Although Nigeria prides herself as the most ambitious member of the 51 countries implementing the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) Standards based on the scope of work done, it has however, been a bitter sweet experience for Africa’s largest crude producer. e360 writes on the push to achieve implementation of remedial issues as captured in the country’s oil sector reports
Over the years, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) which is backed by an Act of Parliament to ensure transparency and accountability in the country’s oil sector, has turned out eight circles of independent audits of the oil and gas sector.
Usually these reports, due to the extent of disclosure of anomalies in the oil sector – resulting to huge losses to government – spark national debates once released. The unanimous agreement after the release of each audit report is that reforms are urgently needed in the sector.
The irony however, is that while NEITI audits have covered a period of 19 years, dating back to 1999, the industry continues to be plagued by same issues identified in the 1999 audit. This is because the recommendations in the reports, have been mostly ignored by those whose responsibility it is to ensure remediation.
The question seeking for answers is why will the country would be reluctant to implement recommendations capable of turning its fortunes around and ensuring better living for the citizens?
Attempting to help make sense of this, Nigeria’s current member of the Global EITI Board, Faith Nwadishi, exclusively told e360, that the lack of political will by the government was at the heart of the matter. She maintained that after several years of NEITI’s audit of the oil and gas sector, the situation has been both positive and negative – negative mostly because of the recurring remedial issues.
To achieve remediation, Nwadishi said a lot of courage is needed to change the status quo. She noted that Nigeria needs to see the EITI process as an important one capable of helping reform not just our extractive industry, but governance as a whole. “Not until we see it as that serious I don’t think whoever is supposed to bring to bear the political will to take the recommendations into consideration can, and we will continue going round in circles,” Nwadishi said.
Perhaps, an end to the years of circular movement is near, judging by the recent indication by parliament to step in and take the issue head on.
Members of the National Assembly at a retreat organised by NEITI recently pledged commitment to ensure implementation of outstanding remedial issues that has been flagged by the various NEITI reports. The members of parliament expressed readiness to establish a Parliamentary Forum on EITI which would address remediation issues.
The group expected to be drawn from relevant Committees in the Senate and House of Representatives will coordinate legislative actions on implementation of remedial issues identified by NEITI’s independent audit reports of the extractive industry.
The Lawmakers and their aides, who got better insight into the principles, processes, methods and benefits of EITI implementation in Nigeria and the role of the Legislature in the EITI value chain, after the Executive Secretary of NEITI, Mr. Waziri Adio addressed the retreat, decided that the proposed Parliamentary Forum will help coordinate the work of the various committees in addressing remedial issues.
The Forum is also expected to promote and strengthen intra-legislative committee relations, engagements and outreach on important issues that require urgent legislative intervention and advocacy, according to Mr. Adio.
e360 learnt that the Chairmen of the relevant committees on extractive industry issues in both the Nigerian Senate and the House of Representatives, after being exposed to the content of the NEITI reports, agreed that they were quite comprehensive in information and data, which are essential tools in national planning.
For the extensive work so far done by NEITI to have a very meaningful impact on the quality of lives of Nigerians, remediation must happen. This will help address issues of poor governance, inadequate metering infrastructure, under payments, under assessment, under remittance, gas flare, among others that has continuously plagued the industry.