POLICY ALERT TRAINS MEDIA TO UNCOVER OIL AND GAS FINANCIAL CORRUPTION

POLICY ALERT EQUIPS AK-MEDIA TO TACKLE FINANCIAL CORRUPTION IN OIL/GAS SECTOR

With the lots of fund leakages in the Nigerian financial system, especially in the extractive sector which is the oil, gas and solid minerals, the media as the watch dog are committed to unravel this veil over the Nigerian economy.

This was the aim of Policy Alert’s one day workshop on ‘Extractive Sector Data Journalism’ organised for the media in Akwa Ibom State in collaboration with Nigeria Union of Journalist, Akwa Ibom State Council at NUJ Centre, Information Drive -Uyo, Monday.

According to the Executive Director of Policy Alert, Mr. Tijah Bolton-Akpan said there is need for the media to be equipped to unraveled the myth which had covered the financial aspect in the extractive sector of the country through effective data journalism.

“The media is an important accountability actor in the extractive sector. The media has the traditional role to inform educate and investigate. Especially, given to the fact that the sector is coming from an era of obesity, secrecy surrounding transactions and payment by international oil and mining companies. What actually is the Government receipts from this IOCs. You will then realise in between the lines, a lot get lost under the table out of the revenues that should actually get to the coffers of Government. Alot of illicit financial flow happens from Nigeria to foreign jurisdictions. This is because the extractive sector, especially oil and gas, has a lot which citizens do not understand and is complex. They don’t know how the sector works.

“It is rather technical and alot of things have been hidden under the veneer of technicalities and specialized domain. All that combine together has created a sector so steeped in the shadows. Journalists have the role to uncover those shadows. To shine the light as it were on the sector. Not just Journalists, a lot of accountability actors like; Civil Society advocates, Legislators have very important role.

“Today’s own was for the media. What can the media do to interpret and make sense out of the data. We’ve had lots and lots of data flowing out of the reforms that have happened over two decades ago, right from 2004. All those data gave meaning in terms of holding the government accountable. But we have not seen that same kind of conversion of these data into accountability. On one hand we are seeing transparency which is accountability but we have not seen people being brought to book for some of the crimes they have committed against the Nigerian states through the things that are happening in the sector.

“So, the media has a very important role in shinning the light on this sector, in interpreting the data, in telling creative and meaningful stories that can connect the dots between all that very boring and hard data with the actual every day lives of the citizens especially the host communities. The people’s whose lives are directly affected by the exploration and extraction of oil and gas, solid minerals in Nigeria,” Mr. Tijah Bolton-Akpan said.

In his lecture, Mr. Cletus Ukpong who is the Assistant Editor and the Regional Editor South-South of Premium Times News blog, revealed the importance of Journalists equipping themselves with relevant laws guiding operating oil companies in the Country.

He said there is need for media personnel who are to become efficient data specialists in the profession not to neglect annual reports of these IOCs as there are much data willing to talk.

In his topic, ‘Uncovering the news – Skills and tools for investigative Journalism,’ Mr. Ukpong said it is high time the media practitioners in the state used data as a tool in investigative reporting. He however opined that there are available website links which are platforms for connecting with the activities of the players in the Extractive sector in Nigeria which include the Nigerian Extractive Industry and Transparency Initiative (NEITI).

Still in the lecture session, the CEO, Dataphyte, Mr. Joshua Olufemi, said
the essential of data journalism and good visualization can not be under rated in today’s investigative reporting.

Being represented by Mr. Charles Mbah of Dataphyte, he added that telling stories with pictorials (graphs and diagrams) serves time and even enhance better comprehension. Also, the importance of humanising an investigative story was put to bare.

While revealing the concept of ‘WetinWeGain2’ project, the Programme Officer – Extractives, Energy and Climate Justice of Policy Alert, Mr. Mfon Gabriel said the project is to enable the contracts of IOCs with Government to be transparent and the impact on the people revealed.

In his words, “Some of the community members do not have access to these MoUs. We want to see how we can make this available in public domain.”

Several goodwill messages were received from organisations and individuals.

In his goodwill message, the Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalist, Akwa Ibom State Council, Cmd Amos Etuk thanked the organisers for believing in the visions and ideologies of the Union.
He said he hopes for a stronger partnership in future for more members to participate in the training.

The NUJ Chairman said his leadership emphasis on training and retraining of media professionals is on track and he is glad that the workshop will add up in the investigative aspect of Journalism in the state.

Each of the session opened up heated interface with participants and resource persons divulged methods and ways of extracting information from online sites for transparency, public good and advancement of the country.

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