Unless the Federal government acts fast, Nigeria may face a possible suspension from the global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a body that advocates for transparency, accountability in the operations and management of extractive resources. It also advises that such resources be used to better the lives of citizens. It is made up of about 50 countries and has a set of guiding rules and processes which members must compulsorily adhere to. Nigeria implements those processes through Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).
The country’s present predicament is as a result of the delay in the reconstitution of its board and the appointment of a new head for the agency. The old board was dissolved in October last year while its chief executive was appointed a minister in November, 2015. As a result of the absence of the board, NEITI has been unable to publish its 2013 oil, gas and solid minerals sectors audit reports. This delay has resulted in NEITI missing the deadline of December 31, 2015 given by EITI to publish the 2013 audit reports, a requirement for the country to pass validation exercise conducted on member countries every three years to assess their continued level of compliance with laid down standards.
As it stands now, Nigeria has failed to pass the validation exercise. However, while these reports for which the country is about to be sanctioned are ready, the NEITI secretariat cannot publish them in the absence of the board’s approval.
While we had previously raised the alarm over Nigeria’s possible suspension from EITI, it has become pertinent to revisit the issue because the stakes are now higher.
In addition to a possible suspension, Nigeria now faces the risk of being delisted from EITI. If it is allowed to happen, it is capable of reversing the gains recorded in the transformation of her previously opaque oil industry to the present, appreciably, open one.
The EITI Deputy Head and Regional Director for Africa and Middle East, Eddie Rich, who mentioned Nigeria’s possible delisting in Abuja, in the company of the incoming EITI Chairman, Fredrik Reinfeldt, during a recent visit, added that in addition to the possible suspension expected to be formally announced next month during the EITI board meeting in Peru, the country will be required to, within six months of its suspension, publish the reports in question, failure of which it would be delisted.
However, he said that if on the one hand the reports are published within six months, the suspension will be lifted. On the other, Nigeria will have to publish both the 2013 and 2014 audit reports to avoid a delisting should it fail to meet the six months deadline of publishing the 2013 reports.
NEITI, to stave off the impending delisting, has made a submission to EITI requesting for a six month extension of its deadline from December 2015 to June 2016, citing political circumstances of the country.
We are concerned about these looming sanctions and therefore urge the federal government to, as a matter of urgency, expedite action on the reconstitution of the NEITI board to enable it to meet its international obligations. The country cannot afford another international bad press in this regard, needless to mention the consequences that could follow such a development.