For the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, to effectively discharge its mandate of promoting transparency and accountability in the country’s oil and gas industry, the agency deserves more powers, participants at a roundtable on the review of the NEITI Act of 2007 said on Thursday in Abuja.
“The NEITI needs more powers to effectively police and monitor the oil, gas and mining industries given the present commitment to reform the extractive sector and enthrone transparency and accountability,” the participants, which included industry experts, academics, civil society groups and the media, said.
The talks, chaired by Senators Ahmed Lawan, and Shehu Sani, was organized with the support of the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime, UNODC.
A former chairman of NEITI Board, Assisi Asobie, was in attendance, along with other former members of the Board, representatives of companies, donors and multi-lateral organizations.
The roundtable was convened to examine ways to strengthen the agency with more powers to conform with ongoing comprehensive reforms and diversification policy plans for the extractive industry.
The participants canvassed for more powers for NEITI in recognition of the agency’s work in the face of difficult circumstances.
The various areas in the NEITI law identified for possible amendment by the National Assembly include the provisions for funding; access to information; inclusion of confidentiality clauses in joint venture contracts; structure of the governing board; the powers of the Executive Secretary and the ability of NEITI to enforce sanctions against defaulting operators.
Specifically, the Roundtable proposed a funding model that would enable NEITI draw financing for its activities directly from the Natural Resources Development Fund, like the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, and other special intervention agencies.
It also recommended that a certain percentage of revenues recovered from oil, gas and mining companies as a result of NEITI’s intervention, be granted to agency to finance its operations.
Under the proposed review, contributors said the composition of the National State Working Group, NSWG, which is the NEITI Board, should include experienced professionals with track record of competence and integrity as against politicians with little or no interest on the mission and vision of the global EITI.
Nigeria, which joined the global EITI in 2003, established NEITI in 2004. The NEITI Act of 2007 was to support the policy with a specific law to guide its independent audit reports, which led to the disclosure of over $9.8 billion.
The amount represented cases of under-payments, under-assessment and questionable interpretation of agreements and memoranda of understanding, MoU, between Nigeria and the companies operating in the sector.
Out of the amount, NEITI, working closely with relevant agencies, recovered over $2.4 billion, with about $7.4 billion still outstanding.