Imagine if on the Fourth of July, Americans bypassed the barbeque parties and fireworks in favor of bringing to light their dissatisfaction with the United States' sluggish economic recovery and their choices for the presidential election. As Africa’s most populous country and largest economy celebrates 56 years of independence from British rule on Saturday, many Nigerian nationals are using the occasion to bash their government over allegations of corruption, greed and ineffectiveness.
The Nigerian government declared Monday a public holiday in honor of the country’s Independence Day anniversary. In the United States, celebrations will also be held to mark the occasion. There are nearly 400,000 immigrants from Nigeria, making up the U.S.' largest African community. In Georgia, for example, university students planned to meet to discuss Nigerian culture and politics. In Maryland, there will be parties with DJs. A New York group of Nigerians planned to host a parade. "Paint the town green, white, green," the Facebook post reads. "The 2016 Nigeria Independence Day Parade and Festival is tomorrow, Oct. 1st, with live performance by Ayo Jay. Come join in the festivities. See you there!!"
But many Nigerians don't feel up to celebrating this year. The West African nation’s economy, hit hard by a fall in oil prices, fell into a recession just last month, following two consecutive quarters of decreased GDP growth. In an interview with the Financial Times, Nigerian finance minister Kemi Adeosun said he agreed with the International Monetary Fund’s prediction that the country’s economy would contract by a total of 1.8 percent over the course of 2016.
Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves fell by 19 percent over the past year, its currency hitting an all-time low of 490 naira per U.S. dollar.
But oil and the naira’s plummeting value aren’t the only culprits for Nigeria’s drooping economy.
“Corruption is one of the reasons Nigeria has not industrialized as a nation,” Nigerian journalist and blogger Bayo Ogunmupe wrote in an opinion piece for one of the country’s major newspapers, The Guardian (not to be confused with the U.K.-based newspaper of the same name). “Because the Nigerian state has been captured by corrupt elements, scarce resources are not distributed optimally to boost development. ”
Ogunmupe cited the Central Bank of Nigeria’s suspension of nine banks in the country from the foreign exchange market for failing to return $2.3 billion in deposits belonging to national oil and gas companies last month, and a discovery in March by the auditor general that the state oil company withheld $16 billion in revenues from the federal government in 2014.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military leader, was elected in 2015 to weed out corruption.