PROBE is a call to action for the Nigerian media to invest in investigative journalism. It hopes to serve as a hub to demonstrate and encourage the practice of investigative journalism in Nigeria. It will also provide an opportunity for investigative journalists to publish stories that their media houses are unable to publish, share those that have been published and network with other journalists as well as organisations and persons whose work promote investigative journalism. PROBE is an initiative of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism which is designed to further promote the Centre’s tripartite mission to expose corruption, regulatory failures and human rights abuses through the promotion of investigative journalism. The probe therefore has two major objectives:
- Publishing and or republishing investigative stories
- Networking for investigative journalism with focus on Nigeria
About the Oil probe follow up project
Towards transparency and accountability in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector which is responsible for the more than eighty percent of the country’s revenue, the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) commenced the oil probe follow up project to help the media and civil society demand the needed accountability in the sector as one way of contributing to good governance in Nigeria.
The project is conceived against the backdrop that the oil and gas sector is undoubtedly enmeshed in the biggest scam in recent times – and that Nigeria depends on the sector’s health. It is WSCIJ’s modest contribution to efforts to rectify the existing rot, and to achieving transparency in the Nigerian oil sector. The project has the following activities:
- Capacity development for investigative journalists in September 2013 to track and analyse [two] probe reports – the June 2012, Aig Imhokhuede-led technical committee on fuel subsidy removal and the August 2012 report of the Ribadu-led petroleum revenue special task force.
- Perusal and analysis of the probe reports by a team of civil society members which led to the writing and sending of a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)
- Award of small grants for investigative stories on various issues thrown up by the probe reports to keep the issues on the front burner.
Striking notes from the probe reports – as highlighted by participants at the training.
- Most participants believe that both reports reflect a culture of impunity in the Nigerian system.
- Nigeria sells petroleum resources instead of refining and selling finished products which would amount to following best practices among other oil producing countries. This alone speaks volumes of the amount of waste and corruption that is going on in the sector.
- the reports were silent on crucial issues e.g. what goes on in BOTH the downstream and upstream sectors of the oil and gas industry.
- irregularities with reports from the different committees speak volumes about the level of corruption in the sector
- NNPC is the major distributor of kerosene; why pay subsidies, especially when the majority of Nigerians use kerosene. This speaks volumes about how responsible our government is especially to its people.
Speaking on the Ribadu report, a participant noted that there are no proper structures for the collection of penalty fees for gas flaring and the fee is ridiculously low as compared to the effects on Nigerians.
- Kerosene is important in the north; 2/3 of kerosene produced is consumed in the North
- The report shows lots of shortchanging by the NNPC; many companies lifting oil without license. Neither are there accurate records of the amount of flaring happening while the consequences are in our faces and within us.
- Nigeria loses millions to deals with international companies: Nigeria sells low and buys refined oil at international rate
- The reports show that there is no record of the actual consumption of petroleum resources by Nigeria hence it is almost impossible to have a concrete plan for petrol consumption and export. This has huge implications for corruption too.
- The patterns in the Nigerian law and acts of parliament – e.g. the NNPC as being available for slush funds, with no clear-cut purpose for its existence – makes room for corruption.
- The law must be ahead of criminals. As a way forward, collation of records should be more advanced; should be automated.
- It is important to employ technologies to track happenings in the sector; to track vessels from the starting to the last point.
- The reports are reflective of the culture of impunity. It appears that the reports and the resources that went into putting them together were a complete waste as no action in the corrective direction has been taken to adopt the recommendations and/or act on them.
- Both reports speak of failure of regulatory agencies and the lack of experts to analyse the rot in the sector.
- Record-keeping by all involved: the regulatory bodies, marketers, etc. is badly done and shows deliberate acts to cover up corrupt practices.
- Companies suddenly sprang up solely to enjoy the subsidy; perhaps the subsidy idea was laced with giving an opportunity for corruption in its varied forms.
THE FIELD EXPERIENCE – COMMISSIONED STORIES
Armed with an understanding of the technicalities of Nigeria’s oil and gas sector, fourteen journalists were awarded small grants based on their interest areas. They returned with insightful stories about the oil sector, accessible via the probeng.org platform.