Nigerians. After five years in government, how come things have not changed for the better?

When President Buhari was sworn into power in 2015 and he decided to personally run the petroleum ministry, our understanding was that he was committed to solving the fuel subsidy regime issue by reviving the refineries and producing sufficient fuel locally. He ordered for the refineries to be fixed, the contracts were issued but the goal of local production was not achieved. While Nigerians were wondering what happened to the 2015-2016 contracts, it was recently announced that new contracts have been issued to revive the refineries once again. I wondered why the new contracts were being issued when the Dangote refinery has reached an advanced stage and we now KNOW that no government can fix the refineries. And don’t ask me WHY, because I have no idea. My previous thinking was that if there was one person who could do it, this was Buhari. But now we know differently.

It might well be that the anger in the country might lead to another Occupy Nigeria movement. The question, however, would be whether a positive outcome would emerge. Maybe. What we know however is that the culture of corruption has become very resilient and when governments try to fight it, corruption fights back, often with great success.


Today, Nigeria is broke and there has been a massive reduction in the national revenue inflow. It is very difficult to maintain petroleum subsidy and if the country persists along this line, the cost in terms of other needs, including public sector salaries, would be too high. The electricity sector has been in deep crisis since the privatisation process and government has been subsidising the electricity generation companies (GenCos) and the distribution companies (DisCos) for the past seven years, so I understand the decision to increase charges. The reality today, however, is that the economy is in deep crisis, millions of Nigerians have lost their livelihoods, the cost of living is unbearable and what people remember is that our president promised us that he would fix these problems and he has not. In consequence, there is much anger in the country and the demands for accountability are therefore justified.

It might well be that the anger in the country might lead to another Occupy Nigeria movement. The question, however, would be whether a positive outcome would emerge. Maybe. What we know however is that the culture of corruption has become very resilient and when governments try to fight it, corruption fights back, often with great success. Nonetheless, let our resolve to maintain the struggle and identify new ways and means of combating corruption.

A professor of Political Science and development consultant/expert, Jibrin Ibrahim is a Senior Fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development, and Chair of the Editorial Board of PREMIUM TIMES.