A coalition of Civil Society Organisations engaged in the Natural Resource Governance sector has asked the Federal Government to speedily confirm and admit a new representative recently elected into the Board of the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).
The NEITI Board is the multi-stakeholder group in the extractive industries transparency initiative process called the National Stakeholders Working Group (NSWG) consisting representatives from the relevant government entities and groups involved in the EITI process in the country.
Last week, all civil society organisations engaged in the country’s Natural Resource Governance sector came together to elect their representative to the Board.
At the end of the process, Mina Ogbanga, an Associate Professor, well-known environmental activist and advocate who is also the Chief Executive Officer of the Port Harcourt-based Centre for Development Support Initiatives (CEDSI), emerged in a keenly contested election.
The Election Committee headed by the Executive Director, Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA) and former Nigerian CSO representative in the global EITI Secretariat, Faith Nwadishi, had earlier confirmed that Ogbanga defeated four other contestants to the position.
Nwadishi said the new CSO representative received 13 votes, or 52 percent of the total votes cast, to beat her closest rivals, Victoria Ibezim Ohaeri of Spaces4Change, who got six votes, or 24 percent; Emem Okon, Founder/ Executive Director, Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre, who polled five votes, or 20 percent; Celestine Okwudili Odo who got one vote, or 4 percent, and Ibeh Nkemzero who got zero votes.
However, since the announcement of the final report on the outcome of the election, protests have trailed the exercise, with some representatives of CSOs criticising the process as lacking in transparency, fairness and inclusivity.
Some of the critics accused the election committee of adopting a strategy deliberately to deny their choice of candidates the opportunity to participate in the exercise.
They alleged that the decision by the committee to limit the contest to only individuals and organisations captured in the data base of CSOs with NEITI denied their nominees the opportunity to participate in the election.
But, the coalition of CSOs, which addressed the journalists in Abuja on Thursday in reaction to reports that the aggrieved CSOs have started gathering signatures to file a petition against the election of the new representative, hailed the emergence of Ogbanga.
The Coalition consisting of Peering Advocacy and Advancement Center (PAACA) and Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) commended the election committee for a job well done and called on the Federal Government to speedily approve and confirm Ogbanga as the new CSOs representative on the NEITI Board.
The leader of the coalition, who is also the Executive Director of PAACA, Ezenwa Nwagwu expressed delight that Ogbanga emerged at the end of “a painstaking process.”
“The new CSO representative on the NSWG is an outstanding intellectual, renown environmentalist and a woman ready for the job,” Nwagwu said.
“Apart from being a grassroots mobiliser, a gender and social inclusion expert, Ogbanga is also an Associate Professor with over 23 years of demonstrated experience in the oil and gas sector, specifically the extractive sector.
“She is also the founder and CEO of the Centre for Development Support Initiatives (CEDSI), who has been committed to supporting community rights, stakeholder engagement and social performance in the extractive industry.
“Ogbanga has meritoriously served in the past as a steering committee member on the NEITI Civil Society Steering committee where she contributed immensely to several transformative measures in the sector.
“She is a graduate of several National and International Universities where she graduated Summa Cum Laude, namely Harvard University, Executive Program, United States, Cambridge University, United Kingdom in cross sector partnership (now Sustainability Studies), University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State University of Science and Technology, just to mention a few, majorly in the areas of sustainable development studies.
“Ogbanga is a reputable woman of substance and mixes directly into the 3Cs for Capacity, Competence and Credibility, which are sterling qualities required to function in any system,” Nwagwu said.
On the integrity of the process that saw Ogbanga’s emergence, Nwagwu said the election was midwifed by Faith Nwadishi, a former member of the NSWG and a former member of the Global EITI international Board who was unanimously appointed by the CSOs to Chair the election committee.
Nwagwu said the ability to identify Ms Nwadishi, a foremost civil society leader in the sector who served Nigeria on the Board of the NEITI and had the privilege of representing Anglophone Africa at the international Board of the EITI to Chair the Committee, was in recognition of her rare credentials.
“The wisdom in the selection of Ms Faith Nwadishi with these rare credentials was to bring her local and international reputation and experience to bear in midwifing this process.
“I am proud to say that from the report we have received, Ms Faith Nwadishi discharged that assignment with distinction, in spite of distractions, bullying, sabotage, blackmail and outright treachery by a few of us who came to participate in the process with selfish motives, self-entitlement mentality either for themselves or their cronies”. Mr Nwagwu explained.
He said it was trite for anybody or group to have expected that the election would be thrown open for participation by all-comers, including those who have not been involved in the extractive industry governance process and understand the issues.
Nwagwu maintained that Ogbanga’s election has enhanced civil society reputation to have quality representation and to address the huge issue of gender gap in the current NSWG Board, made up of 15 members with only one woman, who is a government appointee.
The Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Rafsanjani, said the sterling qualities of the newly elected CSOs representative recommends her immediate confirmation and inauguration into the NEITI Board.
He said the government should ignore all misguided agitations by some persons and groups who see membership of NEITI Board as an opportunity to make money from receiving sitting allowance without the capacity to add value to the process to strengthen the country’s extractive sector.
“The extractive industry is too strategic and serious to be left in the hands of those who do not have the requisite qualification, experience and capacity to make it work for the betterment and benefit of all Nigerians. I urge the government to ignore whatever insinuations and quickly accept the new CSO representative for the overall good of the country,” Rafsanjani said.
He said the need to elect a new representative for the CSOs on the NEITI Board followed the recent resignation of the previous representative, Peter Egbule after an extensive agitation by some civil society actors engaged in the extractive sector on the grounds that his appointment did not follow the laid down policy guidelines.
The agitation, he pointed out, was based on the fact that the civil society constituency played a major role in the global EITI, adding that as a major stakeholder, whoever should be its representative on NEITI Board must emerge through a due process that complied international standard before being recommended to the President for consideration and appointment.
Consequently, Rafsanjani said a five-member committee was constituted by the NSWG to review the process and ensure that CSOs were given the opportunity to independently elect its representative on the NEITI Board.
He said the Federal Government through the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation gave approval for CSOs to elect its representative to fill the position on the NEITI Board.
“It is on record that the notice given by government for the civil society to send in its representative has almost elapses, as it took over 40 days to conclude the election process, because of the attention to details to ensure the process was right at the end of the day,” he said.
Despite all the effort, the CISLAC boss expressed disappointment that at the end of the process there were still protests from those he said “don’t mean well for the collective of the Nigerians”, adding that whatever the issues may have been during the process should be taken as important lessons to learn for the future.
“We therefore wish to use this opportunity to call on NEITI, the international EITI and the Civil Society Organisations in the EITI Process to ignore any insinuations against this process, because it is lacking in merit.
“We also want to use this opportunity to call on the government to please approve our choice to represent the civil society in the NSWG,” Rafsanjani said.
The Coalition advised the new representative to immediately initiate a reconciliatory process to reunite the civil society constituency to harmonise the divergent groups.