The implementation of the ongoing reforms in the nation’s extractive industries would receive increased acceleration if the oil companies resolve to work closely with the civil society on all the issues, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has said.
The Executive Secretary NEITI, Ogbonnaya Orji said in Abuja at separate consultative meetings with leading Civil Society organizations and a forum of oil, gas and mining companies in the extractive sector in Nigeria.
At the briefing of the oil, gas and companies, Orji said the new approach by NEITI was to work with the government, companies and civil society to urgently rebuild trust required to promote inflow of foreign direct investments into the oil, gas and mining sectors through the NEITI/EITI process.
Orji expressed regrets over the complaints by oil companies that only $3 billion, out of over $75 billion investments in sub-Saharan Africa in the last few years, came to Nigeria.
“It is time for us to reunite with mutual respect to address poor investments in the industry. Stakeholders unity is key because in transparency & accountability, everyone gains,” Orji said.
He said his recent appointment as Executive Secretary of NEITI was as a result of the unity among the players in the industry and civil society.
At the meeting organized by the Oil Producers Trade Section (OPTS) of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Executive Secretary assured the companies that under his leadership, NEITI would be a pillar of trust, partnership and collaboration.
NEITI, he said, would work with the oil companies and relevant government agencies to address the growing concerns over multiple and proliferation of levies and taxation.
The Executive Secretary said NEITI would evaluate the roles of its strategic partners, devise new approaches to achieve results, create opportunities and extend the frontiers of transparency and accountability by responding adequately and swiftly to the emerging issues in the EITI process.
Working together with companies to improve the business climate, he said, would help strengthen the revenue contribution of the extractive industries to support ongoing efforts at rebuilding the nation’s social infrastructure, create jobs and positive change in the living standards of our citizens.
At his meeting with the civil society, Orji said NEITI under his leadership would work with development partners to enhance the capacity of the groups to respond adequately to unfolding challenges associated with driving the reforms in the extractive industry in Nigeria.
“We will create the space for engagement and address every concern that civil societies have. Trust that we will work with you to deliver on your mandate as enshrined in the civil society protocols set out in the EITI Standards”
The NEITI Executive Secretary announced the formation of a civil society congress, where robust debates and constructive dialogue will be held from time to time under NEITI- covered entities and donors’ collaboration on the scope, dimension and stakeholders’ responsibilities to reform Nigeria’s building extractive sector.
He reiterated the need to adopt knowledge-driven approaches to drive NEITI’s remediation process, adding that his focus in the short term would be to have the civil society hold regular forums in other to assess their work and impact; strategic engagement with other stakeholders; gender inclusiveness and the need to link NEITI reports to visible impacts.
Chair of the Companies Forum, Bunmi Toyobo said the meeting was to enable participants to ask questions on the vision of the new Executive Secretary and how he would want to be supported to deliver on his mandate.
Toyobo urged NEITI to within the boundaries allowed by its mandate, support the growth and investment drive in the industry.
He lamented the huge burden and expectations on the extractive sector in Nigeria even in the face of dwindling production capacities and lack of competitiveness of the Nigerian extractive investment corridor as well as the uncertainty surrounding the future of fossil fuels.
A former member of the EITI Board and National Stakeholders Working Group of NEITI Faith Nwadishi, who is also the chair of the civil society steering committee, hailed Orji’s appointment, describing him as a square peg in a square hole.
“It is a new chapter and a new beginning,” Nwadishi said.
The National Coordinator of Publish What You Pay (PWYP), Nigeria, Peter Egbule said it was time to rebuild the civil society family.
Egbule commended the on-going consultations and asked that it should be sustained. Adding that Orji should pay special attention to resolving remediation issues highlighted in past NEITI reports.
The virtual consultative meetings were part of ongoing extensive stakeholders’ consultations by the new NEITI Executive Secretary since his assumption of office.