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Despite a 50 year oil boom which has transformed Nigeria’s economy into the largest in Africa, 80 per cent of its citizens live on less than $2 a day. Read more

Despite a 50 year oil boom which has transformed Nigeria’s economy into the largest in Africa, 80% of its citizens live on less than $2 a day.

An estimated $400bn in oil revenues has gone missing from Nigerian state coffers. This is why Global Witness is campaigning for oil deals to be made in the open, so the profits can be used to build schools and hospitals instead of lining the pockets of kleptocratic elites. 

In 2011, Global Witness revealed how two of the world’s biggest companies, Shell and Italy’s Eni, paid $1.1 billion for Nigerian oil block "OPL 245" to the government. The money ended up with a front company owned by former Nigerian oil minister, Dan Etete. Etete had effectively awarded the block to himself when in power and was cashing in on his corruption.

$1.1 billion can help a lot of people in a country like Nigeria – see the infographic below for more information. But the Nigerian people saw none of this money, as it was diverted to Etete and a string of middlemen and anonymous companies. Shell and Eni said that they only dealt with the Nigerian government, but court documents suggest otherwise.

Global Witness has also shown how western corporations are often complicit in facilitating corruption in Nigeria. In 2010, we revealed how British banks, such as Barclays, Natwest and RBS, accepted millions of pounds in deposits from corrupt Nigerian politicians, raising serious questions about their commitment to tackling  financial crime.

While companies like Shell are fighting to keep their oil deals secret, the status quo is shifting towards transparency. New laws in the EU and the US will force companies to publish their payments in deals for blocks like OPL 245. Meanwhile, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) is making companies disclose their payments to governments and governments open their books to public scrutiny.

Nigeria was one of the first members EITI, and has made some headway in seeking accountability for missing revenues. However, while the owners of companies involved in deals remain hidden and project level payments undisclosed, Nigeria continues to remain highly vulnerable to corruption. 

Global Witness is pushing for accountability by holding those involved in corrupt deals responsible, so that the people of Nigeria finally see the full benefits of their oil wealth.