President Jonathan argues that EITI should treat stolen crude like blood diamonds.
President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday in Abuja implored the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) to lend its mechanisms in support of Nigeria’s effort to track down the perpetrators of illegal export of stolen crude oil from the country.
The rising incidence of pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft has accounted for the country’s declining oil production and export, which has in turn resulted in the drastic reduction in the overall oil revenue earnings in recent times.
Desperate to end the twin malaise, President Jonathan, who does not miss every opportunity to enlist the support of individuals, groups and international agencies to help curb the problems, also urged the International Chair of EITI, Claire Short, to join the crusade to identify and punish illegal buyers and refiners of stolen crude oil from Nigeria.
“The efforts of EITI in criminalizing ‘blood diamonds’ from African mines have helped in curtailing that illegal business. I urge you to also support Nigeria as we confront the forces stealing and exporting Nigerian crude oil,” President Jonathan said.
“The theft of crude oil from Nigeria involves the collusion of foreigners, while the stolen crude is refined abroad. EITI can use its mechanisms to help us track down the thieves and those who receive the stolen crude oil.”
The president, who noted that Africa was losing a lot of revenue through leakages in its mining and extractive industries, also enjoined Mrs. Short to help in bringing to an end the illegal exploitation of Nigeria and other African nations by multinational companies engaged in the extraction of the continent’s huge natural resources.
He acknowledged EITI’s efforts to discourage exploitation and corruption in the extractive industries across the world, and assured Mrs. Short that Nigeria would continue to do everything within its powers to achieve greater openness and transparency in its oil and gas and mining sectors.
In her remarks, Mrs. Short told President Jonathan that she was in Nigeria as part of EITI’s ongoing efforts to monitor the progress of EITI compliant countries, which she said Nigeria was a leading member.
She said the global organization, whose objective was to promote transparency and accountability in the extractive industries, would continue to ensure that oil, gas and other mineral resources of countries were well managed and utilized for the benefit of their citizens.
Meanwhile, during her interaction with civil society groups and the media, the EITI International Chair said she received assurances from President Jonathan for stronger commitment towards raising the level of representation in the EITI implementation committee in Nigeria to enable the relevant government agencies come together to discuss the recommended reforms to promote transparency in the extractive industries.
She commended the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) for playing a leading role in mainstreaming the EITI principles and processes in the global extractive industries, pointing out the agency was doing a better job than most countries by regularly publishing audit reports that give citizens the right information that enables them ask informed questions about what the revenue realized from extractive industries were used for.
”The point that we are now in the EITI process is that the recommended reforms in Nigeria must be driven forward. We are at the brink of greater things in Nigeria,” she said. “NEITI alone cannot transform Nigeria. It needs the support of the civil society, the media and general public to agree on the sort of reforms they want.”
She allayed fears that Nigeria might be de-listed from the membership of the global agency, pointing out she did not see the possibility of the country losing its status as EITI implementing country, as its commitment to the transparency process was very strong.
On the role of EITI in helping recover stolen monies from extractive industries in Africa and those taken abroad in illicit transfers to various tax havens, Mrs Short said the agency did not have the capacity to directly influence action in that direction, as its duty was limited to exposing the numbers and data in each country’s extractive industries to enable citizens ask questions about what the government is doing with the revenue.
She challenged Nigerians to take ownership of the EITI process in the country and ensure that the various remediation reforms initiated by NEITI were implemented accordingly, pointing out that realising that objective depended entirely on Nigerians who can come together to demand reforms as part of the democratic process in the country.
Executive Secretary, NEITI, Zainab Ahmed, said at the occasion that the President would next week inaugurate the expanded inter-ministerial implementation committee on the EITI process to ensure greater synergy in NEITI’s investigations and facilitate the implementation of recommendations from its audit reports for greater probity in Nigeria’s oil industry.
Mrs. Ahmed said the committee would be composed of top government officials with the powers to implement the recommendation in the various audit reports, including all the regulators and other key players in the oil and gas industry as well as the mining sector to ensure that all the laspses reported in the various audit reports by NEITI are corrected
”With the approval, top ranking government officials, including Permanent Secretaries, Directors-General, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor or his deputy, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) Chairman and others, are now members, to ensure that those that attend the meetings have the authority and powers to effect the corrections identified in the reports,” Mrs. Ahmed said.
She said the work of the committee in the past was hampered because the representation was not high level enough, such that most of the recommendations contained in the NEITI audit reports were usually ignored.
NEITI’s responsibilities, she pointed out, were limited to reporting the findings in its audits, monitor the process of recovery of taxes, while the respective agencies, like the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), have the duty to go after the affected agencies to collect the revenues involved.
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