‘Answer to all the challenges in NEITI lies within…’ Jim Pressman, Abuja



“If NEITI succeeds Nigeria will succeed.”-Mrs. Salau

As participants rose from a two-day National Conference on “Delivering Transparency, Reaping Accountability and Prosperity,” at the Transcorps Hilton in Abuja, the consensus was the truism of the statement quoted above mad by Mrs. Salau of the Cadastral Division of the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, that if NEITI works, Nigeria will work and work well. Fix NEITI through effective re-branding and marketing, and you would be well on the way to fixing Nigeria!

 

This is against the background of the general agreement that “one, Nigeria’s continued oneness and unity are not negotiable; two, there is no better alternative to democracy, and three, it time now to do do something about getting it right as we have no done, these past 50 years.” a view also expressed by another participant Amos Y. Sakaba, a Director in NIPC representing his Executive Secretary, Alhaji Mustapha Bello.

 

Some worrisome trends which tend to hinder the expected successes of NEITI in helping to truly clean up the bastion of corruption that the extractive industry has since become, especially in the Oil and Gas upstream and downstream sub-sectors . As for the Solid Mineral mining sector which still operates mainly informally (euphemism for illegally!), there is yet no way to closely and effectively monitor it …

 

Yet, NEITI by its 2007 Act is specifically mandated to seek to among other duties, “ensure due process and transparency in the payments made by all Extractive Industries to the Federal Government and statutory recipients … and eliminate all forms of corrupt practices in the determination, payment, receipts and posting of revenue accruing to the Federal Government from Extractive Industries companies.”

 

So these issues took up a big chunk of the discussion and debates which were open-minded and frank, especially on the parts of Civil Society Organizations represented, among them NEITI officials including the Executive Secretary, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, who took very active part in the interactive and provided very incisive responses to queries raised about the operations, prospects and huge challenges of NEITI.

 

Some of these challenges stem from a number of sources. For instance NEITI started ideologically November 7, 2003 in Nigeria and began active and noticeable work when former Senior Presidential Adviser on Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence tagged [Due Process] Mrs. Obiageli Ezekwesili (outgoing Vice President, Africa at the World Bank) chaired what is known as the National Stakeholders Working Group (NSWG) created February 16 2004 by the Obasanjo administration which enacted the NEITI Act 2007 May 28 of that year for legal backing.

 

Besides the failure to fully implement the letters and spirit of the Act and the general ‘NEITI-illiteracy’ even among the otherwise educated Nigerians, people still ask the question: “what is NEITI, what do they do?”

 

The concern about an existing Advocacy- Communication deficiency which has blocked needed ‘ownership’ of the scheme by citizens as stake-holders was discussed at length. As reminder, “The principal objective of the Initiative,” to quote Federal Inland Revenue Service boss Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui – Okauru in one of the many presentations, “is simply to revise the phenomenon known as ‘a resource curse’ to ‘a resource blessing.’”   It was cheery news when Mrs. Ahmed and her responsive leadership team announced the translation of the NEITI Act and information regarding its activities into three of the major local languages: Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa.

This responsiveness was again demonstrated when in response to the remark by a discussant in the wrap-up session, Comrade Peter Esele, Labour

leader and member of the out gone Board of NEITI under Professor Assisi Asobie, suggested that the translation be done into Ijaw language as well, so that grassroots citizens of the major Oil-bearing zones of the country whose first language is Ijaw will understand, better appreciate and then take effective ownership of  the transparency scheme. NEITI Executive Secretary Mrs. Ahmed promptly accepted the suggestion and promised to work towards implementing it.

 

She also acceded to the suggestion that NEITI could do with improved ICT capacity to be able like the CBN hook on to data-bases of the players in the industry faster and more accurately.

 

As FIRS boss Ifueko Omoigui Okauru also pointed out in her presentation, NEITI needs the full support of some eight NNPC subsidiaries which are crucial to its success, but where unfortunately best practices culture has been compromised according to a vocal critic of the sector and top official of Publish What You Pay (PWYP), Faith Nwadishi. These are:

  • The Crude Oil Marketing Department (COMD) which “agrees with companies among other things representative prices for tax purposes and royalty determination for different crude blends based on market dynamics and in line with Section 23 (3) of the Petroleum Profit Tax Act”

 

  • The National Petroleum Investments Management Service (NAPIMS), which “oversees FG investment in petroleum operations in Joint Ventures (JVs) and Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs), Service Contracts and other petroleum arrangements; it also exercises control on, supervises petroleum operations such as approval of capital expenditure, purchase contract, monitors operating and financial results from JVs PSCs, receives management reports  and audited accounts from upstream companies and files tax returns at the FIRS on behalf of PSCs”

 

  • PPPRA [Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency] whose place in a deregulated industry has been queried by not  a few, holds the “mandate to determine and monitor prices for the petroleum products, (a duty which is) relevant when NEITI reviews the activities of petroleum marketers”

 

  •   Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) Limited is the commercial exploration and production (E&P) company of the government, deals in actual petroleum on behalf of Government

 

  • The Refineries – Warri Refinery and Petrochemical Company Limited, Kaduna Refinery and Petrochemical Company Limited, Port Harcourt Refinery and Limited, Eleme Petrochemical Company Limited, and the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG) – Investment, too

 

Five or so our other Government MDAs also play key roles yet to be fully done to satisfaction: and to fully underscore NEITI’s achievements:

 

  • The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) – a department in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources  – still notoriously chastised by the public and Civil Society watchers of the industry – responsible for licensing and monitoring industry players;  DPR also collects royalties (many companies were not paying at all – not all of them have paid as and when due – signature bonuses, bid round fees and gas flaring fees [Note that with the passage of the FIRS Act (Established) 2007, however, collection and accounting for all Government revenues are centralized in the FIRS

 

  • Ministry of Solid Minerals, Mines and Steel, responsible for overseeing the affairs of other extractive industries/sectors outside the oil and gas ; and Nigeria is endowed with  some 36 major mineral resource-types which are grouped mainly into industrial rocks and minerals such as limestone and kaolin, base metals such as zinc sulphate and or lead, gemstones such as sapphire and energy minerals for example uranium and coal

 

  • Although still to commence full-blast work, the Federal Inland Revenue Service  (FIRS) is empowered by Sections 8, 25 and the First Schedule of the FIRS Establishment Act 2007 to take responsibility for assessing, collecting and accounting for all taxes, levies and dues, including petroleum profits tax and companies income taxes from companies operating in the extractive sector

 

  • The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is the depository for royalties, petroleum profits and also provides collection information for for reconciliation of all government receipts

 

  • The Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) “monitors accrual into and disbursement of revenue from, the Federation Account; it reviews from time to time the revenue allocation formulae and principles to ensure conformity to changing realities,” while

 

  • The Office of the Accountant – General of the Federation (OAGF) operates as “accountant to the Federal Government and owner/manager of government accounts in the CBN.”

 

Mrs. Ahmed has registered her name boldly on the fast – growing list of Nigerian female professionals proving their mettle in hitherto male dominated positions, and has definitely already taken NEITI a notch ahead of her compatriot and predecessor in office, Malam Sa’eed. Asked if she would hold the talk-shop and road-shows more often if she found adequate funding, the lady answered in the affirmative. And as young lady barrister suggested also, she would wish NEITI could be further empowered to go beyond reporting to prosecute erring extractive industry companies who flout the regulations. For now, it is up to every Nigerian especially the Civil Society to use intelligence gathered and put in the public domain to name and shame defaulters. NEITI reports are displayed on their website and sent to the Office Auditor-General, so they are in the public domain. Furthermore, CSOs “are trained, encouraged and assisted to access them and utilize them to mobilize the wider citizenry to hold government accountable.” Official figures put these at $269 billion put in the Federation Account from 1999 to 2008.

 

NEITI, Mrs. Ahmed has also requested the Federal Government to hook them on to the Government Information System tagged GIFMENT, and now is in the process of  more regular audits of companies in the sector in order to be more up-to-date.

 

A key partner though very vocal critic of NEITI is the Publish What You Pay Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) represented by its National Coordinator, Faith Nwadishi, a very keen watcher of the sector whose work has had quite an impact on NEITI’s monitoring work.

 

NEITI, Mrs. Ahmed has also requested the Federal Government to hook them on to the Government Information System tagged GIFMENT, and now is in the process of  more regular audits of companies in the sector in order to be more up-to-date.

 

Her quiet husband Alhaji Ahmed sat calmly through the sessions on both days and told this reporter he had to support his wife like every good husband.

 

Perhaps as the immediate Past Chairman of the NEITI Board Prof. Asobie said, “The answer to all the challenges in NEITI lies within.”

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