Worried about the opacity of contracts in Nigeria’s extractive industry, in spite of its strategic importance to the lives and welfare of citizens, a coalition of civil society network has called on the federal government to urgently begin the process of adoption and implementation of a framework to implement contract transparency in the extractive industry.
The coalition known as Contract Transparency Network (CONTRANET), comprising of members drawn from the media, rights groups, and community-based organizations is focused on deepening transparency and accountability across the value chain of the sector by making contracts open for citizens’ engagement.
The Network noted that natural resources belong to the Nigerian people while the government only acts on behalf of citizens, hence government should be transparent when they enter into contracts for the extraction and sale of oil and gas, and other mineral assets.
According to the group, the current practice in which contracts entered into by government are negotiated and held in secrecy, negates the globally accepted practice of transparency and accountability and predisposes the sector to corruption, unfavourable contracts and revenue loss to the nation.
“Such scandals and potential loss to the nation as exemplified by the legal tussle in relation to Gas Supply Purchasing Agreement (GSPA) between Nigeria and Process and Industrial Developments (P&ID), could have been avoided if contract transparency is adopted as a policy,” CONTRANET said in a statement issued in Abuja.
The statement added that “the practice of keeping contracts secret between companies and an exclusive group of government officials breeds suspicion and distrust between government and citizens as to whose interest. The concerns that making extractive contracts open to the public is inimical to the commercial interest and competitive edge of companies is no longer sustainable as the practice is now common in several other parts of the world.”
While underscoring the need to adopt the practice, the Network added that contract transparency is compatible with the anti-corruption thrust of the present administration and constitutes a major way to consolidate anticorruption efforts in the extractive sector.
Recalling Nigeria’s commitment to contract transparency on international platforms, such as the London Anticorruption Summit in 2016; the Open Government Partnership, as well as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative to which Nigeria has subscribed since 2004, the group said these cannot be reneged, and urged government to make contracts entered into in the sector available to the public in line with these international commitments and best practices.
The group further, recommended that government should commence multi-stakeholder consultations on how to proceed with the implementation of contract transparency in the extractive sector in accordance with all her international commitments.
To begin with, the Network recommended that the ministry of petroleum resources, ministry of mines and steel development, the NNPC and Mining Cadastre Office, respectively, should collaborate with the NEITI and other stakeholders, including civil society, to develop and adopt a Framework for the implementation of contract transparency in the extractive sector in Nigeria.
They also called for a process to commence the review of the necessary legislative and policy frameworks that will make the implementation of contract transparency in the extractive sector in Nigeria a reality,
Members of CONTRANET include, Centre for Transparency Advocacy, Publish What You Pay (Nigeria), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Global Rights, Woman in Extractive, among others.