Nigeria, others want transparency laws for extractive industry

Publish what you pay

Group campaigns for transparency laws to compel large private extractive companies to disclose their payments to governments worldwide.

Delegates from Nigeria and 59 other natural resource-rich countries on Monday called on European decision-makers to enact stronger laws to promote transparency in the oil, gas and mining industries in order to put a stop corruption.

The delegates have been involved in a decade long campaigning for an open and accountable extractive sector under the Publish What You Pay (PWYP) coalition.

The global gathering in Amsterdam attended by 250 delegates believe oil, gas and mining transparency law would help millions in resource-rich countries to fight corruption and break the jinx of resource-curse.

The conference is holding on the eve of planned vote by European lawmakers to revise the European Accounting and Transparency Directives, which include an essential requirement for EU-listed and large private extractive and forestry companies to disclose their payments to governments worldwide.

At the opening of the three-day event, PWYP International Director, Marinke Van Riet, said the coalition is looking forward to the proposed law. He believes the law would help in the groups continued campaigns for an open and accountable extractive sector.

“We look forward to the European Parliament for a strong vote this week. Our message is clear: only a rule with no loopholes and genuine disclosure for each and every extractive project will put the right information into the hands of those that really need it,” Mr. Van Riet said.

According to him, oil, gas and mining revenues are critically important for people in more than 60 developing and transition countries, pointing out that these countries have paradoxically been home to two-thirds of the world’s poorest people.

“ Despite receiving billions of dollars per year from extractive companies, these countries rank among the lowest in the world for poverty, low economic growth, authoritarian governance, conflict and political instability, suffering from what has come to be known as the ‘resource curse”, he said.

“Opaque and unaccountable management of natural resources leads to corruption and mismanagement of what should be a source of economic prosperity and development for the people of these countries,” he added.

Mr. Van Riet maintained that transparency has remained a crucial ingredient in the quest for a more accountable extractive sector, noting that through its public campaigns and advocacy, PWYP coalition has established transparency as a norm in the debate on good governance of the natural resource sector.

Held in the Netherlands, home to oil giant, Royal Dutch Shell, the dual-listed company is already required under Section 1504 of the US Dodd-Frank Act passed in 2010 to disclose all payments it makes in every country of its operation .

The Nigerian delegate to the conference, and National Coordinator, Publish What You Pay Nigeria, Faith Nwadishi, called on Shell and the newly elected Dutch government to embrace transparency and support the passage of a strong legislation in Europe.

“The PWYP coalition is ready to use this information to improve accountability in resource-rich countries”, said Ms. Nwadishi, who is also a member of the Board of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).

“These transparency laws will give us (civil society groups) the hard data we need to demand investment in services like health and education from our governments, rather than seeing the revenues from our valuable natural resources lost to corruption and mismanagement.”

The conference is expected to examine the role of transparency in turning natural resources into a blessing rather than a curse.

Participants would also look at how companies get access to resources, the licenses and contracts which determine who benefits from the exploitation of the resources, and how the revenues generated translate into development outcomes for the citizens of resource-rich countries.

Issues to be discussed include critical review of transparency initiatives such as the Voluntary Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative; national laws including Ghana’s Petroleum Revenue Management Act; and the Dodd-Frank Act. The conference will also consider new frameworks for determining whether a country is receiving a fair deal for the exploitation of its natural resources.