Open it to fix it: How Nigerians are shedding light on public deals with data

O n a hot, dry day in February 2017, Nonye Onumonu boards a small wooden boat on the brackish waters of the Ezichi River, heading towards Umuem Anam, a remote community in southeast Nigeria. It’s a world away from the sprawling highways, grand buildings and manicured lawns of the country’s modern capital, Abuja, where the young woman began her journey.

Onumonu is a procurement monitor. She checks government schools to see whether the condition of the facilities match the official paperwork for the project. On this day, she is visiting the Nkwoji Migrant Fishermen Children primary school. It’s a five hour trip from the nearest town, and Onumonu is nervous.

When she learns that the latest renovation project has been abandoned, she asks the assistant headmaster why the students are using the building. The contract was awarded for more than 10 million naira (around US$32,600) in early 2015, according to public records, but no work has reportedly been done on the building since December that year.

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