By Juliet Ukanwosu
The Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) Dr Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, has vowed that under his watch the agency will explore all possible avenues to sustain efforts on the enthronement of transparency and accountability in Nigeria’s extractive industries.
The strategies he said, would include training and retraining of NEITI staff, its media partners and civil society organizations with focus on the extractive sectors as well as extending and strengthening collaborations with other relevant anti-corruption agencies.
He added that improved engagement with covered entities in the NEITI audit process is also part of the strategy to ensure a seamless and timely audit circles and achieve remediation while creating a healthy business environment and increased revenue for the country.
Making these disclosures at the opening of a capacity building workshop for journalists on Tuesday in Maraba, Nasarawa State, the NEITI boss stated that training for journalists became necessary considering the strategic importance of the media to the EITI implementation process as well as its crucial roles in the ongoing reforms in Nigeria’s oil, gas and mining sectors.
“NEITI deems it of utmost importance to build your capacity as media professionals to understand the EITI/NEITI process in other for you to report the sector and drive the reforms that is so very crucial for the survival of the Nigerian extractive sector, particularly now when Nigerians and the world eagerly await the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) into law,” he said.
He explained that the media training have been put together considering the fact that the implementation of the global EITI is constantly evolving, necessitating the need to expose journalists reporting the extractives sector in Nigeria to these emerging issues.
Dr Orji (middle) speaking during a similar meeting with CSOs in Abuja on Tuesday
Recall that in 2019, the global EITI revised its standards and expanded implementation to cover emerging issues such as beneficial ownership, contract transparency, gender and environmental reporting which member countries, including Nigeria, are expected to implement.
“The media remains one of our most reliable allies in the struggle for the enthronement of transparency and accountability in Nigeria’s extractive industries. I assure you that our engagements with you will henceforth be driven and guided by the global EITI’s protocols on stakeholders’ engagements for better oversight of the extractive industries in Nigeria,” Orji said.
He further reiterated his resolve to ensure that NEITI under his leadership will prioritize the need to link the agency’s regular extractive industry audit reports to visible results and impacts. This he said will be done by working closely with relevant government agencies that have responsibility on the implementation of the recommendations and remedial issues highlighted in the various NEITI audit reports.
To this end, he charged the media to interrogate the EITI/NEITI process constructively and ensure that data and information contained in the reports are used to push for policy reforms as well as tools to hold government and companies to account.
On the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) Orji disclosed that NEITI has not only joined the debate that the future of the oil and gas industry in Nigeria depends on the passage of the bill, but that the agency has actively supported the legislative process by working very closely with the relevant committees in the National Assembly, providing them with information and data to facilitate their work.