The pioneer chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nuhu Ribadu, has said though there is improvement in oil and gas transparency under President Muhammadu Buhari, there is still the need for increased transparency in the sector.
Delivering a keynote at a public lecture and unveiling of an industry magazine, The ValueChainn on Tuesday in Abuja, Mr Ribadu said transparency is important not only for accountability but also growth of the industry.
“Transparency in the oil and gas industry is not only a desirability but an essential requirement, if we desire to make the most of these God given resources. Openness is important and it helps natural resource governance from the point of exploration up to the judicious utilisation of what is made from those resources.”
Mr Ribadu was also chairman of the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force established by the Nigerian government in 2012.
He acknowledged that years of mismanagement oil resources “have bred despair and misgivings among citizens and observers alike, giving rise to the dictum of ‘oil curse.”
Mr Ribadu however said the issue with the Nigerian oil resources was not a curse but “illusive culture of transparency and accountability which characterise the Nigerian oil industry almost from inception.”
He said for decades Nigeria has lost significant portion of its oil revenues to illegalities and corruption at the point of exploration and production as well as lack of transparency in contracting and licensing processes.
The former EFCC chairman however said the country has not done badly in instituting measures to address issues of transparency.
“Aside from the NEITI, Nigeria has adopted a number of best practice protocols which led to laws such as Public Procurement Act, Fiscal Responsibility and even Freedom of Information Act. All these are tools that are targeted at demand for transparency and opening up the public sector, including the oil and gas industry.”
He said Nigeria has also done a lot in arresting corruption through law enforcement.
“In terms of enforcement, Nigeria has established two anticorruption agencies and the EFCC has sweeping powers on investigating economic crimes in general, which made it conduct many investigations in this industry. Nigeria is in the forefront and most successful in fighting corruption among all natural resource rich countries. Some of the biggest corruption cases in the industry are from Nigeria, namely the Halliburton and Malabu scandals,” he said.
Mr Ribadu lauded President Buhari’s attitude to stay away from allocating oil blocks or dabbling into contracting in the industry, saying those who manage the sector require that independence to operate effectively.
While commending the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for introducing a number of transparency measures, including publishing its monthly operational record, Mr Ribadu urged NNPC’s management to open up its financial processes to avoid confrontations as the one it encounters with states.
Mr Ribadu further advocated for strengthening the Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) as a watchdog of the industry.
“No matter the internal reforms, you still need a dispassionate outsider in the form of NEITI to ensure checks and balance. The federal government should ensure that this important industry arbiter is supported both in terms of physical needs and the political will to make sure that the very incisive reports they churn out are implemented.”
Mr Ribadu also made a case for opening beneficial ownership register to further open up the contracting process and enable everybody know who is behind what company and other contracting details.
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