The project focuses on how non-state actors collect transport revenue belonging to Lagos State, Nigeria’s richest state, and pocket it. Ana analysis of data shows that they amount of money collected by these non-state actors is $300 million annually. I checked the Lagos State financial statements to asvcertain whether government keeps record of their colections but did not find the record anywhere. I contacted Lagos State Internal Revenue Service and the Lagos State Ministry of Finance but neither could give account of the money. This is the first time anybody could use data to identify financial leakages in Lagos State
The project led to several rebuttals by the Lagos State government and the Lagos Internal Revenue Service. The Lagos State government claims it is now involved in the collection of transport taxes, though there is no evidence that corruption has stopped in the process.
I gathered information from local governments in Lagos State and used the information to obtain an average amount collected each day, month and year.
I was able to obtain the number of vehicles, tricycles and motorcycles in Lagos from open source tools and questionnaires obtained from drivers on Lagos roads, and transport touts.
I then used Canvas for visualisation.
What was the hardest part of this project?
It was very difficult to visit 21 out of 37 local government development areas in Lagos. Secondly, it was also difficult to obtain information from commercial vehicle divers and transport touts themselves. I had to accept to not publish their names before they could give out important information that supported the story.
Originally, I went out to seek information on how much these non-state actors collected each year, with the hope that government would have that. But when I could not get it from the government agencies that should have the records, I went through Lagos State’s financial statements. Government officials, including one mentioned in the story, wanted to meet me physcically to stop the story but I did not accept to meet him.
It involved some creativity to be able to generate the data myself, after intervewing up to 100 persons for the story. Interviewing those people at bus stops is hard as I was insulted and rebuffed on many occasions. Also, getting the pictures of the perpetrators was really hard. I had to use secret cameras to avoid “being caught” by the criminals who could have harmed me.
What can others learn from this project?
Journalists cam learn that it is possbible to get original data on any illegal transaction by government. All that is needed is to get micro data from the people involved and extrapolate to a larger population.
Doing this, however, involves skills .
Also, data should not be 100 per cent accurate before they are accepted as correct. The process of gathering data determines whether data is correct or not. So, journalists should pay attention to the process of gathering data, rather than just the final product.