- FG needs political will to implement audit reports
The Executive Secretary of Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Mr. Waziri Adio, has stated that the agency has recorded tremendous progress since it was established, stressing that the country requires a political will to implement the various audit reports and recommendations of the organisation.
Speaking yesterday when he visited the Corporate Head Office of THISDAY in Lagos, Adio argued that though the agency had not attained perfection, it had published audit reports to enable the Nigerian people ask questions on the management of their natural resources.
Adio noted that what the country requires is the political will to implement the reports, adding that nothing will be achieved when audit reports and recommendations are presented to a government that is not interested in making a change.
He revealed that having conducted six audits in the oil and gas sector and four in solid minerals sector, NEITI has given Nigerians empirical data to hold government to account and solicited the cooperation of the media and the civil-society to ensure that everybody understands the issues in the agency’s reports.
“If you flash back to 2004, there was nothing to work with – no data to work with. You could only work with assumptions and companies because there was no empirical data done by an independent body that will tell you that this is the volume of oil lifted; this is the amount of money made; and this is money that was not remitted that should be remitted. So, a lot has happened in the last 12 years. At least, we have data to work with. We argue not on the basis that we got perfection but that at least, people can now ask questions using the reports by NEITI. People can use NEITI reports to ask questions. That is number one. secondly is that if you have noticed, a number of things have also changed overtime. Maybe, they have not changed as we want them but I don’t want to believe that we are exactly where we were in 2004 in terms of evidence that the citizens can use. Yes, I will agree with you that maybe, we need to engage more with citizens; may be; we need to engage more with policy makers to bring about the change, he explained.
Adio further revealed that based on past recommendations of the NEITI reports, the money that could not be accounted for from the sale of oil resources has reduced to less than $500,000 from the excess of $300 million recorded in the first NEITI auditwhich he described it as a great improvement.
According to him, even gas flaring has reduced, while the level of cooperation the agency receives from the oil and gas companies has improved tremendously.
He identified the recent unbundling of the NNPC, the ref
orm in the corporation, the removal of petrol subsidy and the introduction of Treasury Single Account (TSA) as some of the recommendations of NEITI in its previous reports.
“There are two ways you can change the world. One way is through a revolution – people go to the streets or somebody overthrows the present order and introduces a new order. The other way of changing the world is by increment – you make one progress, you build on it; you make another progress, you build on it. In the last 12 years, a lot have happened in terms of people being more aware of what is going on and not relying only on NNPC to tell you what is going on. secondly, from issues we have been talking overtime, there are certain things that are wrong in the way we manage our resources. Some of them are aggregating together to the extent that now, we are seeing some changes. Also some money that would not have been recovered is being recovered. But has NEITI failed? The answer is no.
“If I push it back to you: the mission of THISDAY is democracy, free enterprise and social justice. THISDAY has been in existence since 1995. Have all those things been achieved? The answer is no. But does that mean that THISDAY has failed? Not so! What I am trying to say is that the work of changing the society is always work-in-progress. The only thing is that if you notice that you are not making progress- if you are retrogressing, you should be worried. But what I am trying to say is that a lot of progress has been made,” Adio added.
Adio recalled that even in the last general elections, the issue of implementing NEITI reports was a campaign issue, adding that if there was no NEITI, nobody would have talked about NEITI reports.
He insisted that the country must have the political will to implement the reports, adding that the report will not be relevant when the government in power is not interested in change.
“We need to have the political will. If you have a government for example, NNPC divested 55 per cent of its assets to its upstream subsidiary – the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) but the assets were not properly valued.
They were valued at $1.8 billion and they paid only $100 million and the rest of the money was not paid and they were benefitting from it. So, if you raise such issue with a government that is interested in keeping it that way – if you have a government that is not interested in change- in making things work, then you are just wasting your time writing reports. So, what we need to do is to get the buy-in of the government,” Adio said. He argued that the citizens should be on top of these issues and not regard them as NEITI issues because they border on the welfare of the people.
According to him, the agency is increasing the level of its engagement with the executive, legislature, media and civil society to sensitise everybody on the issues raised in the audit reports.