NEITI – Where is Our Missing Oil and Gas Money? (I)

NEITI – Where is Our Missing Oil and Gas Money? (I)

Nigeria, under the Presidency of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007) became a member of the now global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in 2003. It is now time to examine what has been happening since then. Former British Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair announced the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa in October 2002. The initiative was immediately embraced by the Berlin-based Transparency International (TI), which ultimately became its co-founder.

Since then, The World Bank and other multilateral and bilateral development agencies have embraced the idea and supported its institutionalization as a global initiative. EITI is headquartered in London, United Kingdom. Hence, over the years since 2002, EITI has become institutionally conceived as a coalition of governments, companies and civil society with the aim and objective to set a standard for transparency in oil, gas and mining companies to publish what they pay to governments and for governments to disclose what they receive from international oil, gas and minerals mining companies.

Thus, from the foregoing, the initiative itself relates directly to transparency across the value chain of actions in the oil, gas and minerals mining sectors where extensive opacity (i.e. lack of transparency and accountability by international companies and host governments) leading to systemic corruption, violence, death, destruction and destabilization exist; particularly in natural resources rich-developing and transition countries.

The prime aim and objective of the EITI (and its variant “EITI++” recently spearheaded by the World Bank) is to offer the opportunity that the vast mineral wealth of developing and transition countries, particularly those of Africa to directly benefit the people of those countries – starting with open and fair contracts between governments and international companies involved in the extraction of those resources, through to the equitable disbursement of revenues to support sustainable development of the present and future generations, and funding of anti-poverty policies, programs and projects by governments of those countries (e.g. the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

But how does Nigeria fits into this global grand scheme of affairs? Nigeria, during former president Obasanjo’s administration jumped and embraced the initiative; albeit for international publicity purpose only. I have my reason for saying this, which I will explain just now.

As at the time President Obasanjo warmly embraced EITI, coming just after its announcement by Mr. Tony, Blair, the then British Prime Minister, the Umar Ghali Na Abba’s led House of Representatives had already concluded its own Nigerian ‘Homemade’ version of the EITI. This was the “The House Ad-hoc Committee on Federal Government Crude Petroleum Export and Refined Products Import Programme.” This Committee came into effect following a motion moved by Hon. Nduka Irabor (Ika North-east and Ika South Federal Constituency) on September 5th, 2000 (House Resolution No.: HR 16). The eleven member Committee constituted by the then Hon. Speaker Na’Abba was chaired by Hon Ibrahim Ganyama Abubakar (Jigawa State). I was privileged to serve as its Consultant – though I am yet to be paid for my service since then.

The Committee was handed a Seventeen-point Terms of Reference (TOR) and two months to complete its ardours assignment. It went about conducting its very difficult assignment in an atmosphere and environment full of executive intimidation. This was because the exercise was viewed by the Presidency as an affront to President Obasanjo, who, by the way, was also the Petroleum and Energy Minister as well as his own Special Adviser on all matters relating to the petroleum and energy sectors.

And the then Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Chief Gaius Obasaki ensured that the Committee never received the full cooperation it deserved from the NNPC, its subsidiary companies and the foreign joint venture partner companies. Nevertheless, by the time the Committee completed its task, it found woeful wrong doings; unprecedented corrupt practices and ineptitude in almost all the seventeen issue areas investigated.

The Final Report was an indictment of the NNPC management, its subsidiary companies, all oil related supervisory and regulatory agencies including but not limited to the Ministry of Petroleum Resources (headed by President Obasanjo himself), the Department of Petroleum Resources, Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the international oil companies (IOCs) operating in Nigeria.

No wonder therefore, that President Obasanjo ensured that the Final Report of the Committee was never debated and deliberated upon by the legislative chamber. All the efforts; man-hours and financial resources put into the bold initiative became wasted. As usual, the report was killed and the rest has been history that kept repeating itself since then.

As a Member State of the African Union, President Obasanjo committed Nigeria to be the first to apply to be peer-reviewed under the APRM arrangement. But, he ensured that it was never done up to the time he completed his two terms tenure of office. His over enthusiasms were all international public relations stunts, gimmicks and nothing else! The same fate awaited NEITI as well.

Hence, former President Olusegun Obasanjo committed Nigeria to EITI in November 2003 and launched Nigeria EITI (NEITI) in February 2004. To give legal backing to the work of NEITI, a bill was introduced to the National Assembly in December 2004. In addition, he entrusted NEITI to his trusted right hand woman and man; Mrs. Obiageli (‘Oby’) Ezekwesili (a.k.a. as ‘Madam Due Process’) as Chairperson and Dr. Bright Okogu as Acting Executive Secretary respectively. As to be expected, Obasanjo ensured that the NEITI bill was never passed into law until on May 28, 2007 – i.e. a day before the expiration of his presidential tenure! – to be continued

Abubakar Atiku Nuhu-Koko

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