The outgoing Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Zainab Ahmed, on Tuesday handed over the management of the agency to the Director of Communications of the agency, Ogbannaya Orji.
Mrs. Ahmed is one of President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministerial nominees confirmed last week by the Senate.
In her valedictory speech Tuesday, Mrs. Ahmed described her appointment as not a personal recognition, but an acknowledgement of the importance of NEITI’s role in the country.
“The appointment is therefore a key achievement for all of us. It is one of the major impacts of EITI in Nigeria and a positive acknowledgement of the work we have all collectively done in the last five years,” Mrs. Ahmed noted.
The outgoing NEITI secretary said she took over the secretariat and board of the agency at a time they were facing clear challenges, including threat of possible suspension from the global EITI for failure to meet the basic validation requirements.
On assumption of office, she said the new team in NEITI produced a comprehensive strategy to urgently reposition the agency to perform its national responsibilities, particularly timely compliance to international obligations as a member of the global EITI.
Apart from addressing outstanding requirements to meet EITI validation and put Nigeria on the EITI Compliant Status in March, 2011, she said measures were also taken for NEITI audit reports to be more regular, current and comprehensive in content.
“We equally revised our communications strategy to be able to commence aggressive stakeholders engagement with the media, civil society organizations, CSOs, companies, legislature and government at different levels.
“Our strategy also defined a new approach for working with the global EITI. Other measures taken include aggressive public awareness, legislative outreach and steps to secure institutional-confidence and buy-in,” she said.
Other achievements, which she said laid the foundation for the development of NEITI five-year Strategic Plan (2012-2016), include reviving and strengthening the Inter-Ministerial Task Team, IMTT, on implementation of NEITI reports and bringing development partners to play strategic roles in NEITI process.
Apart from regular reporting, recovery of huge revenues of over $2.4 billion as a result of under-assessment and under-payment in taxes, royalties, signature bonuses into the Federation account, she said NEITI had extended the quality and scope of its audits to the solid minerals sector.
Over $7billion recoverable revenue to government was also disclosed, she said.
Besides, the oil, gas and solid minerals sectors audits for 2013, Mrs. Ahmed said, have since been completed waiting approval by the next NEITI Board.
To check the issue of late audit reports, she said NEITI is currently implementing a project to automate the entire audit processes to make the exercise more cost efficient, timely, current, regular and more relevant for economic and development planning.
She commended the president for the political will to implement the recommendations in the NEITI audit reports, particularly on the poor management of the Joint Venture Cash Calls, the need for open and competitive bidding in the allocation of oil blocks, oil theft and metering for accurate measurement of crude oil.