The Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, says it plans to come up with regular policy briefs on beneficial ownership in the oil and gas industry to deepen transparency and accountability in the country.
The Executive Secretary of NEITI, Waziri Adio, who disclosed this on Thursday during his official visit to the corporate headquarters of Premium Times Media Services in Abuja, said the publication would go beyond the agency’s normal annual audit reports to focus on the policy makers, players and issues about all aspects of the industry.
The Managing Director of PREMIUM TIMES, Dapo Olorunyomi, said he was excited with NEITI’s plan, as it tallied with the beneficial owners’ audit project the newspaper would soon come up with on the owners of assets in the country’s oil and industry.
Mr. Olorunyomi said the management of PREMIUM TIMES would be happy to partner with NEITI on the projects as part of its vision that journalism must change to become knowledge creators, to help promote values of good citizenship, including transparency accountability and good governance.
Beneficial ownership describes the “natural” person(s) who, directly or indirectly, ultimately own(s) or control(s) a corporate entity, a license or other property.
The new EITI Standard approved by its international board, which would come into effect by January 1, 2020, makes it mandatory for the identities of those who own and profit from extractive activities to be disclosed.
All member countries are expected to ensure that companies that bid for, operate or invest in extractive projects declare who their beneficial owners are.
During the visit, Mr. Adio said the proposed policy briefs would help create awareness among the citizens on the new Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, EITI principles of beneficial ownership in the extractive industry.
“We are coming up with policy briefs, which will take our mandate beyond the usual annual audits. If we produce only audit reports, it means we will have only one product to give to Nigerians throughout the year.
“There are so many data and information in the NEITI reports beyond the extractive sector that should be extracted and repackaged for Nigerians. The essence of it is to provide useful information that would help the people hold government to account,” Mr. Adio said.
Assuring that the 2013 annual oil and gas audit report would soon be published, the NEITI scribe said the agency was considering digitizing the document, by repackaging it in a format that would be attractive to Nigerians.
While appreciating the unique brand of journalism by PREMIUM TIMES, Mr. Adio said there were lines of convergence between it and NEITI’s role, urging its management to strengthen its effort to continue to promote transparency and accountability to give Nigerians the country of their dream.
“It is the responsibility the constitution has given journalists, to promote transparency and accountability in the management of the sector, which is the nerve centre of the country’s economy. If we have a better society, it will be good for all Nigerians and everyone would benefit,” he said.
“If we promote transparency, it will bring accountability, which will lead to an empowered citizenry, who will bring good governance and shared prosperity. It is not transparency and accountability for their sake, but for the common good of society,” he added.
He called on the media to help demystify the sector as too complex and technical, by reporting issues in a way that citizens would understand and connect with, pointing out that there were people benefiting from keeping that notion.
In his response, Mr. Olorunyomi described PREMIUM TIMES’ brand of journalism as unique and special, particularly as its series of investigative reporting have provided huge information to empower the people to hold government to account.
“The oil and gas sector is the most abused, opaque and unaccountable, despite NEITI’s efforts to open it up through its audit reports. The vision of NEITI is similar to PREMIUM TIMES. That is why your concept of policy briefs tallies with a project on beneficial owners’ audit we will soon come up on the owners of assets in the industry. We will be willing to partner with NEITI to move this process forward at the appropriate time,” Mr. Olorunyomi said.