Buhari better equipped to reform extractive sector with NEITI reports – Clare Short

17 June 2015, Lagos –
Visiting chairperson of the global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), Clare Short, on Tuesday stated that Nigeria’s new President, Muhammadu Buhari, is better equipped with the right information to undertake his pledged reform of Nigeria’s extractive sector, comprising of her oil and gas sector.

Muhammadu-BuhariShort at a meeting in Abuja told journalists that President Buhari need not reinvent the wheel in his stated intent to reform the countries extractive sectors but should simply take up sound suggestions proffered in the various audit reports of operations in the sectors by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).

She explained that with NEITI’s audit reports and its recommendations readily available, Buhari is very well placed to reform the extractive sectors of the country, adding that everyone expects Nigeria’s oil to work for her citizens.

“I think the new government is very well placed because of the amount of work that NEITI has done and this inter-ministerial taskforce, so that the reform agenda is spelt well and clear.

“The new government doesn’t have to start making new analysis or looking at what possible reforms it can make, it can pick up the reform agenda and drive it forward very quickly and that makes it a very important opportunity in building on the works that had been done in the past but hasn’t been fully implemented,” Short said in response to a question on the reform options that are available to Buhari.

She further stated: “We hope and expect that the new government will be able to pick up the analysis, work with the people, with the works that have already been done in the agencies and really drive forward significant reforms that will turn this rich oil and gas mining resources in Nigeria into a real blessing for the people.

“It is a crucial time and we are very optimistic that Nigeria is going to make it going forward.”

Speaking more on issues around seeming weak
implementation of recommendations in NEITI’s audit report, Short said: “We are very proud of the work that NEITI has done in analysing what is the problem in the management of this sector in Nigeria, where is money missing or unexplained, and how can the systems be improved that the sector is better managed for the country to take the benefits.

“In the past, implementation of the recommendations has been weak but now with your new government and the feelings of the people that are angry that this sector is not better managed for their benefit, there is a real opportunity with the analysis that NEITI has done to drive through reforms that would really lead to a better management of the sector for distribution of resources and more benefit to the people.

“Recommendations in the reports have not been carried through in the past, the new government says it wants to reform this sector, NEITI’s analysis give it a real opportunity to pick up recommendations and drive it all forward and it is a real challenge, not like a new government coming to say we want to reform and then may have to start examining where the problem is, that part of the job has been done and the authorities in government can then drive the reform and really make a difference right now.”

On sanctions for operators who have reportedly failed
to remit monies due to the government from their operations in the sector, Short said: “Sanctions are in the hands of the government of Nigeria to enforce its contracts, its rules, its expectations and make sure all the companies pay properly.”

She also stated that the global extractive transparency movement will continue to look out for the government’s execution of its pledged reforms in the sectors, adding that emphasis must be laid on achieving reforms and not just publishing audit reports of operations.

Short, who was before taking up the chair of EITI, a member of the British House of Commons for 30 years, where she served the British government as Minister for Women Affairs, Secretary for Transport and later Secretary of State for International Development, is expected to meet with the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, today to perhaps table to the government EITI’s views on the intended reform.

Meanwhile, NEITI’s Executive Secretary, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, disclosed at the meeting that  the agency would in a matter of time automate its data collection processes to enable it produce timely and up-to-date audit reports of operations in the extractive sectors.

“The automation of the data collection process will be commissioned by August and that will enable us to produce more timely reports which the government and the citizens will find more useful,” said Ahmed.

NEITI’s audit reports have reportedly lagged behind by at least two years. Its last audit report on the extractive sectors were in 2012 which were published in March 2015.

– This Day

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