Seminar: Africa Today Seminar: Investigative Journalism as a Tool to Expose and Fight Corruption in Nigeria

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Nigerian political leaders have stolen US$1 trillion of the country’s money since independence in 1960. Corruption permeates many, if not all, strata of the public and private sectors so one might think that investigating and reporting it would not be difficult. This is not the case however and investigative reporting faces massive challenges. There are not enough databases, there is no functional Freedom of Information (FOI) law yet, and public officials do not feel compelled to give anyone any official information. Much of the media is either state owned or is owned by politicians from both the ruling and opposition parties. Few are interested in investigative journalism as a means of fighting corruption. However, Nigeria is fortunate in having some investigative journalists for whom the fight against corruption is a mission.

In a climate where real data are scarce and officials do not want to talk, allegations of corruption are bandied about. The first challenge is therefore to find the stories that are about ‘real’ corruption and not just allegations that are meant to weaken a political opponent. The next step is then to find a story that is a priority and will have the greatest impact either by the amount of money involved or due to its systemic element. If a story can put the spotlight on an entire state agency, this is preferable to merely exposing an individual.

Finally, it is possible to arrive at a kind of reporting that actually contributes to dismantling corrupt mechanisms and replaces them with better ones. An example is the award-winning six-part series on corruption in the Nigerian Oil Ministry and its agencies in "NEXT Newspapers" that was published between April and June 2011. In addition to showing the payment of bribes for licences to import refined petroleum products, these stories also highlighted serial violations of rules and guidelines laid down in the allocation of oil blocks and the licensing of crude lifting contracts. However, dealing with systemic corruption requires a partnership between investigative journalists and active corruption fighters in the state machinery in Nigeria itself. This is increasingly happening and Nigeria has seen some improvements recently as a result.


See bio of Idris Akinbajo.

See Akinbajo's article that won the 2011 FAIR Investigative Journalism Award and the 2011 Editors' Courage Award.

Date, time and location

12 January 2012