The immediate re-constitution of the National Stakeholders Working Group (NSWG) of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) by the federal government has shown Nigeria’s continued commitment to the global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) process.
Executive Director, Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), David Ugolor, said on Thursday that the reconstitution of the NSWG has rekindled hope that Nigeria may escape the suspension from the global transparency and accountability group for breaching the group’s operational principles and guidelines.
In recent months, Nigeria was facing the threat of a possible suspension from the 49-member EITI for failure to publish the 2013 NEITI oil and gas audit report on or before the December 31, 2015 deadline,
The publication of the audit report before the expiration of December 31 of every successive year is a mandatory obligation by all EITI member countries, failure for which it would attract instant suspension.
Although a defaulting member-country is entitled to a maximum of six months window within which to resolve the issues and publish the report, further failure would result in stiffer sanctions, including a possible expulsion.
EITI’s Deputy Head and Regional Director for Africa and the Middle East, Eddie Reich, had, during his recent visit to Nigeria, said the country was virtually on the verge of suspension from the global transparency body unless the report was submitted within the next six months.
Nigeria could not meet the deadline for the publication following the dissolution of the Boards of federal agencies last August by President Muhammadu Buhari, including that of NEITI.
The EITI principles and guidelines recognize and accept only audit reports approved and published by the implementing countries’ multi-stakeholders group, the NSWG, or the Board, which is the highest decision-making body of the transparency agency.
The EITI International Board was scheduled to meet on February 22 at Lima, Peru to take a number of decisions, including perhaps the ratification of Nigeria’s suspension from the group.
Mr. Ugolor said on Thursday that the decision of the federal government to reconstitute the NEITI Board was a demonstration of good faith and would help stave off the pressure for Nigeria’s suspension from EITI.
“We commend President Muhammadu Buhari for this decision. But, we ask that he should immediately inaugurate the NSWG Board, for them to hit the ground running, to beat all deadlines associated with the EITI standards and values which Nigeria is currently in breach,” Mr. Ugolor said.
Mr. Ugolor noted the appointment of a journalist, Waziri Adio,as Executive Secretary and head of the NEITI Secretariat, pointing out that given his rich background on public policy and as a former director of Communications of NEITI, his experience would be of good value to the system.
“We have no doubt about Waziri Adio’s capacity to deliver on NEITI’s mandate and we consider his appointment as a round peg in a round hole,” Mr. Ugolor said.
“His appointment and the new board have sent the right signal to the EITI International board that Nigeria is committed to the EITI process and therefore the need to re-consider its pending suspension of Nigeria from the global body.
Mr. Ugolor, who described federal government action as “a positive step in the right direction”, expressed confidence that all outstanding issues with the EITI would be resolved soon.