Kicking off with an introduction from Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, the short documentary Fuelling Poverty amounts to a very brief Nigerian Fuel Subsidy 101 course. In thirty minutes, it covers the history of the issue and methodically explains how the government (encouraged by the IFIs, by the way) failed its people. By removing the subsidy as it did, the government shocked the informal economy and made life more miserable for a huge segment of the population. Subsequent investigations into the complex workings of the subsidy regime revealed a massive corruption cover-up to the tune of US $7 billion annually.
Written by Ishaya Bako, produced by Oliver Aleogena, and funded by the Open Society Institute for West Africa, Fuelling Poverty looks good, sounds good, and says all the right things. Its interviews, featuring those affected by the subsidy removal and those that participated in Nigeria’s nationwide protests in January 2012, are affecting. The fuel subsidy was, as the film argues, the only real social spending the government did. Its removal cast a wide net.
The filmmakers hope to move the nation out of its current standstill, back toward action. “Nigerians need to hold government accountable and the way to do that is to organize,” they said at the film’s premiere at the Silverbird in Abuja last weekend. “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.”