Nov. 5 (PREMIUM TIMES) — Issues thrown up in the report of the Nuhu Ribadu-led Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force submitted to President Goodluck Jonathan on Friday in Abuja have strengthened calls from concerned petroleum industry stakeholders for the amendment of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, enabling Act to empower it to realize its mandate.
NEITI is the Nigerian subset of the global Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, EITI, established through the instrumentation of the provisions of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Act 2007 with a mandate to promote due process, transparency and accountability in the management of Nigeria’s extractive industries revenues.
But, since Nigeria’s voluntary membership subscription to the global principles and objectives of EITI since 2003, stakeholders have noted the inability of NEITI to assert its authority and realize this mandate over the years primarily as a result of inadequate constitutional powers to enforce the recommendations contained in the three industry audits so far conducted since 1999 to date.
Chairman, National Stakeholders Working Group, NSWG, which is the Board of NEITI, Ledum Mitee, said in a statement on Sunday in Abuja that the finding contained in the Ribadu Panel reports has reinforced the need for the Federal Government and the National Assembly to take steps to urgently review the NEITI Act in the country’s interest.
“The reported findings of the Ribadu committee are not surprising, rather it follows the trend of NEITI audits, given the prevailing poor institutional linkages, systematic leakages, poor legal framework, governance and process lapses, which appear to characterize business ethics in the oil and gas industry in Nigeria over the years,” he said.
“Each of the previous NEITI audits had not only clearly identified financial, physical and process lapses, but also uncovered a loss of over $2.6billion from underpayments, under-assessments, poor judgment in the computations of volume of crude sales and other leakages only.
“The reports equally showed a total of $9.8 billion – about N1.373 trillion – as outstanding recoverable revenue due to the Federation Account from the companies operating in the various sectors of the country’s oil and gas industry. The Ribadu Panel Report has re-opened a compelling and urgent case for necessary follow-through actions on remedial issues already identified and recommended by the extant NEITI reports.”
Though NEITI has always expressed concern about the lack of sufficient effort by the relevant revenue collection government agencies to recover the monies from the affected companies, he said absence of the necessary enabling enforcement powers for NEITI has continued to hamper efforts to remedy identified issues.
“NEITI industry audits have consistently identified and highlighted the problems within the petroleum sector, proposed solutions and ways to implement them, but implementation of these recommendations and remediation issues have remained a major challenge in spite of the efforts of NEITI under the Inter- Ministerial Task Team set up by the Federal Government for these purposes,” Mr. Mitee said.
“There is nothing new being highlighted in the reported findings of the Ribadu Panel that was not covered by the three NEITI audit reports. Rather Ribadu panel report has clearly underscored the need to further strengthen NEITI through necessary amendments to its enabling Act to give it the necessary enforcement powers as well as visible steps to implement the findings and recommendations of in its audit reports.”
While the publication of the full report of the Ribadu Panel and government action is being awaited, the NEITI Board Chairman reiterated the agency’s call for a coordinated and concerted effort by all stakeholders, including the media, civil society, operating companies, governments at all levels and the public, for the speedy passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, with clear contents and provisions that would bring about accountability, openness, competition, competence and integrity as well as promote investment-friendly environment in our oil and gas industry.