The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has agreed to work with the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) to ensure that findings from the annual audit in the extractive industries that require remediation actions are promptly investigated and enforces.
Over the year, findings and recommendations contained in the annual audit reports by the accountability and transparency agency relating to infractions by various operators in the sector have been largely ignored, as the agencies lacks the legal power to enforce compliance.
But in a memorandum of understanding on joint cooperation signed on Wednesday in Abuja between NEITI and the EFCC, the two agencies reached an understanding on modalities to ensure the prevention and enforcement of such remediation actions going forward.
The agreement signed between the Executive Secretary of NEITI, Orji Ogbonnaya Orji and the Chairman of EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa renewed and re-affirmed the commitment of the two anti-graft agencies to partner and collaborate in the fight against corruption in Nigeria’s extractive sector.
Under the MoU, NEITI and the EFCC agreed to cooperate in the areas of information and data sharing, joint operations, prevention and remediation actions on governance, processes and corruption issues in Nigeria’s extractive sector.
Other areas of cooperation and partnership include regular capacity building and trainings, participation in fraud risk assessment efforts, Investigation, prosecution and management of information and compliance and enforcement of sanctions.
Other specific areas of cooperation include issues emanating from NEITI audit reports with specific reference to financial misconduct by operators and the covered entities.
Both agencies also agreed that the modalities for the collaboration and partnership “Must be based on the implementation of the EITI principles and the NEITI processes and within the operational mandate of the EFCC”.
The Executive Secretary of NEITI, Orji Ogbonnaya Orji lauded the formalization of the partnership and cooperation, saying the agreement marks a new era in the relation of the two agencies.
“In the past, there were assumptions that NEITI can only bark, but cannot bite. With the MoU signed today with the EFCC, NEITI has been provided with the teeth, which have been missing. We can now bark and bite.
“NEITI has the expertise in the oil, gas and mining sector and EFCC has the expertise in investigation and prosecution of crimes in extractive sector operations.
“This partnership is therefore designed towards blocking leakages, hold people accountable and increase government revenues.
“As an agency, we are very proud of the courage and excellence that this institution has exhibited in the face of challenges,” Orji said.
By the MoU, he said NEITI’s relationship with the EFCC has been strengthened and anchored on a procedure that has been formalized.
Although there was an existing relationship between NEITI and the EFCC, Orji said there was 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.
He advised Nigerians to channel their minds to modest and legitimate means of livelihood and work to add public value in their areas of national assignment for the benefit of Nigerians.
The EFCC Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, assured NEITI of its commitment and support towards achieving the goals of the MoU.
“We have given you our teeth for us to bite together. Here at the EFCC, we established the Extractives Industry Fraud Section to deal with issues in the extractive industries. We have strengthened efforts at the Airports to ensure that there is sanity in the way our minerals are accounted for”, Bawa said.
“We know what our two agencies stand for. There are areas that NEITI cannot reach that we can reach. This MoU, therefore, is about prevention, enforcement and coordination to rid our country of economic and financial crimes in all its ramifications, especially in the extractive industry.
Bawa said the MoU was clear on what was expected of his agency, assuring his commitment to implementing it to the letter.
“We at the EFCC believe so much that if we can block the leakages in revenue, especially in the extractive sector, Nigeria will not need to borrow a kobo from anywhere to fund its budget”, he said.
He commended the efforts of the new management in NEITI to support the ongoing fight against corruption.
At an earlier meeting of the leadership of the two anti–graft agencies, the NEITI Executive Secretary and the EFCC Chairman committed to rid the country of corrupt practices and malfeasance in the nation’s natural resource governance.