By Oscarline Onwuemenyi
THE Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has disclosed that it plans to beam its searchlight on the nationâ€s mining sector in order to enahce accountability and transparency in the sector.
This disclosure was made by the Chairman of NEITI, Professor Asisi Asobie, on Friday, during the public presentation of Research into Processes of the Nigerian Extractive Industries, organised by the Coalition for Accountability and Transparency in Extractive Industries, Forestry and Fisheries (CATEIFFN), in Abuja.
According to him, â€œâ€œThe absence of effective government control, monitoring and supervision in the solid minerals extractive sector has occasioned lack of transparency and accountability in the industry, disorder in the mining operations, as well as the dominance of informal and illegal miners.â€â€
He added that the activities of illegal miners in the sector had given rise to inefficient mining, illegal trading of highly prized minerals, severe ecological degradation, lack of accurate records keeping and a limited sense of corporate social responsibility.
Prof. Asobie noted that across the entire country, states, local government authorities and communities turn a blind eye to foreign firms mining minerals without license. â€œâ€œThis happens because many communities do not feel included or responsible for the mineral wealth in their areas.â€
He added that, â€œâ€œMining activities have not only affected the physical environment, but have also affected the value system of mining communities. The family structure has collapsed; people who in he past were known for their hospital nature, have now become aggressive to visitors, who are perceived to be in the communities for mining activities.â€â€
He observed that in recent times, activities in Nigeriaâ€s extractive industries have attracted a lot of national and international concern.
â€œThese concerns have been primarily in the areas of transparency and accountability in extractive financial transactions, environmental degradation and ecological disasters, population health, property rights, and the generalised state of armed conflicts and insecurity especially in the Niger Delta region,â€ he explained.
The NEITI Chairman pointed out that investigations into the oil and gas sub sector of the extractive industries, especially with regards to the use of oil revenues, have â€œâ€œcontinued to reveal massive frauds, lack of transparency and accountability and huge earnings from oil and gas have not translated into development in the Niger Delta in particular and the country in general.â€
He noted that, â€œâ€œWhile revenues from oil and gas have surged overtime, the social and ecological costs of oil and gas exploration and production far outweigh the economic gains owing to the poor utilisation of revenues for equitable development, massive corruption and lack of transparency.â€
Prof. Asobie further lamented what he termed â€œâ€œparadox of the Nigerian oil and gas industry,â€ noting that the industry has the highest number of laws in the world, but remains the least regulated.
â€œThis paradox goes to prove that most of the current laws that guide operations in the sector are either irrelevant or extent to the dictates of the times. Majority of the laws governing the oil and gas sector are obsolete and inadequate to meet contemporary challenges.
â€œThe legal and regulatory framework of the Nigerian oil and gas sector has grown in number and complexity with over 70 principal legislations and 30 subsidiary regulations.
â€œYet, issues of accountability, transparency, protection of Nigerian citizens from the adverse effects of oil exploitation and the requirements for sustainable use of the countryâ€s oil and gas resources remain unresolved,â€â€ he added.
in the area of weaknesses, and these weaknesses cut across all aspects of the organisation. Some are issues of capacity, some are issues of low revenue calculations, and some were issues to do with accounting and indeed remittance.
In the case of the NNPC, there were issues regarding withholding revenues for payment for â€¦â€¦being a buyer of Nigerian crude as well they were expected to pay wholly what they had lifted, but that payment was short of certain amount. As of the last count, it was over N660 billion, based on the 2005 audit.
Equally is the issue of accounting, that the oil export has not been well-accounted for. This issues that affect the NNPC