UNDERCOVER: Bribes, cartel and conspiracy… inside Nigeria’s booming petrol smuggling trade’

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: Nigeria

Publishing organisation: TheCable (www.thecable.ng)

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 2022-04-23

Language: English

Authors: 1. Tunde Omolehin, 2. James Ojo, 3. Chinedu Asadu.


Tunde Omolehin – an award-winning Journalist and long-time correspondent with most leading Nigerian media outlets has many accolades to his works, including being named among the winners of the Migration Reporting Award in 2022.

Chinedu Asadu – who now works with the Associated Press (AP), an American non-profit news agency, was a former Investigative Reporter with TheCable, and has several awards to his credit including TheCable Journalist of the Year (2020).

James Ojo – is a Mass Communication graduate from University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) works with TheCable as an Investigative Reporter. He jointly won the Newspaper’s Journalist of the Year (2022).

Project description:

UNDERCOVER: Bribes, cartel and conspiracy… inside Nigeria’s booming petrol smuggling trade’ was a collaborative investigative work that documented how Nigerian security operatives paved the way for the lucrative fuel smuggling business smuggled across her porous borders of Benin Republic, Niger Republic and Cameroon.

Impact reached:

Following the story’s publication, it drew the public’s attention (for the first time) to these illicit deals on petrol products by residents within border communities in Nigeria, hence, forcing the Nigerian Government to announce a restriction order of selling petrol products within some border communities.

It helps expose various amounts of bribes paid to corrupt security agencies by smugglers to transport freely smuggled petrol products across these borders which vary “from N2 million, N5 million or N1.5 million.” This helped heads of Nigerian Security Agencies to take administrative measures against such culprits, for instance, with the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) in an official statement announcing efforts to tackle the menace and weed out “bad eggs” within the agency.

Techniques/technologies used:

We deployed various Multimedia tools I.e, Spy cameras were used to capture various security guards identified in the bribe scandal. Smartphones were used for effective communications and recording of voices of some respondents. Microsoft Productivity Tools were used to further analyze figures and raw data. While Canva and PowerDirector tools are used to produce bith videography and infographic.

Context about the project:

The Reporters was able to overcome issues of language and communication encountered among some localities of these countries. Also, It was a known fact that the story was done in the wake of ongoing insecurity in Nigeria; as a result of banditry and Islamic insurgency activities operating within some border communities and forests of Niger Republic and Cameroon, hence, exposed all the Reporters to a consistent fear of being caught on the fieldwork by armed bandits.

Aside this, two of these reporters who went undercover in Niger Republic and Cameroon communities during their fieldworks were faced with harassment and threat of arrest from security guards at both Ilela and Ekot border towns after being exposed by unsuspected locals whom they were earlier confined with vital information about the reporters.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

The unique idea of this reporting project was its CROSS-BORDER collaborative approach. This could be a pace setter for other Journalists across the Africa continent to explore similar reporting patterns on issues of migration, border crimes, trans-trade potentials among neighbouring countries.

Project links: