Policy Alert Stimulates Interest in Data Journalism

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Policy Alert Stimulates Interest in Data Journalism

…Organizes Workshop on Extractive Sector Reporting

Priscilla Christopher

A non-profit organization working for improved development outcomes in areas of economic governance and environmental justice, Policy Alert has stimulated the interests of journalists in Data Journalism through a Workshop on Extractive Sector Reporting.

The Workshop which was held on Monday, September 13, 2021 at the Akwa Ibom State Press Centre was a component of the project #wetinwegain2 which aims at putting citizens at the centre of beneficial ownership and contract transparency reforms in Nigeria.

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According to the Convener and Executive Director, Policy Alert, Tijah Bolton-Akpan, the Workshop was centred on building the capacity of investigative journalists to tell meaningful data-driven stories that can trigger change in the extractive sector, bothering on labour rights, underpayments, hazardous work conditions, Corporate Social Responsibilities and etc.

Earlier in his remarks, the Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Akwa Ibom State Council, Comrade Amos Etuk lauded Policy Alert for and keying into his ideology of training members of the Union for maximum productivity, while urging the participants to make good use of the knowledge gotten from the training.

He observed that the Workshop will be instrumental in helping investigative journalists unravel the mysteries surrounding government/companies/host communities’ relationship with each other, and bringing same to the knowledge of the public.

Speaking on #WetinWeGain, the Project Lead, Mr. Mfon Gabriel noted that the Project, supported by Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), is aimed at seeing a transparent and accountably managed extractive sector that contributes to sustainable social and economic development for the benefit of Nigerian citizens.

He furthered that their objectives are to investigate the linkages between extractive sector disclosures (such as NEITI Audit reports, FASD reports, payments to government data, contract and beneficial ownership information etc) and community beneficiation in the Niger Delta; influence policy level action and create public awareness in select states and nationally around ongoing reforms on contracts, beneficial ownership and payment disclosures in the extractive sectors, as well as build capacity of citizens, particularly extraction-affected communities, to utilize EITI data, payments-to-government reports, extractive contracts and beneficial ownership disclosures as tools for extracting accountability from governments and companies.

While encouraging interested journalists to embrace their objectives, Mr. Gabriel announced the Project’s sponsorship of 10 published commissioned blogspots and op-eds, 5 commissioned investigative reports by journalists on the range of issues covered by #WetinWeGain2 as well as international opportunities and funding from the ICIR, MacArthur Foundation, Global Investigative Reporting Network, Wole Soyinka Center for Investigative Reporting, New Narratives, National Geography etc.

In his Presentation on “Understanding Data on Extractives Payment, Beneficial Ownership and Contracts – What Journalists Need to Know”, the Program Lead at Dataphyte, Mr. Charles Mba described Data Journalism as reporting done mainly using public or curated data. “It is using numbers to shape opinion, influence policy or verify a statement or using simple statistical (average, comparison, composition, trend) tools to draw meaning from data”, he said.

He stressed that Data journalism empowers watchdogs and journalists with new tools for analysis, storing and visualization, and is a strategy to understand how governments and corporations wield financial power.

Mba who was representing the Executive Director of Dataphyte, disclosed that data could be gotten from Local and international public databases, regulatory agencies, Public/Corporate organizations, Offline documents and the use of FOI.

“You can use the data obtained to call organizations and governments to order. It’s only a matter of looking into the available data and see what it is saying”, he charged.  

He however advised investigative journalists to be technologically inclined to be able to access and use some data formats and presentation tools.

Other papers presented included: “Uncovering the News – Skills and tools for Investigative Journalism by Mr. Cletus Ukpong and “Extractive Sector Reforms in Nigeria: Following the Trajectory” by Mr. Tijah Bolton-Akpan.

Goodwill messages were received by the Programme Coordinator, OSIWA, Mr. Joseph Amenaghawon; EITI Country Manager for Anglophone Africa, Dr Mike Uzoigwe; Executive Secretary, Nigeria Extractive Industries Initiative (NEITI), Mr. Kazeem Lameed, and the National Coordinator, Media Initiative for Transparency in the Extractive Industries (MITEI), Mr. Bassey Udo.