This post originally appeared on the Open Knowledge blog and is authored by Sam Leon, a School of Data fellow at Global Witness.
Royal Dutch Shell and the Italian oil company, Eni, have been implicated in a secret oil deal that enriched the former Nigerian oil minister to a staggering degree, and lost the Nigerian state $1.1 billion that could have been spent on vital and much needed services. As shareholders and investors gather today at Shell’s Annual General Meeting, they would be wise to consider whether Shell’s choices are those of a responsible company and whether such activity is good for business.
Global Witness, an anti-corruption NGO, first uncovered the story in 2012. It involves the sale of one of West Africa’s biggest oil blocks, OPL 245, to Shell and Eni via an anonymous shell company that is now known to have been controlled by the former Nigerian oil minister, Dan Etete. Etete had awarded himself the lucrative block while oil minister.
Authorities in the UK, Italy and Nigeria are now investigating the deal and the the Nigerian House of Representatives is threatening cancellation of the contract for the block, potentially costing Shell 447m barrels of oil. However, the original secrecy around the deal has severely limited the ability of law enforcement and civil society to hold those at fault to account.
In collaboration with Global Witness, we produced an infographic that tries to capture the vast sums involved by illustrating what the money could have been spent on. Nigeria has one of the worst records on maternal mortality in the world and their are over 5.5 million girls currently out of school. The money from the oil deal could have been used to train many thousands more midwives and help give 1.7 million out-of-school girls a primary education.
Stories like this one are all too common. Individuals and corporations using a veil of secrecy to enrich themselves at the expense of the many. This must stop. If you too believe this is wrong, sign up to our #StopSecretContracts campaign and send a message to governments and corporations worldwide that contracts must be made in the open. For more information on the full story of oil block OPL 245 and to see the full infographic on where the money could have gone, go to http://www.globalwitness.org/shellagm/.