WED 17 MARCH, 2021-theGBJournal- The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) said it is now set to link its industry reports to visible impacts by ensuring that the strong linkage between the report and the on-going reforms in the industry results in visible impacts through poverty reduction and availability of revenues to support national development
This was stated by the agency’s new Executive Secretary, Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji during his inaugural press conference held in Abuja. The NEITI new boss used the opportunity of the Conference to unveil key priorities of the agency in the next five years.
Dr. Orji said: ‘’while NEITI has put in the public domain, accurate and verifiable information and data on the sector, the challenge as we can all see is on using the information to bring about accountability and change that would lead to positive visible impacts in the lives of the citizens. “It is time to revisit the scope, depth and dimension of our reports to deliver more impacts required to address the unfolding challenges. This is why my focus will be on the implementation of the remedial issues disclosed in the reports,” the NEITI boss stated.
NEITI boss informed the media that the current management under his leadership is determined to evolve policies and strategies that would ensure that the recommendations in his agency’s reports are adequately implemented.
He identified N69.51billion and $5.31billion (disclosed by the 2018 NEITI audit reports) as potential recoverable revenue that should have gone into government coffers.
These recoverable revenues according to him consist of payments on oil royalty, gas royalty, gas flare penalties, petroleum profit tax, company income tax, education tax, withholding tax, value added tax and NNDC levy.
“NEITI will review its approach in engagements with oil, gas and mini ng companies. This is to ensure that inflow of foreign direct investments into the sector are promoted and sustained. To this end, NEITI will unveil adequate frameworks that strengthen timely sharing of information and data to promote conducive business environment in the industry. NEITI will also ensure that companies are encouraged to invest and given the opportunity to grow”, Dr. Orji stated.
He used the platform to commend the achievements so far recorded under NEITI/NNPC joint committee on remediation and mainstreaming: “Our change of approach in engagement with the NNPC is neither out of fear or intimidation, but on the basis of wisdom and search for results. The NNPC that we have now is available and willing to discuss the problems and possible solutions with NEITI based on our reports and so “fighting” on those issues have become unnecessary”, he explained.
The Executive Secretary hopes that the NEITI/NNPC working relationship will continue on this trajectory to yield the results we all desired. He added that ‘joint committees between NEITI and respective covered entities will be established to look at the issues as it affects individual agencies. This is without prejudice to the revitalization of the Inter Ministerial Task Team on remediation as a multi-sectoral approach.
The NEITI Executive Secretary pointed out that ‘’One important area that NEITI will focus on going forward is the mining sector, given the global attention to energy transition.” He pointed out that since the inception of NEITI audit of the solid minerals sector, “There has been a steady increase in revenues accruable to the federation account from the sector. From a paltry N8.19billion recorded in the 2007 audit, to over N67billion earned from the sector in 2018, shows over a 700% increase”, he said.
The Executive Secretary explained that a mere 0.18% contribution of the sector to the GDP, shows that a lot more needs to happen in Nigeria’s mining sector. He said NEITI will conduct fresh scoping studies on mining paying particular attention to investment opportunities in the sector. ‘’We will take the lead in assisting government to have a fallback position as renewable energy and its attendant consequences gets underway”, he stated.
NEITI boss also pledged to work with stakeholders to review the agency’s enabling law – NEITI Act 2007 with a view to strengthen its power and functions which he said will enable NEITI tackle the challenges in the sector, including the emerging issues in the global EITI.
On the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) currently before the National Assembly, Dr. Orji said “We are therefore pleased that the political weight of President Muhammadu Buhari is strongly behind the Bill. NEITI has already joined the debate to strengthen the voice knowing that the future of the industry depends on the early passage of the Bill”, he stated.
Dr. Orji also identified the need to broaden stakeholders’ engagements as a key priority. In his words: “it is very important to me that we regain our visibility, gain positive perception in the minds of the people and take NEITI to the grassroots through effective communications and sub-national outreaches.
“I also look forward to seeing deeper engagements with covered entities to ensure deeper disclosures and recoveries that would increase government take while making the sector competitive and encouraging enough to attract the right investments”, he said.
On NEITI’s relationship with the global EITI, Dr. Orji said ‘’NEITI will remain fully committed, visible and responsive to the principles and standard of the global EITI in the implementation of the 2019 EITI standard and emerging issues in the areas of Contract Transparency, Beneficial Ownership, Mainstreaming, Commodity Trading, Environment, Gender etc.’’. He assured the EITI community of a stronger NEITI built on its values of Legitimacy, Integrity, Partnership, Courage, Openness and Team work.
Dr. Orji pledged that the agency will specifically seek to bring the legislature to understand NEITI’s operations in other to help them carry out their oversight and legislative functions as it concerns the extractive industries in Nigeria.
He also said priority will be given to manpower development for both members of the agency’s staff and diverse NEITI’s stakeholders. “We are also committed to extending training opportunities to the media to improve the quality of their information and dissemination activities.’’ he concluded.
At the Press Conference, members of the media described Dr Orji’s appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari as a vote of confidence in the ability of media professionals to take on leadership roles at the highest levels in national development. They called for more of such opportunities.
A new head of Communications and advocacy for NEITI in the person of Obiageli Onuorah was also introduced to the media at the briefing.