By Oscarline Onwuemenyi
After about five months of frenzied negotiations and last minute detailed presentations, the International Board of Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) has endorsed Nigeria’s management of Extractive Industries Revenue as an EITI Compliant Country. The decision was announced last week in Paris, France at the 5th global conference of the EITI holding at the French capital.
In arriving at this decision, the EITI congratulated the Government of Nigeria for its commitment to the EITI process and the Board and management of Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, (NEITI) for meeting all the conditions identified by the Board last October at its last meeting in Tanzania.
The EITI International expressed satisfaction with the commitment of Nigerian Government to embrace openness and transparency in the management of oil, gas and solid mineral revenues through its support to the work of NEITI and its audit processes. The World body particularly noted Nigerian’s commitment to extend its EITI implementation to include revenue flows from Nigeria’s interest in the Joint Development Zone (JDZ) of Sao Tome and Principe and the Solid Mineral Sectors. The EITI Advised Nigeria to ensure that implementations of ongoing actions in the JDZ and the Solid Mineral Sectors are effected by next year.
The EITI International welcomed the revitalization of Inter-Ministerial Task Team to address remediation issues identified by NEITI audit reports and other far reaching measures taken by Nigeria through NEITI to enthrone transparency and accountability in the Extractive Sectors. The EITI International Board expressed satisfaction with the content of the recent audit report by NEITI which covers the period 2006-2008 and called for the implementation of the recommendations contained in that report.
Nigeria was denied compliance status last year and was categorized as ‘candidate country’. To date, five countries have achieved the standard required to be designated as EITI Compliant. They include Azerbaijan, Ghana, Liberia, Mongolia, and Timor-Leste.
EITI Validation represents a quality assurance mechanism that the global EITI Board uses to determine a country’s ‘Candidate or Compliant status.’ Mongolia and Ghana were the only two countries that scaled the hurdle, and were accepted as the fourth and fifth countries to achieve EITI Compliance, joining Azerbaijan, Liberia, and Timor-Leste, according a statement from the EITI International Secretariat by a Regional Director, Sam Bartlett.
EITI Board recommended that for Nigeria to achieve “full compliant status” the Country is required to take six remedial steps. These include; the conclusion and dissemination of its on-going 2006 – 2008 audit report in the oil and gas sector, development of a Board Charter to strengthen the work of the National Stakeholders Working Group. Others include that the NEITI Secretariat ensures all government disclosures are based on audited accounts of oil, gas and mining companies as well as relevant government agencies. The EITI Board advised the NEITI Board to immediately set out work-plans to actualise these remedial actions by January 15, 2011, or latest within the next six Months (April, 2011).
Reacting to the development, The Executive Secretary of NEITI, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed described Nigeria’s endorsement as EITI Compliant Country as quite encouraging giving the work NEITI has done in recent times. She said the challenge now is t ensure that this high standards are maintained and sustained in NEITI’s interface with Oil and Solid mineral Sectors, in the discharge of its mandates under the NEITI Act of 2007. The NEITI Chairman, Prof. Asobie and other Delegates to the Conference said the development is an invitation to investors to explore the opportunities in Nigeria’s extractive sector with the global recognition of Nigeria’s openness.
It could be recalled that, Nigeria was adjudged close to compliant at the last meeting of the EITI Board held in Tanzania. At that meeting, Nigeria was also given six (6) conditions to meet before it could become an EITI Compliant Nation. The conditions include publication of 2006-2008 NEITI audit report, publication of a Board Chatter to streamline the Board of NEITI and the Secretariat among others. The Board of NEITI under the leadership of Prof. Assisi Asobie and the NEITI Secretariat under the management of the Executive Secretary, Mrs Zainab Ahmed worked with a special task force set up for this purpose and ensured that Nigeria through NEITI met all the conditions identified by the global body as at the February 1, 2011.
Nigeria’s delegations to the 5th EITI global Conference in Paris is led by the Chairman of NEITI/NSWG, Prof. Assissi Asobie, the Executive Secretary, Mrs Zainab Ahmed. Others are the Chairman Nigerian Economic Summit Group, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, the President of Trade Union Congress, Comrade Peter Esele, former Presidential Adviser on Petroleum Matters, Alh. Ja’afaru Paki, the NNPC who are also members of NEITI Board, NEITI Director of Communications, Orji Ogbonnaya Orji as well as representatives of Civil Society Organizations (CISLAC, PWYP and CATTAFEIN).
At the Conference, 4 other Countries were also pronounced as compliant. They are Norway, Niger, Kyrgyzstan and Yemen. This brings to ten (10) number of complaint countries out of thirty three (33) countries that have embraced the EITI globally. The 5th EITI global conference with the theme: Transparency Counts ends on Thursday 4th March 2011.
Meanwhile, Nigeria has been re-elected into the International Board of EITI. The immediate past Accountant – General of the Federation, Ibrahim Dankwambo is to represent Nigeria on the Board for the next two years.
Dankwambo’s election was ratified at the 5th global conference of the world body which ends on Thursday 4th March in Paris, France.
Dankwambo was until recently a member of the Board of the National Stakeholders Working Group (NSWG) of NEITI. This was in his capacity as the Accountant – General of the Federation. Dankwambo takes over from Prof. Assisi Asobie whose tenure as a member of EITI Board came to a successful end at the 5th EITI global conference.
The EITI International Board is the highest decision making organ of the EITI globally and is made up of 20 members drawn from all regions and major economic blocks of the World.