NEITI seeks recovery of operational costs

Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) yesterday sought a percentage of the operational costs of recovering missing funds for the Federal Government.
The watchdog organisation noted that while its information and data result in the recovering of funds, it is other agencies like the Federal Inland Revenue Service and the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) that collect a percentage for recovery of taxes and royalties.

NEITI Executive Secretary, Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, however, requested that for the organisation to lessen its dependence on the government, it should also be entitled to a percentage of the operational recovery cost.

He made the call in Abuja during the visit of the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, and unveiling of the Gender and Environmental Framework for Reporting in Nigeria’s Extractive Industries.

Orji said the tragedy NEITI has found itself since 2007 is paving ways for other agencies to make money while it remains an onlooker of the beneficiaries.

His words: “One tragedy we state is that our report will lead to recoveries of millions of dollars and sometimes billions and we are partnering agencies who collect this money as a matter of responsibility.

“Taxes go to FIRS. Royalties go to NURPC. NEITI that provided information for the recovery walks home empty handed.

“While these agencies smile home a percentage of what they call operational costs for recovery, we have peeped from the window for a long time, we want to be part of it to lessen our dependence on government.

“This is part of the anomaly (the gap) we find between 2007and the current realities of today.”

The Executive Secretary said the review of the NEITI Act is focused on innovations that will enable NEITI operate with less government funding and dependency and function more effectively as the watchdog of the extractive sector.

Orji said the NEITI Act is currently being reviewed to seek ways and means of augmenting government support.

Speaking, Ahmed recalled who recalled that NEITI has been clamouring for better funding for a long time, wished the organization accomplishes it in the ongoing review of its Act.

“I have heard so many times the issue of better funding and we have been singing this song for a long time. I just wish the ES luck that in the review of the NIETI Act you are able to achieve this,” she said.

She tasked NEITI on partnership, advising the organization not to lose focus on the multi – stakeholders workshop.

Ahmed revealed that the Federal Government has asked ministries, departments and agencies to tag projects that have gender limits.

She added that “we also have partners working with us to track that particular reporting.”

She urged NEITI to also take a look about with the Federal Government is doing on gender reporting.

Ahmed said the government is also putting up a circular on climate reporting in order to tag on their performance.

The minister said, “In the current budget that we are working on the next administration will carry through, we are also putting directives in the circular on climate reporting so that the climate projects are also tagged and we are able to report them with the tag on their performance.”

Meanwhile, NEITI chairman, Barrister Olusegun Adeyemi Adekunle, agreed with Orji that the NEITI 2007 Act is not meeting the present realities.

He sought a legislature to modernize and develop, noting that NEITI has set in motion the process for the revision of the Act.

The chairman revealed that the organization will liaise with the minister to identify the sources of funding in the new law so that it could cease relying on monthly allocation from government.

Adekunle said, “One of the issue we have to touch in the revision is source of funding for the agency.

We will be seeking the advice of the minister of Finance in framing the clauses and identify the sources for funding for NEITI so that we don’t continue to depend on the monthly releases that are difficult to find.”

Ahmed was herself the Executive Secretary of NEITI till 2015 when she emerged the minister.

In retrospect, Orji noted that the organization is proud of her.

According to him, NEITI is now making sure that the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in Nigeria delivers impactful results and energizes more reforms in the oil, gas, and mining sectors.

One of the requirements since you left the EITI is the fast emerging issues.

He said these are Beneficial Ownership, Contract Transparency, Gender Mainstreaming, Open Data Policy and Environmental Reporting.

Continuing, the Executive Secretary said “We are currently chairing the Network on Contract Transparency, we have developed a Beneficial Ownership Portal, and we have launched the NEITI Audit Management System-NAMS.

“The two reports that you are about to launch today are direct responses to our readiness to move into the issues of Gender and the Environment in view of the strong connection and linkage to the EITI desired impact in the lives of our citizens.”

He noted that host communities in the country today currently face complex challenges of environmental degradation.

In these host communities, according to him, the girl child, women and children suffer the most environmental degradation in terms of deprivation of their livelihood, access to farming and petty trading.

He added that in most of these communities, most of the rural dwellers are women and children, who suffer the worst health challenges arising from emission and environmental pollution.

Orji noted that the two reports that were being unveiled centered on these issues.

On the Gender framework, Orji said the report summarised the EITI’s agenda on gender inclusion to the key operational concepts of representation, participation, influence and impact giving consideration to gender inclusion.

He said the report also aligns with the EITI processes and ensures that disclosures are conducted in a manner that accommodates the interests, views, concerns and needs of women and other groups in Nigeria’s extractive sector.

Orji said NEITI will be interested on the issues of abuse to women and children’s right in the Extractive Host Communities.