Oscarline Onwuemenyi, with agency reports
31 October 2017, Sweetcrude, Abuja – The board of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) yesterday suspended Niger Republic for failure to make meaningful progress against key issues in the 2016 EITI Standards.
The decision to suspend Niger from the group till April 2019 was taken during the 38th board meeting in Manilla, Philippines due to “inadequate progress or no progress on 14 EITI requirements.”
It noted in a statement at the end of its meeting that, “Following the conclusion of Niger’s Validation under the 2016 EITI Standard, the EITI Board concluded that Niger has made inadequate progress overall in implementing the EITI Standard.
“In accordance with requirement 8.3.c.iii, the EITI Board agreed that Niger will be suspended and will need to undertake corrective actions to remedy it’s status.”
It added that, “Niger has made inadequate progress in meeting the EITI’s requirements on civil society engagement. In the interim, the Board has determined that Niger will have 18 months to carry out corrective actions.”
It was the first assessment of Niger against EITI standard since it became compliant with the rules in 2011.
The EITI, however, acknowledged the security challenges as a result of armed insurgency in Niger, which made governance of the extractive sector very difficult.
Apart from internal governance challenges of the EITI process, the board said key areas of concern in the country include the overall quality of EITI reporting.
The board noted the level of progress on publication of exploration activities, production and export data and revenue management and expenditure.
In addition, the board said the country demonstrated strong ownership of the EITI process with key stakeholders involved in the production and dissemination of the EITI reports.
Outstanding EITI requirements included transparent systems for license allocation, the lack of a comprehensive public license register, gaps between the government policy on contract transparency as mandated by the constitution and the practice of limited disclosure of contracts.
Other requirements related to state-owned enterprises, data reliability, sub-national payments and mandatory social expenditure remained outstanding.
Several arrests of civil society representatives in recent months, including journalists and members of the EITI national committee, was also a concern.
Niger is a leading producer of uranium, ranked as the world’s fourth largest producer in 2016 behind Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia.
The country has produced uranium since the 1970s, coal since 1975, gold since 2004 and crude oil since 2011.
“Niger has made some progress in difficult circumstances. We encourage all stakeholders in Niger to work together to resolve key issues related to space for civil society so that this suspension can be lifted as soon as possible,” the chair of the EITI Board, Fredrik Reinfeldt, said.
Since becoming an EITI compliant country, Niger recorded tangible public finance reforms, particularly in contract transparency.
While EITI reporting has successfully been expanded to the oil and gas sector, including midstream refining, the board said EITI process tended to operate as a parallel process focused on compliance, rather than on addressing the country’s natural resource governance priorities.
The head of the EITI, Mr. Jonas Moberg, said, “Niger made progress in opening up the extractives sector to opportunity to establish systems to automatically disclose data and to draw all stakeholders – local communities, parliamentarian, anti-corruption watch-dogs – into the national debate about the governance of the sector.”