By Bassey Udo
Nigeria is ready for the forth coming validation of its implementation of the extractive industry transparency initiative (EITI) in the country, the Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) said on Tuesday in Abuja.
The transparency and accountability agency stepped up its mobilization and awareness creation efforts among the critical constituents in the extractive industry on Tuesday with the engagement of civil society groups and the media ahead of the exercise scheduled for January 2023.
At the Civil Society Engagement on EITI Validation in Abuja on Tuesday, NEITI Executive Secretary, Orji Ogbonanya Orji, said the exercise was intended to prepare and sensitise the civil society and the media on their roles in the implementation of the EITI process in the country.
EITI validation is a quality assurance mechanism to ascertain the level of compliance and progress by an EITI implementing country towards meeting the standards set by the global transparency body to promote transparency and accountability in the management of earnings from the extractive industries.
The assessment exercise in the oil, gas and mining sectors of all 57 EITI implementing countries conducted every three years was originally scheduled for February this year, but was shifted due to the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the previous exercise held on February 27, 2019, the EITI board based in Oslo, Norway proclaimed that Nigeria have made “satisfactory progress” over its implementation of the EITI Standard based on the validation of its 2016 EITI standard.
To prepare its staff, the National Stakeholder Working group (NSWG), also known as the board and other stakeholders for the exercise, Orji said NEITI has developed a plan of action, by reviewing its internal and external processes based on Nigeria’s accomplishments as a leading EITI member country.
“The NEITI management team has undergone training on the new validation model and constituted two separate committees -the Validation Committee and Shadow Validation Committee.
“The validation Committee is made up of the NSWG, with the Secretariat currently providing technical support, while Shadow Validation Committee is expected to critically review progress made by the Validation Committee, identifying gaps and advising on maximizing opportunities,” Orji said.
To ensure adequate preparation and stakeholders’ feedbacks beyond, he said NEITI has since commenced a national sensitization to deepen stakeholders understanding of the EITI process and validation exercise at sub-national level.
“Nigeria through NEITI is therefore ready to showcase outstanding accomplishments which the EITI implementation has made possible in Nigeria’s extractive sector reform,” the NEITI boss announced.
Nigeria’s milestones NEITI plans to showcase during the validation exercise, Orji said, include the country’s strong NSWG/multi-stakeholder group leadership, regular reporting on NEITI activities; available political will and government support to NEITI, and a strong partnership with the legislature to promote transparency and accountability in the extractive industry.
Other milestones include the passage of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) after several attempts for almost two decades; NEITI membership on the PIA Presidential Steering Committee on PIA implementation; the unbundling of NNPC into a public limited liability company; NNPC becoming EITI supporting company, and regular publication of NNPC Annual Financial Reports.
Besides, Orji said NEITI was able to ensure the emergence of two strong regulators, the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) for the upstream, and the Nigeria Midstream and Downstream regulatory Authority – (NMDRA), for the mid/downstream sector of the petroleum industry.
In terms of civil society cooperation and partnership, the NEITI scribe said based ups on the memorandum of understanding of the various groups, the agency was able to promote and preserve civic space; ensure a strong companies relationship working with NEITI through a companies’ Forum; ensure increased demand, easy access and availability of verified information and data in the public domain.
He said NEITI was able to facilitate the recovery of about N2.6 trillion following the its intervention with the National Assembly, with another $2.6 billion outstanding revenue as at March 2022.
On Resource Mobilization and Revenue Generation, he said NEITI’s work has generated data and information on the extractive industry for public to promote debate, while EITI has been institutionalized in Nigeria, with the recent acquisition of a new office accommodation for the agency as well as leveraging on technology to deploy various creative innovations to advance EITI principles in Nigeria.
The NEITI Chief announced that a validation team from the EITI international Secretariat in Norway would arrive Nigeria between November 10 and 18,2022 to conduct assessment of Nigeria’s readiness for the validation exercise.
While in the country, he said the validation team may choose to consult or interact with stakeholders, including media and civil society, on the activities of NEITI and its mandate.
The actual exercise, he confirmed, is expected to formally commence in January 2023, beginning with the review of completed Validation templates by the covered entities to be submitted to the global body by the NEITI board/management.
In addition to the review of other relevant documents (online/offline) on EITI implementation in Nigeria, the Executive Secretary said the officials from the EITI Secretariat would issue a public call for stakeholders’ views on progress on by Nigeria on the implementing of the requirements and standards in the country.