OSIWA - Open Society Initiative for West Africa

OSIWA envisions a freer, safer, more integrated, democratic and equitable West Africa


Fuelling Poverty - Nigerian documentary film

November 26, 2012 - Nigeria, Abuja


Fuelling Poverty: A Rallying Cry for Change in Nigeria 

Press Booklet

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Film Premiere

On the 29th of November 2012, Silverbird Entertainment Centre played host to the premiere of the documentary: fuelling poverty. This documentary is an artistic depiction of the failings of the fuel subsidy management in Nigeria, the adverse effect of corruption on Nigerians and the need for Nigerians to hold their government accountable. It graphically captures the January fuel subsidy removal process, the various  contours of the fuels subsidy debate and the resilience of Nigerians during those difficult days to demand change. Documentary was produced by Ishaya Bako and was supported by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa OSIWA

The premiere opened with a cocktail which allowed guests the opportunity to interact with each other. In his opening remarks, the Acting Country Head of the OSIWA Nigeria office, Udo Jude Ilo welcomed guests and emphasized the point that the documentary was a call for action. He underscored the challenges of corruption and the destruction it has wrought on Nigeria and maintained that the power is the hands the people to ensure accountability and save the country. In his view there is no alternative to citizen’s movement for change. The documentary for him is the story of the sufferings of the average Nigerians and a call to build a nation that works. OSIWA support for the documentary is part of OSIWA’s commitment to promoting accountability and people’s participation in government processes. The producer of the film Ishaya Bako in his remarks gave an insight into the documentary saying that it is an ‘investigative expose’ into the oil subsidy scam orchestrated by the Nigerian Government since 1986 which brought about the 10 days movement in January this year. The documentary highlighted the fraud and corruption in the system and called for reflection on the part of the citizens.

Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, was of the view that on the fuel subsidy issue government institutions are guided by law and the codified institutions can be forced to meet the needs of why they were created which will be a way of holding them accountable through public awareness of these codified responsibilities. She also made it clear that the National Budget, State Budget and Local Government Budget can be demystified by creating awareness on the part citizenry to relentlessly follow the budgetary and execution processes.

The documentary was shown after these few speeches to a resounding endorsement from viewers. It elicited mixed emotions from viewers. There was laughter, there was anger and there were tears in some segments of the documentary especially when the stories of the Nigerians that lost their lives during the protest were shown. At the end of the premiere, viewers were unanimous in demanding that the message be amplified outside the premiere screening room.

The roundtable that followed the premiere had assemblage of renowned Nigerians, which included:

  • Prof Okey Ibeanu-Chief Technical Adviser to the Chairman of the Independent Nigeria Electoral Commission
  • Ifueko Omoigui-Okauro, Former Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service
  • Dr. Otive Igbuzor- Executive Director African Centre for Leadership and Development
  • Clement Nwankwo- Executive Director, Public and Legislative Advocacy Centre                                                                                                                                                                   

The panelists agreed that the documentary was a powerful tool for organizing and an excellent public advocacy work that is emotive and compelling. Nigerians need to hold government accountable and the way to do that is to organize. The consequences of a docile public with the current challenges facing the country will be disastrous. This documentary if well distributed is going to trigger anger and demand for change. Our job is to manage that anger and make it a constructive force for social change. Participants applauded OSIWA and the producer of the documentary and demanded that the message of the documentary must go out to Nigerians. About 200 people were part of the premiere.



A commentary on the culture of greed and corruption in modern Nigeria articulated through the Fuel Subsidy Scam. 



It is 2012, the country is Nigeria and between a very active militant group and an unpopular president, the most common word is an unlikely one: "SUBSIDY". From three year olds in Warri to septuagenarians in Potiskum, lives have been affected and the word 'subsidy' has personified hardship, oppression and corruption at an exponential level.

The oil subsidy placed on petroleum products by the Nigerian government was meant to provide a much-needed relief on the cost of living in one of the most complicated countries in the world. However after a probe by the House of Representatives, it was revealed that about seven billion dollars was stolen from the Nigerian people in one year from the same program that was meant to provide relief for them. It is quite possibly one of the most daring frauds in history.

FUELLING POVERTY is a documentary that expresses and articulates this fraud. Its objectives are to:

  • Educate Nigerians and the international community on the oil subsidy scam and the ensuing probe.
  • Provide easy to understand information on the cost of the oil subsidy scam on Nigerians.
  • Adequately 'embarrass' to ensure that a process of house-cleaning is started and an implementation of the subsidy report or policies that curb this level of corruption. 
The documentary, made by award-wining director, Ishaya Bako follows the fuel subsidy saga from the deliberations between government and civil society at the infamous "Lagos Townhall meeting" in 2011, through the unprecedented January 2012 protests (#OccupyNigeria) to the House of Representatives prove and the (Farouk Lawan vs. Femi Otedola) scandal. It features commentary from renowned lawyer and activist, Femi Falana; musician and activist, Seun Kiti, social entrepreneur - Japheth Omojuwa, former minister to the FCT, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai and a host of others.
Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, gives an introduction to the documentary, which undermines the decadence that led to the fuel subsidy scam to acknowledge the next generation of young patriotic Nigerians. 
With music from Femi Kuti and Asa, FUELLING POVERTY is another collaboration between the award-winning team of writer/director Ishaya Bako and producer Oliver Aleogena; a joint production between The Allied Film Company and Amateur Heads Media. The film is funded by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).

Read some of the press reviews here: