By Juliet Ukanwosu
The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) will tomorrow Tuesday, May 18, hold a Stakeholders Validation meeting, ahead of the release of the 2019 Oil and Gas, as well as the Solid Minerals sector audit reports.
Last month, NEITI revealed that the reports commissioned by the agency were ready but cannot be released due to the absence of a Board to approve it. The NEITI Governing Board known as the National Stakeholders Working Group (NSWG) is a 14member group drawn from the government, companies, civil society, academia, organized labour, industry experts as well as one representative each from the country’s six geo political zones.
Speaking exclusively with extractive 360 via a telephone interview, NEITI’s Head of Communications and Advocacy, Obiageli Onuorah, explained that Nigeria got the approval of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) to, in the absence of a board, convey a diverse stakeholders meeting to review and validate the report before proceeding to release it.
She explained that the EITI adopted this provision because of the Covid 19 pandemic which has resulted in instability in the way businesses are being conducted over the past one year.
“In our case, because we don’t have a Board now, the EITI is saying that we must consult widely. All diverse stakeholders groups must be aware of the report; they must get the report well ahead of time to study it and validate the report before we can go ahead and release it,” Onuorah told extractive 360.
On why this approval type wasn’t gotten in 2016 when the absence of a Board similarly delayed the release of NEITI audit reports resulting in a near suspension on Nigeria by the EITI, she explained that this is an exemption rule adopted by the EITI because of the new world order which discourages the gathering of people.
She clarified however, that if a Board was in place, the validation and approval would have been done by the Board, without Nigeria having recourse to the EITI exemption Rule that allows for stakeholders validation and approval due to the Covid 19 restrictions.
Prior to tomorrow’s Validation meeting, the organization had widely shared draft copies of the report to key stakeholders in the NEITI process and extractive industry reforms, for their review and comments.
The meeting which will convey companies, government, civil society and the media is scheduled to hold virtually on Zoom, where stakeholders will review and endorse the report before its final release.
The NEITI Board is appointed by the President for a non-renewable five year tenure, and is responsible for approving the agency’s activities such as the audit reports before it can be released. The composition of the Board is a core requirement of the EITI. The last Board whose tenure expired in February was appointed in 2016.