Oil revenue: Ribadu team to work closely with NEITI

*NEITI demands legislative discussion on audit reports

Oscarline Onwuemenyi

16 March 2012, Sweetcrude, Abuja –
The Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force led by Mallam Nuhu Ribadu has promised to work closely with the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, to expose corruption in the nation’s oil and gas industry.

This was disclosed by the Executive Secretary of NEITI, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, during an induction workshop for the legislature on NEITI’s activities, which took place in Calabar, Cross River State, even as she noted that since the country signed up to the global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative ( EITI) in 2003, the role of the legislature in the process has remained one of the missing links.

Ahmed noted that the Initiative was ready and willing to work with any Nigerian, individuals and groups genuinely interested in enthronement of transparency, accountability in the oil, gas and solid minerals sector.

She said, “Our mandate is clear and we will not compromise in the discharge of the mandate. But we are open to partner with anyone who shares similar ideals of openness, trust, accountability and good governance.

“I am delighted that the Chairman of the recently inaugurated Petroleum Special Task Force, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and members of his committee have shown interest to work with NEITI. NEITI has received a request from the Task Force for a meeting to discuss areas of cooperation.

“While NEITI looks forward to a new date for the meeting, it is important to stress that such partnership through inter-agency collaboration is required to deal with complex issues of governance and corporate business ethics in the extractive sector.

According to her, NEITI strongly believes that revenues from Nigeria’s abundant natural resources must support poverty reduction, rebuilding of our infrastructure and improvement in our people’s standard of living.

“The event of today is in this direction. We need the National Assembly to understand the importance of NEITI, its objectives, methods, benefits and the impact it can bring to national development.

“The role of the National Assembly is central to the implementation of the NEITI Act of 2007. For instance, the remedial issues identified in the NEITI Audits such as physical, financial and process lapses require legislative interventions. This is in addition to the use of information and data in the report as tools for debate. It is therefore important for legislators at all levels especially those at the National Assembly to be fully briefed on NEITI objectives, processes, benefits, challenges and the provisions of NEITI.

“Legislators also require in-depth knowledge of basic issues and the contentious challenges in Nigeria’s extractive sector and NEITI’s international obligations as a member of global EITI,” she added.

Ahmed explained that the mandate of NEITI and the EITI globally is to ensure transparency and accountability in revenue flows accruing from the extractive industry. “The objective is to ensure that extractive resources aid sustainable development in member countries such as Nigeria and reduce poverty and social conflicts.

“To achieve this goal, one of the key functions of NEITI is to conduct annual audits to verify and reconcile revenues paid to government and what government actually received, disseminate the information with a view to providing the citizens through the media, the civil society and the elected representatives, the necessary tools to hold government and companies to account,” she stated.

However, she added, the law requires NEITI to submit the full report of its audits to the National Assembly. “This requirement of the law is with full expectation that the National Assembly will examine the report, note its findings and recommendations and table the report for deliberation at the floor of the Assembly.

“This important role is to enable the legislature use the comprehensive information and data in the report to hold both government and companies to account. This is the practice in all other member countries of the EITI including our neighbouring countries, Ghana. But in Nigeria, the NEITI Audit Report is yet attract this attention and interest,” she noted.

She pointed out, for instance, that the first audit conducted by NEITI, which covered the period 1999-2004 and 2005 respectively, revealed lapses which are being remedied by the relevant government agencies in collaboration with NEITI. “But none of those Reports ever enjoyed the privilege of robust legislative debate, discussions or mention at the floor of either the Senate or the House of Representatives,” she added.

Ahmed further disclosed that at the moment the full report on the 2006-2008 audit in the oil and gas sectors have been submitted to both chambers of the National Assembly. “We have been expecting the Report to be tabled for discussion.

The gap between NEITI and the National Assembly in particular and the legislature in general may be as a result of information gap. Our meeting today in Calabar is designed to close that gap and bring us nearer to the legislature.”

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