Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
To sort out all the grey areas in recent reports by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), the organisation and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) at the weekend resolved to set up a joint committee for the purpose.
Some areas a delegation from the Norway-based Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) raised queries at the weekend, were the release of the details of the $3.3 billion loan from AfreximBank, non-disclosure of full text of contracts as well as alleged lack of full disclosure of the NNPC’s stake in the Dangote refinery.
NEITI had in its last (2021) report, stated that the NNPC failed to remit as much as $2 billion to the federation account before it was commercialised, an allegation the national oil company clarified as being deductions for fuel subsidy.
Speaking during the rounding off briefing by the EITI delegation in Abuja, NEITI’s Executive Secretary, Dr Ogbonnaya Orji, said the agreement to set up the committee with NNPC was reached during the consultation at the NNPC headquarters, attended by the EITI delegation as well as NEITI officials.
According to Orji, NNPC’s Group Chief Executive Officer, Mele Kyari, who was at the event, backed the establishment of a team of experts to resolve the differences in the report.
“What we agreed was to have a joint committee between NEITI and NNPC on these specific issues that are of concern in the international validation report.
“The NNPC chief executive has accepted that and on our part we will be sending requests to put that committee in place and the committee will be working with experts from both sides.
“Where necessary, we will be relying on our international secretariat for guidance to make sure that our next reports for 2022 and 2023 that will be out on September 24 this year, detail this information,” he stated.
Orji noted that the simultaneous release of the two reports was to ensure that from now on, data that is made public is largely current, noting that NEITI data had already been globally acknowledged as reliable.
Orji added that NEITI was also looking at what can be done to make the transparency initiative less dependent on government for funding.
“ We are also looking at windows where our reports that usually lead to recovery of huge revenue, where we could also be given some soft landing in terms of supporting government funding instead of relying wholly on government,” he stated.
The executive secretary said it was also critical to reinforce the need to preserve the NEITI structure, devoid of political interference.
“Each time you dissolve the national stakeholders working group, it is a major problem for us,” the executive secretary explained.
Speaking earlier, leader of the EITI delegation, who doubles as EITI’s Deputy Executive Director, Bady Baldé, said the Nigerian government must reconstitute the board of NEITI with competent persons and that it must be devoid of undue political influence.
According to him, with the several disruptions in the NEITI board in the last three years, Nigeria is already in breach of the global EITI standards. He explained that there are sanctions for non-adherence to the rules signed on to by member countries.
“The urgency of the matter is clear, but it has to be done correctly. For those reasons we did not impose a particular deadline, but our main message remains that this is a matter of urgency. The board has been vacant more often than not in the last three years.
“Nigeria is already in breach of the requirement because this is so foundational for EITI. The existence of the multi-stakeholder group is one of the requirements to join as a member,” Baldé stressed.
Speaking on the plan by the Nigerian government to rework the 2007 NEITI Act, the leader of delegation stated that its a purely Nigerian affair, explaining that what is important for now, is to ensure that the existing law is strictly adhered to.
On the team’s visit to the Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Mr Dele Alake, Baldé expressed concern over the issue of illegal artisanal mining in Nigeria, but added that he got firm commitment from the minister that the issue was being resolved, while the right environment was being created for foreign and local investment.