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Policy Alert, a Civil Society Organisation promoting economic and ecological justice in the Niger Delta, has awarded mini-grants totaling N1.25million to five investigative reporters in the Niger Delta to support the research and publication of investigative stories under its #WetinWeGain2 project.

The journalists, drawn from the print, online and electronic media, are working in the four pilots of states of the project – Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Delta and Rivers – and will be developing reports focused on the pilot oil, gas, and mining assets being investigated under the project – OML13/14 (Akwa Ibom), Lafarge Holcim cement operations at Mfamosing (Cross River), OML 127/128 (Rivers), and OML 40 (Delta). 

A statement released this morning and signed by the organisation’s Programme Lead on Energy, Extractives and Climate Justice, Mfon Gabriel, said: “The #WetinWeGain Reports is the investigative journalism component of Policy Alert’s project, #WetinWeGain2 – Putting Citizens at the Centre of Beneficial Ownership and Contract Transparency Reforms in Nigeria’s Extractive Sector. The project seeks to popularise extractive sector data, particularly payments to government, beneficial ownership information and contract details. Although recent reforms in the extractive sector have huge potential for detecting and deterring corruption, plugging revenue leakages, and improving the benefits citizens derive from oil, gas and mineral resources, this can only happen where extractive data is effectively utilised by citizens and the media as tools for accountability and improved community beneficiation.”

Earlier in September 2021, Policy Alert had conducted a series of training workshops on data journalism and extractive sector reporting for investigative reporters in the four states of the Niger Delta where the project is being implemented after which a pitch contest was organized from which five entries were competitively selected. The winning entries came from Ann Godwin of The Guardian, Ekemini Simon of The Mail, Aiwerie Okungbowa of The Nation, Tony Esin of Comfort 95.1 fm, and Enwonoabasi Elisha of The Crest.

The statement said that the project, which is implemented with funding support from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), is leveraging recent reforms around beneficial ownership, contract transparency and payment disclosures to simplify and democratize access to extractive sector data. It noted that the media, civil society, legislatures, and host communities require a deeper grasp of the otherwise complex transactions in the extractive sector to ramp up pressure for more accountability in the industry. 

“We are confident that over the coming months, our support to these five exceptional journalists would be catalytic not only for triggering interest in reporting the extractive sector but also for reinforcing the role of the media as accountability stewards who owe society a duty to constantly question government and corporations operating in this very important sector,” Gabriel said. “As we have seen with recent reforms, data disclosures on their own cannot achieve much until citizens are able to uptake that data and utilise it to demand accountability, prevent corruption and ensure that hitherto diverted financial flows start finding their way back into government coffers for the benefit of citizens.”

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