The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative says government hardly implements its recommendations on accountability in the extractive industry.
The deliberate inactions of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and those of other Peoples Democratic Party governments since 1999 have encouraged corruption and obfuscation in the Nigerian oil industry, an agency has stated.
The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, on Monday, expressed frustration in its efforts to boost the level of transparency and accountability in the oil and gas industry.
The agency blamed the federal government for Nigeria’s recent poor ranking in the global Resource Governance Index, RGI, report of the Revenue Watch Institute, RWI.
RWI, in the report, which measured the quality of the extractive industries governance in 58 resource-rich countries across the world, ranked Nigeria 40th, with a score that showed the country’s extractive industries governance as ‘very weak’.
The assessment conducted on the quality of four key governance components, namely Institutional and Legal Setting; Reporting Practices; Safeguards and Quality Controls, and Enabling Environment, showed that Nigeria fared better in institutional and legal setting, as a result of the existence of several legislation on openness and transparency, including NEITI Act, 2007 and Freedom of Information Act, while being rated poorly on the enabling environment.
Failure since 1999
Frowning at the rating, NEITI said, as an agency set up with a mandate to enthrone transparency, accountability and good governance in the country’s extractive sector, it is concerned that its efforts are not yielding desired results as a result of “the slow pace of implementation of findings and recommendations contained in series of its audit reports since 1999.”
“Although an Inter-Ministerial Task Team was set up to address the findings and recommendations of NEITI audit reports under a remediation plan developed by the team, implementation by affected government agencies have recorded little progress,” the agency lamented in a statement by its Director of Communications, Ogbonnaya Orji.
“For instance, NEITI audit reports have consistently recommended inter-agency collaboration to recover an outstanding sum of $9.6 billion from companies (indicted in the audit reports, including the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, for refusing to pay to government various revenues). This fund was uncovered by NEITI as underpayment, under-assessment and variance in royalties, signature bonuses, levies and taxes owed to the Federation.”
According to Mr. Orji, NEITI audit reports also highlighted the need for openness and competition in the conduct of bids round for allocation of oil blocks, review of existing contracts with companies, efficient and reliable metering regime for measurement of crude.
President Jonathan and the petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, have been accused in previous investigations by journalists including the now rested NEXT Newspapers of serial violations of Nigerian laws in the allocation of oil blocks and oil export licenses.
Other recommendations that NEITI has made but which have been ignored by the successive federal governments include automation of data gathering and records keeping process, and transparency and accountability in management of revenue flows from companies to the Federation account. Mr. Orji pointed out that Nigeria could have fared better if these identified remedial issues were promptly addressed by government.
FG must commence implementation
While welcoming global assessment like that of the RWI, NEITI said it “strongly believes that for Nigeria to record significant improvement in such global ranking in future, there is need for prompt implementation of findings and recommendations contained in its audit reports.”
It reiterated the demand for swift passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, now before the National Assembly for approval, adding that when passed into law, the Bill would address substantial issues raised in its reports.