*As global watchdog head laments non-implementation of audit reports
19 June 2015, Sweetcrude, Abuja – The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has reiterated its resolve to recover all outstanding amounts owed the country by oil, gas and mining companies.
NEITI also stated that from August this year, its audit processes will be automated to ensure for speedy collection of data to enable it produce timely reports.
Speaking during the visit of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, EITI, Implementation Committee, led by its Chairman, Ms Clare Short, in Abuja, Chairman of NEITI, Mr. Ledum Mitee promised to partner with the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to reform the country’s oil and gas sector and also tackle the issue of corruption in the extractive industry.
NEITI had in one of its report, indicted oil and gas companies operating in Nigeria, including Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, of defrauding the country to the tune of $19.1 billion (about N3.82 trillion) and called on President Buhari to ensure the recovery of the money from the companies.
According to Mitee, NEITI is working closely with all the relevant government agencies to ensure that all outstanding revenues reported as underpayment and underassessment are recovered into the federation account.
He further noted the country was committed to continuously improve on its modest achievements and also strive to fully embrace the new EITI standards.
He said, “To this extent, NEITI has commenced implementation of the comprehensive framework on remediation and enforcement developed by the current board through the machinery of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team, IMTT.
“Under this arrangement, NEITI is expanding its frontier of inter-agencies collaboration and broadening the scope of engagements with the government, companies, media and civil society as well as strengthening its internal capacity.”
Mitee further stated that NEITI had started addressing the identified gaps in its operations ahead of the EITI validation of Nigeria, which falls due in January 2016.
According to him, NEITI is fully aware of the importance of this exercise and is making necessary preparations to ensure that Nigeria meets the validation requirements.
He noted that, “The process of implementing the new EITI requirements with respect to the issues of beneficial ownership and contracts disclosure in this part of the world may require careful strategy to ensure stakeholders’ buy in.”
In her remarks, Clare Short, International Chair, EITI, commended NEITI for its activities in Nigeria so far. She expressed concern, however, on the non-implementation of the reports by the past administrations.
According to her, “Recommendations for reforms have not been carried through in the past. The new government wants to reform the sector.
“NEITI has done the analysis; it is a real opportunity to pick up the recommendations and drive it all forward. It is not like a new government, wanting to reform, to start examining where the problem is. That part of the job has been done. The government should then drive through the reforms.
“It is a better opportunity for government and the citizens to ensure that companies pay what is due them and that the funds are properly managed for the betterment of the society.”
Short further stated that NEITI’s recommendations present a golden opportunity for the new administration to carry on the proposed reforms of the sector and stop bad practices that was prevalent in the industry in the past.
Speaking in the same vein, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, Executive Secretary, NEITI, lamented the delay in churning out its reports, noting, however, that special provision has been made to ensure that it fast-tracks the audit process.
She said: “As we speak, there is a project that is ongoing for the automation of the data collection process for the audit.
“It would be commissioned by August and this will enable us to produce more timely reports which the government and citizens would find more useful.”