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Shell Published its Payments to Governments. Nigeria Has Taken Notice

On Monday, Shell released its payments to governments report for 2017, the company’s third year of reporting under the U.K.’s Reports on Payments to Governments Regulations. Nigeria national media closely covered the disclosure.

In the 24 hours since Shell published its report, six national media outlets in Nigeria—Punch, Vanguard, This Day, The Cable, World Stage and Leadership—have analyzed the news.

This level of immediate national press coverage reaffirms the importance of payments to government data to citizens in resource-rich countries, and how it is increasingly informing national debates on countries’ natural resources management.

Similar laws to the U.K.’s in Europe and Canada have come into force over the last few years to shed light on billions paid to governments around the world by oil, gas and mining companies. Greater disclosure of these financial flows can deter corruption and mismanagement in the natural resource sector.

Shell reported payments made to governments in 29 countries amounting to USD 22.4 billion in 2017. Nigeria is the largest payment recipient at USD 4.3 billion (NGN 1.5 trillion), a USD 700 million increase on the amount Shell paid to Nigerian government entities in 2016. As analysis by Vanguard noted, this NGN 1.5 trillion figure represents 15 percent of Nigeria’s NGN 10.6 trillion total government revenue for 2017. (This total includes both oil and non-oil sources.)

Shell is the third international oil company to disclose payments to Nigerian government entities for 2017, with Statoil (USD 469 million) and Total (USD 1.15 billion) having already reported in March. Chevron, CNOOC, Eni and Seplat are all expected to disclose payments for 2017 by the end of May.

The stories written include analysis breaking Shell’s Nigeria payments up by recipient government entity (USD 3.2 billion to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation; USD 80 million to the Niger Delta Development Commission; USD 280 million to the Department of Petroleum Resources; and USD 765.5 million to the Federal Inland Revenue Service) and by payment type (USD 3.2 billion to production entitlement; USD 765.5 million in taxes; USD 245.7 million in royalties; and USD 114 million in fees).

NRGI has been working to promote the use of this data in Nigeria. In December, NRGI published Nigeria’s Oil and Gas Revenues: Insights from New Company Disclosures. The briefing explores how payments to governments data from Shell and six other international oil companies operating in Nigeria could be used to hold the government accountable for revenues generated from the sector.

NRGI is co-hosting a meeting with nongovernmental organization Connected Development in Abuja on Wednesday with around 20 Nigerian civil society organizations to launch the briefing. We aim to explore new ways in which civil society within the country can use this data as an accountability tool. NRGI has already been working to support Nigeria civil society organizations to use this data, including working with BudgIT, which produced infographics analyzing Shell’s 2016 payments to governments report.

NRGI also works with Nigeria-based journalists through the Media for Oil Reform Fellowship to promote the use of extractives industries data. Program fellow and Punch senior correspondent ‘Femi Asu was among the journalists who reported on the Shell disclosure.

As a new data source—most companies have reported for only the second or third time this year—it is exciting to see stakeholders in Nigeria engaging with payments to governments data as an informative and accountability tool.

Alexander Malden is a governance associate with the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI). Toyin Akinniyi is a media capacity development associate with NRGI. Zira John Quaghe is a Nigeria officer with NRGI.