Nigeria's long-awaited oil reform bill is a Christmas stocking stuffed with goodies for the multinational oil companies who have been feasting for years on the nation's rich supply of crude oil.
Provisions that would have forced the government to publish how much oil it pumps and all the payments it receives from oil firms – in an industry where secrecy is blamed for corruption – have been stripped from the bill.
"I expect the petroleum industry to be happy. I expect many Nigerians to be upset," said Pedro Van Meurs, an oil and gas expert, in a press interview.
The Petroleum Industry Bill, stuck in committee since 2009, was fast-tracked this year by President Goodluck Jonathan. Under the new law, anyone who "interferes" with the oil minister will be fined or imprisoned. And it allows the oil minister and the directors of state institutions to receive gifts, which will not please civil society groups calling for an end to graft.
Meanwhlle, tempers are flaring over the failure of President Jonathan to punish those who orchestrated the $6.8 billion fuel subsidy scam, uncovered in a probe whose findings were released last month.
"We just cannot continue with this kind of massive corruption – especially in a sector that is very important to the stability of this economy," warned financial analyst Bismarck Rewane.
Professors at Ahmadu Bello University picked up the warning. In a press release posted today, they expressed "shock, profound indignation and total condemnation of all individuals, corporate firms and government agencies or departments that connived to defraud the government and people of hundreds of billions between 2009 and 2011 in the name of fuel subsidy claims."
"This despicable and ungodly act has visited incalculable damage on the Nigerian economy, threatening the survival of millions of our countrymen and pushing our nation to the edge of near moral and financial bankruptcy. "
"We, as concerned citizens of this country, have decided we cannot afford the luxury of remaining silent on a matter which endangers the survival of our country."
Semi-Naked Portrait of South African Leader Sparks Firestorm of Indignation
Smoldering anger over a full length painting of South African President Jacob Zuma, with his genitals exposed, has forced a confrontation between those who support free expression and those who see racism "alive and well and living on the tips of the tongues of most white South Africans."
"The Spear," by satirical artist Brett Murray, had been hanging at the Goodman Gallery until the gallery owners removed all of Murray's works yesterday, bowing to growing pressure from ANC loyalists and others.
At a march this week by thousands of ANC supporters, handwritten signs read: "President Zuma has a right to human dignity and privacy,' "We say no to abuse of Artistic expression," and "Draw your white father naked, not our president."
The painting – which forms part of Murray's "Hail to the Thief II" exhibition – has already been sold.
Buti Manamela, national secretary of the Young Communist League, weighed in, saying: "The movement has always promoted freedom of expression, but you cannot denigrate important figures."
Ferial Haffajee, editor of City Press that carried the picture, fired back: "We take down the image in the spirit of peacemaking – it is an olive branch. But the debate must not end here and we should all turn this into a learning moment, in the interest of all our freedoms.
"Of course, the image is coming down from fear too. I'd be silly not to admit that. The atmosphere is like a tinderbox: City Press copies went up in flames on Saturday; I don't want any more newspapers burnt in anger."
City Press's stance had an unlikely defender in Julius Malema, the expelled president of the ANC's youth wing. Malema said he intended to buy two copies, explaining: "Banning newspapers simply because we disagree with them, and boycotting them on the basis of believing that our conception of truth is absolute, poses a real threat to our democracy."