Nigeria: An Uphill Struggle

Country: Nigeria

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Oil Wealth and the Push for Transparency in the Niger Delta

Since 2008, the Revenue Watch Institute (RWI) has been engaged in Nigeria, mostly focusing on increasing transparency and accountability of oil revenues and spending in the country's Bayelsa State, a poor, underdeveloped region rife with social, political and geographical challenges. Bayelsa was the site of Nigeria’s first oil discovery in 1956, and because Nigeria’s constitution requires that all states receive a share of the nation’s oil revenues, Bayelsa has brought in over $2.6 billion dollars since 1999. With careful, accountable and transparent management of its share, the state has a real opportunity to grow and spur development across the Niger Delta.

RWI supported the Bayelsa Expenditure and Income Transparency Initiative (BEITI), a multi-stakeholder initiative that brings together representatives of government, civil society organizations and the private sector to track revenue and expenditure at the state and local government levels. The project also supported civil society organizations to push for increased budget transparency and advocate for better management of oil and gas revenues.

The project has not been an easy one, and its impact remains to be seen. While civil society’s understanding of public financial management systems and ability to analyze and critique government planning and budgeting processes has increased, this awareness has not yet translated into improved transparency and accountability of resource revenues or increased government capacity and performance. Nevertheless, the attempt to develop and institutionalize the initiative has produced lessons critical to replication efforts elsewhere in the country as well as abroad.

This subnational case study explores RWI's work in Bayelsa State and lessons for improving resource management at the local level.