Auwal Rafsanjani

Africa Must Block Extractive Industry Leakages to Enjoy Economic Growth

No doubt, the place of extractive industry in Africa is not in question as 40 per cent of world natural resources reside in the continent. But this has not translated to development due to lack of transparency, accountability, corruption, theft etc. These and more dominated the discourse at a Forum organised by the African Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) themed, “Political Economy Reforms in the Extractive Sector: A Catalyst for Sustainable Development in Africa” at the ongoing World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings in Washington, DC, United States of America. At the end of a robust discourse, Funke  Olaode engaged one of the participants and Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani on how the extractive industry can impact on the continent’s development

Kindly shed more light on the theme of this forum? What prompted such topic?

This meeting came up as a result of the challenges we have in many of the African countries – Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Sudan – where natural resources have not been properly utilised and managed to address the developmental challenges on the continent.  And this is also as a result of what we have seen, especially in West Africa where resources have actually not been utilised for the development and for the benefit of the people. That is why we have decided to use this forum at ongoing annual IMF/World Bank meetings, to come together as Africans to discuss the concern that we have in Africa and the best way forward for our policy makers, for our legislators, to introduce policies and legal framework that will ensure compliance of those legal frameworks to deal with the issues of leakages in our economy, that will alleviate poverty, that will also help to diversify the economy.  If government is sincere, right policies will help revamp the economy.

Thirty percent of global natural resources reside in Africa and surprisingly, this has not translated to development of the continent due to corruption and leakages. How do you think this can be changed to ensure that everyone enjoys the commonwealth?

There are a number of problems associated with this problem. One has to do with the lack of the enabling capacity to ensure effective utilization and management of our extractive revenue. Secondly, it also has to do with mismanagement of the resources itself and misplacement of priority. Thirdly, it also has to do with the fact that there is a deliberate and conscious effort to undermine the existing legal framework and policy that we have. For example, we have Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) that is not being strictly complied with. We have the EITI, NIETI that is not also complied with by the companies, as they continue to refuse to pay the required revenue to the government.

And then of course, on top of everything, you have corruption that is undermining all these legal framework and implementation. And then lastly, you have a legislator that is incapacitated in their oversight functions. This in a way has served as an impediment in the implementation of all these legal frameworks. This is the reason why we think that there must be a rethink on how we can deal with issues of extractive and revenue arising from the extractive. So that they can be used for development such as eradication of poverty among the masses and provision of infrastructure and basic social factors like health, education and so on.

In the course of the interactions, several problems were identified such lack of fiscal policy, illiteracy, revenue mismanagement etc. How do you think CSOs can help in straightening things up to make the sector more profitable?

It is necessary that civil society organisations continue with their efforts in terms of awareness creation, in terms of public education, in terms of sensitization. And with that, communities will have better understanding. And even when extractive activities are happening in their communities, they will be able to have a measure that can protect them and means of livelihood. So, civil society will have to continue to engage the community, provide them with the necessary support, in terms of understanding whatever provision that any legal framework or any legal company is coming with.

Not only had that, to ensure that government is constantly alerted where there are perceived leakages, tax evasion and revenue mismanagement.  Mind you, some of the governments in Africa are committed to open government partnership. And under open government partnership, it is expected that contract transparency should be one of the major issues that government should prioritize. So, we are hoping that with the commitment made by some African governments, particularly in Nigeria, the ODT and the enactment of EITI law and even public procurement should enable the communities to know the contract without hindrance.

So, it is important that government is very transparent and makes the information available, so that people can check even through the website to know if a contract has been given and what is the duration of the contract and how much is the contract, so that there will be a follow up and citizens can really follow through. This is the only way to also reduce corruption in the procurement and contract processing.

Women and children are at the receiving ends in terms of hard labour particularly in gold mining. What do you think can be done to change this human right violation?

This is another very terrible practice that is going on especially to children and women. In Nigeria for example, a lot of children and women have died as a result of illegal mining activities due to labour exploitation by those mining corporations and groups. Because of the poor regulatory policy, a lot of children and women die in Zamfara and so many other places where mining activities are happening. So far, nobody has been sanctioned, no legal framework is being put into practice to ensure that such kind of incidence do not continue to occur. Up till now we are having a lot of women and children doing exploration or doing mining with some powerful individuals and companies are hiring them, instead of sending them to school.

So, the government must act promptly by being responsive and responsible by protecting the right of the women and children, instead of exposing them to danger by extractive activities, mining activities. They should actually allow girl-child and children be in school rather than putting them in the risk of mining activities and exploration of extractive.

Civil Society Organisations often abandon their responsibilities by hobnobbing with powers that be. What is your take on this accusation?

Civil society organisations to the best of my knowledge in many areas, are doing their best to educate, enlighten and provide credible research-based evidence to dialogue with the government. Civil societies do not have the power to sanction or make laws. Ours is to ensure that we educate, mobilize and provide some suggestions on how to improve governance generally. So therefore, I think there is so much expectations of what civil society should do, as a result of the failure of government at local, state and local level. CSOs are non-for-profit organisations which can only complement the efforts of the government and cannot influence the government because they don’t have that power, they don’t have the power to legislate, they don’t have the power to implement, they don’t have the power to impose and they don’t have the power to sanction. So, it is important that we understand the civil society and appreciate the little effort that they do.

80 billion dollars I learnt is flying out of Africa yearly through illicit financial flow. Aren’t you worried? And what are the CSOs effort to address this?

It is very scandalous that we are losing over 80 billion US dollars annually to illicit financial flow and money laundering. It is important that the financial institutions that enable these illicit financial flows to happen, must be checked and must be stopped. Nigeria is facing serious economic challenges and losing huge money laundering or illicit financial flow. It is definitely going to continue to affect the development and the growth of Nigeria and of course Africa at large. So, it is absolutely necessary that we do everything possible to block the leakages.

We need to strengthen our laws, we need an operational corporation because this must be done with collaboration with other countries, with other international organizations to make sure that we block the leakages and make it difficult for anybody or group of people to continue to siphon the taxpayer’s money. And this they do by tax evasion to outright stealing, canalization of pipelines and so many things. Nigeria cannot afford to continue to lose these revenues in the midst of so much economic devastation. 

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