- Created on 22 April 2013
LAGOS, Nigeria — The documentary on a massive strike that paralyzed life in Nigeria features newspaper headlines, television news footage and other information widely known about a government gasoline subsidy that saw billions of dollars stolen by greedy companies and the nation's elite.
It also, according to Nigerian authorities, could spark violence and potentially threaten national security.
The 30-minute film called "Fuelling Poverty" has been online for months, but only recently Nigerian officials have refused its director permission to show it publicly in this oil-rich nation of more than 160 million people. While free speech is enshrined in this democratic nation's constitution, an ever-increasing drumbeat of complaints and critical articles about the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan has seen authorities increasingly target journalists and others.
The film, sponsored by Soros Foundation's Open Society Justice Initiative for West Africa, focuses on the protests around Jonathan's decision to remove subsidies on gasoline in January 2012. Life in Nigeria ground to a halt before unions backed down. Later, a report by lawmakers demanded businesses and government agencies to return some $6.7 billion over the subsidy program.
Ishaya Bako, who directed the film that features civil rights activists and Nobel Prize laureate Wole Soyinka, later applied for the right to show the film publicly. In a letter dated April 8, Nigeria's National Film and Video Censors Board told Bako that the documentary was "prohibited for exhibition in Nigeria."
"I am further to inform you that this decision is due to the fact that the contents of the film are highly provocative and likely to incite or encourage public disorder and undermine national security," the letter signed by board lawyer Effiong Inwang reads. "Please you are strongly advised not to distribute or exhibit the documentary film. All relevant national security agencies are on the alert."
Tanko Abdullahi, a spokesman for the board, initially told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the film wasn't banned, but was "denied classification." Later, in the same conversation, he acknowledged it couldn't be shown over unspecified "security issues."
"What is national security for Nigeria is different from that of the U.S.A.," Abdullahi said. "We made that determination because of the content of the film. That's why you have regulators."
The government's decision has seen more people watch the film online. It also has sparked outrage from human rights activists and press freedom groups.
"Instead of banning the documentary 'Fuelling Poverty,' authorities should look into the important questions it raises about corruption and impunity in the country's oil sector and at the highest levels of government," Mohamed Keita, an official with the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement. "We urge Nigeria's National Film and Video Censors Board to overturn this censorship order."
The move to ban the film comes as Jonathan's government, which many voted for believing he would change the engrained interests and corruption of Nigeria's government, has grown increasingly unpopular as extremists carry out bombings and the state-run power company cannot offer stable electricity. During the strikes, government officials put increasing pressure on broadcasters not to show images of protests, which at one point saw tens of thousands in the streets of Lagos.
Today, journalists at a newspaper face forgery charges over a story that claimed the presidency would try to disrupt opposition parties. Security agencies have harassed reporters at a weekly newspaper that wrote about abuses by the military in its crackdown against Islamic extremists. And workers who ran a call-in radio show in the northern city of Kano face charges over talking about rumors surrounding polio vaccinations in the wake of at least nine women vaccinators being killed.
Despite the outcry, however, the apparent crackdown continues, only fueling more of the same apathy for Nigeria's government seen by those featured in the documentary.
"We don't have government. It's a whole big banana republic," barber Emmanuel Tom Ekin says in the film. "They've been coming telling us story all the time, deceiving us. And right now, in our faces, they are still deceiving us."
- Created on 19 April 2013
Immaculee Ilibagiza raises her right hand along with 50 new citizens as she says the oath of citizenship, during a naturalization ceremony at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on Wednesday, April 17, 2013, in New York. "Who would know that this fantasy would finally happen," said Ilibagiza, author of the best seller “Left to Tell, Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust.” She sought asylum in the U.S. after fleeing the 1994 Rwandan genocide, which claimed more than 500,000 lives. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
- Created on 16 April 2013
This two image combination photograph shows Rita Jeptoo, of Kenya, left, and Lelisa Desisa, of Ethiopia, right, crossing the finish line to win the women's and men's division of the 2013 running of the Boston Marathon in Boston, Monday, April 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
- Created on 17 April 2013
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haiti's communications minister has resigned from her post, becoming the second Cabinet member to step down in as many days, media outlets reported April 11.
Privately owned Radio Tele-Kiskeya and Radio Tele-Metropole said that Communications Minister Regine Godefroy had quit, citing an unnamed source. Neither outlet said why she was leaving.
Godefroy was named to the communications job in January, part of a second shake up by Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe since he became Haiti's No. 2 official in May. She previously had been director of the country's postal service.
There was no immediate response from the government about the latest reported resignation. Godefroy could not be immediately located for comment on Thursday.
News of Godefroy's resignation came one day after Marie Carmelle Jean-Marie resigned as Haiti's finance minister. Jean-Marie didn't speak to the press but several radio stations reported that she left her job because she didn't receive support from her colleagues as she tried to bring transparency and other reforms to the office.
Lamothe has acknowledged Jean-Marie's resignation, but his office declined to answer questions from The Associated Press.
The back-to-back departures come amid growing allegations of various types of government corruption. Lamothe's office has responded by issuing statements that his administration will not tolerate graft.
- Created on 15 April 2013
LAGOS, Nigeria — Train horns now sound again across Nigeria's lush south and the encroaching desert of its north, but the history of the nation's 100-year-old railroad still sits rusting away.
Old steam locomotives and railway cars that hold special places in the story of Nigeria sit in large storage barns at the Nigerian Railway Corp. headquarters, a huge compound inside the megacity of Lagos.
One car once carried Queen Elizabeth II during her 1956 visit to Nigeria when it was still a British colony, historian John Godwin said. Another nearby transported Nigeria's first and only prime minister, the assassinated leader Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, through the country's northeast, Godwin said.
Today, though, much of the legacy of the railroad continues to rot away, including large locomotives bearing the names of Nigeria's military rulers, including the feared dictator Sani Abacha, whose death while in power ushered in a return to democracy for the nation in 1999.
Some, like Godwin and the historical preservation society Legacy1995, have made preserving the railroad's past a priority. Working with the state-run railway company, they have remodeled a colonial-era building to house a museum. Talks continue about how to save the other memorabilia and huge train cars and locomotives hidden in the tall grasses and barns at the railway's headquarters.