NotebookGate series unveiled how contracts worth N1.294 billion ($2.901 million.) were awarded to companies owned by cronies between 2019& 2021 in abuse of procurement laws of Oyo state.
The team at Dataphyte had scraped thousands of public contract data from an open government portal maintained by the Oyo state government & during the data cleaning process, found tons of anomalies.
The investigation exposed contract inflation & exposed how these cronies used briefcase companies to win the government contracts.
The investigation deployed OSINT and social network analysis tools to link the beneficial owners of the briefcase companies to the State governor, Seyi Makinde.
After publishing the first part of the series, the Oyo state governor promised to [[resign]](ht(httpshttps://www.vanguardngr.com/2022/04/alleged-n998m-fraud-in-oyo-makinde-threatens-to-resign-if/amp/://)tps://) if findings of the investigations were found to be true, he also threatened litigation.
The state government also circulated press statements denying the revelations by the investigations.
However, publication of a second and third part investigative series of the #NotebookGate, led to outrage by CSOs, and citizens who called for the Governor to keep his words and [https://independent.ng/notebook-contract-scandal-its-time-to-resign-as-threatened-oyo-apc-tells-makinde/](https://). It has also led to social media campaigns in demand for accountability.
The report has been aired on different radio stations, elicited calls for the house of assembly in the state to wade into the revelations and has been published locally and internationally (online and print). The state government has been issuing endless press releases to wade off pressure constantly mounting on it over demand for accountability.
The investigative series has also become a template for journalists in Nigeria to expose open contracting fraud, with many journalists and media houses now using the standard, a development that has strengthened accountability and contracting transparency in the country.
This is key given that 60% of corruption in the country is tied to contract, an issue that is changing and receiving more attention after #NotebookGate series.
It has also called keen attention to beneficial ownership usage in the country.
The Open Contracting Partnership, an international orgnisation commented the #NotebookGate investigation is one of the [leading](httphttps://opencontracting.substack.com/p/contracts-data-and-investigations-35bs://) in the world, recognizing its place in sharpening discussions on contracting transparency, beneficial ownership and transparency.
The report has also earned nationwide recognition from the Wole Soyinka Investigative Reporting [Awards](hhttps://www.dataphyte.com/latest-reports/dataphyte-journalist-shortlisted-for-wole-soyinka-investigative-journalism-award/ttps://) as well as the PWC [awards](httphttps://www.dataphyte.com/latest-reports/opportunities/dataphytes-journalist-shines-at-2022-pwc-media-excellence-award/s://).
The investigation deployed use of spreadsheet for download thousands of entries from the open contracting data from the Oyo state Open contracting portal. We also used scraper to download tabular tables from the Oyo state portal.
We analysed beneficial ownership data of 45mb with over 100,000 rows .
The beneficial ownership data were sourced from the Corporate Affairs Commission of the country while the team also scraped data from B2bHint through Python to complement what was gotten from the Corporate Affairs Commission portal.
The investigation deployed OSINT to run a social network analysis, tracing the social record and history of the company owners and the state governor, linking them after the analysis.
Context about the project:
After publication of the first part report, the state government threatened legal action, claiming that the report was untrue.
However, in the face of such attempt to stiffle the investigation, two other series of investigations were released under the NotebookGate.
This came under some security duress and was a move from the norm where state actors try to stiffle the press in Nigeria and in the process kill a report.
However, the boldness in going on to further expose corruption despite state threats has been commended by many.
During this report, there was an undercover report to trace how the companies’ address listed on the Corporate Affairs Commission were not occupied by the companies’ they are listed against, in a case of briefcase companies’. The reporter had to use pseudonyms so as to ensure some security protection.
It also took some rigorous efforts to analyse the large data set and use different tools to arrive at the expose. The social network analyses took serious record tracing, social record analysis to establish such relationships between owners and also with the Oyo state governor.
What can other journalists learn from this project?
Journalists can learn the importance of beneficial ownership in investigation and how to further use data to ensure accountability.
This report is further important as it showed the need to ensure investigations focused at the sub-national level.
The project has also shown that there is a need to consciously be bold to using data to hold the government to account in face of attempts to stiffle such efforts, as data remains the most viable tool to ensuring fact based investigative journalism.