Government hiding information on licensing, oil contracts – NEITI alleges

Zainab Ahmed, Executive Secretary, NEITI.

Zainab Ahmed, Executive Secretary, NEITI.

Oscarline Onwuemenyi

20 May 2015, Sweetcrude, Abuja – The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) yesterday accused the Federal Government of not opening up the licensing registers and contracts of oil and gas companies to the public.

The Executive Secretary, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, who stated this during a briefing with reporters at a Pre-Validation Workshop in Abuja, added that the failure of the National Assembly to debate its audit reports and lack of will to implement its recommendations were also major setback for Nigeria.

She said, “The major challenge we have in Nigeria in implementing EITI is our inability to open up the licensing registers of the oil and gas companies; our inability to open up and put in the public domain operating contracts for the oil and gas sector.

“Those are our major challenges, but what we have done in NEITI with the guidance of NSWG is that we have looked at the standards and said okay standards are not really in the public but what did the requirements ask for?

“So we extracted the requirements from the standard and designed a special template to be able to capture key information from those contracts and we send these requests to the companies and to DPR (Department of Petroleum Resources).

“We got those key information we thought was vital from the contracts and from the licences from both the DPR and the companies. In that regards we have been able to meet the requirements by the standard albeit in this round about manner.,” she stated.

Ahmed added that, “But it cannot continue to be like that and they will accept it because everybody knows the contracts are not in the public domain. Everybody knows the licence register is not something you can sign up to our website and access.

“Subsequently, we must as a country make sure that these things happen. In Ghana, Liberia, Gambia and a lot other very small countries you can actually click on a website and see these information but it is not so in Nigeria.”

The NEITI boss further noted that the lack of will to take remedial actions by the concerned government agencies was disturbing.

Nigeria had signed up to implement EITI in the oil, gas and mining industries in 2003; began implementation in 2004 and became the first country out of 46 nations in the global body to support the process with a specific Law, the NEITI Act of 2007.

Nigeria was designated as an EITI Compliance Country by the global body in 2013.
The energy industry watchdog was, however, optimistic that the country will still retain its compliant status in the global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in 2016.

EITI Compliant countries such as Nigeria are required to undertake Validation every three years. The 2016 exercise is coming at a time NEITI’s reports have led to aggressive public demand for reforms in the extractive industries as exemplified in the country’s decision to introduce the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) before the National Assembly for consideration and passage into law.

The validation exercise is to be conducted by independent international experts to be appointed by the global EITI based in Oslo, Norway. NEITI is to face the validation examination team in January 2016.
Ahmed said the country has done extensive work in the EITI implementation process which among other things made it the best EITI implementing country in 2012.

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