27 July 2014, Abuja – International anti-corruption experts, Civil Society activists and Stakeholders in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, EITI, are seeking new approaches including political solution to the rising fraud in the oil and other extractive industry in Nigeria.
Speaking at a two-day International Conference yesterday in Abuja, the experts were unanimous that the growing corruption in the oil sector is worrisome despite the advances being made by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, and other bodies to uphold transparency and accountability in the sector.
The conference organised by the Social Action, the Gulf of Guinea Citizens Network, GGCN, the New Centre for Social Research, Abuja, and the Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, (Toronto Canada) was themed: “Beyond Transparency: Oil and the Crisis of Democratic Governance in Nigeria and the Gulf of Gulf of Guinea”.
In her keynote titled “Beyond Transparency and toward modern regulation of the private sector”, Prof. Sarah Bracking of the University of Manchester, UK, said the key challenges of moving to decent work and wellbeing in Africa are dependent on fundamental reforms to regulation of the financialised economy and that more transparency and knowledge can make both corporate and government more accountable as being sought for in the oil and extractive sector.
“Researches have shown that there is no automatic travel from more transparency or knowledge to more accountability, especially in absence of free press, weak education, where power is concentrated and democracy weak, and where inequality is extreme. But, where particularism and endemic corruption dominant, is a collective action problem it is not in the interests of actors to try and change the rules even if they know how damaging corruption is, but better to struggle to join in the culture of privilege,” she said.
The Director of Social Action, Dr Isaac Osuka, said the advances made with respect to EITI in Nigeria (NEITI) and elsewhere may have done little in reducing corruption in the extractive sectors in particular and the polity generally.
“In the past decade when transparency principles have been promoted by civil society organizations and states, we have witnessed some of the worst and most brazen looting of petroleum revenues, as may be exemplified by the petroleum subsidy scam in Nigeria, for example. The reports of NEITI and other bodies set up by government have exposed monumental infraction resulting in the dispossession of the public treasury. In the case of Nigeria, we also take note of the report of the United Nations Environmental Program which revealed that the impacts of oil pollution in Ogoniland (and other parts of the Niger Delta) are much worse than previously imagined.
“After a decade of advocacy and campaigns examples of exposures do not seem to have translated into improvement in the accountability of government or reduction of inequalities or poverty for citizens and communities, at least in the short term. What is evident is that transparency, in whatever way we look at it, cannot be an end in itself. There has to be the recognition that transparency is concomitant with democracy and national development goals. That is why the theme of this conference is Beyond Transparency,” Osuka said.
Chairman of the occasion and Chairman, Board of National Human Right Commission (NHRC) Prof. Chidi Anselm Odinkalu, former NEITI chairman Prof. Assisi Asobie, renown environmentalist, Nnimmo Bassey, National Coordinator of Publish What You Pay (PWYP) Nigeria Faith Nwadishi, Dr. kole Shettima of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Jaye Gaskiya, Dauda Garuba, Prof. Anna Zalik of the York University and Benson Olugbuo among others stressed the need for all Nigerians including the media to play their part in stemming corruption in Nigeria’s oil and extractive sectors.
*Abbas Jimoh – Daily Trust