The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) would soon begin to investigate financial infractions contained in the annual oil and gas sector audit reports by the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) for enforcement and prosecution of culprits.
The investigation on the audit report findings would be undertaken as a joint operation between the Special Extractive Industry Fraud Section (EIFS) of the Commission and NEITI. The Executive Secretary of NEITI, Ogbonnaya Orji who disclosed this during his visit to the Chairman of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa on Friday said both agencies are working towards a renewed partnership agreement to stem corrupt activities and practices in Nigeria’s extractive sector.
Under the partnership, Orji said the EFCC extractive investigation fraud section would henceforth conduct joint operations on the findings and recommendations outlined in the NEITI reports.
The modalities of the joint operations are to be clearly specified in a Memorandum of Understanding to be signed by the chief executives of the two agencies next month.
Orji said the purpose of his visit was to secure the support of the EFCC in the areas of investigation of infractions identified by the NEITI’s reports for enforcement and prosecution.
“Though there is an already existing relationship between NEITI and the EFCC, there is need to further deepen and strengthen the collaboration through the expansion and widening of areas of the cooperation to push the boundaries of accountability in the management of Nigeria’s extractive wealth”, Orji said.
“Both NEITI and the EFCC were created about the same time with similar mandates to make Nigeria’s resources benefit the people. NEITI cannot carry out this mandate effectively alone without the suport of the anti-graft agencies.
“We need partnership and collaboration with agencies like the EFCC. This will make the two agencies stronger”, he added.
The head of the transparency agency said NEITI’s reports have always documented remedial issues that needed to be addressed, but have often not been able to do so due to its inability to prosecute defaulters and enforce compliance with its findings.
“We have identified about $11.6billion as potential revenues to be recovered into government coffers arising from poor computation of taxes, royalties and other process lapses by covered entities under its oil and gas industry audit.
“The solid minerals sector contributes less than 1% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) as a result of a lot of revenue leakages, wastes and illegal activities perpetrated in the sector.
He said henceforth NEITI would share its audit templates with the Chairman and the mainstream EFCC special extractives investigation fraud section with NEITI’s technical department for verifiable and accurate information on remedial issues thrown up in NEITI’s audit reports that need to be further investigated.
The NEITI executive secretary commended the EFCC on its bold and courageous achievements and urged the agency to join NEITI to fight for the heart and soul of Nigeria in extractive revenue management. He assured the anti-graft agency of NEITI’s support as the two agencies work together to reverse the resource curse syndrome.
In his welcome remarks, the EFCC Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa said the extractive industries investigation fraud section established to work with and for NEITI have presence in all Commission’s zonal offices.
“We will look at the NEITI Audit reports, investigate infractions and ensure that Nigerians get justice”, he said.
Bawa also said the EFCC would work with NEITI and the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development to address the administrative gaps in the solid minerals sector.
“We are ready to increase the manpower capacity of the extractive investigation fraud unit and deploy EFCC operatives to ensure that minerals leaving the country are adequately accounted for”, he said.
The EFCC, he noted, (was mandated to work with other agencies of government to ensure transparency and accountability.
“We have developed the expertise in the oil, gas and mining sectors on investigation and operations and presently engaging with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources for a fraud risk assessment of all agencies in the ministry. This will lead to the development of a fraud risk management”, Bawa said.
The EFCC chairman said EITI would serve on the fraud risk assessment team and the assessment extended to other agencies of government.
He also extended invitation to NEITI to avail its staff of the Commission’s training school for collaborative capacity building initiatives.