The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) on Monday expressed shock at the attacks on the Chairman of the Human Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), Lanre Suraju and his family, as well as passengers in Abuja-Kaduna train.
The Executive Secretary of NEITI, Orji Orji described the two incidents as dispicable and unfortunate.
Suraju, a prominent Civil Society Advocate in the extractive industry, was attacked by unknown assailants who breached security and invaded his family home in Abuja.
Reacting to the incident, Orji said he received the news of the attack on Suraju and his family at their home with the utmost sadness and disappointment and condemns the attack in very strong terms.
The NEITI Executive Secretary said any attack on Suraju was an attack on all civil society organisations working to enthrone transparency and accountability in the extractive industries.
“The attack is also an affront to civil society protocols under the global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) of which Nigeria is a key signatory.
“NEITI views this attack on Mr. Suraju with pain and will like to appeal to security agencies to carry out full scale investigation to apprehend the culprits.
“For us in NEITI, the Civil Society Organisations are our very strong allies. We work with the civil society, government and the companies to enthrone transparency and accountability in the management of oil, gas and mining revenues”, the Executive Secretary said.
He said NEITI’s belief was that the interest of leading Civil Society activists like Suraju was simply to help ensure that revenues earned from the extractive sector benefits all Nigerians and not just a few.
He said there was an urgent need to guarantee the security of all groups, individuals and persons working in the extractive sector to enable them carry out their legitimate assignments without intimidation.
“We think it is important for aggrieved persons, individuals or groups to take legitimate steps to seek redress through the law courts instead of resulting to self- help”.
Orji reassured the civil society working in the resource governance sector of NEITI’s commitment to continue to work with them and other stakeholders such as government and companies as contained in the NEITI mandate to protect and push the boundaries of civic space beyond limits.
To ensure that the oil, gas and mining sectors in Nigeria were repositioned to provide revenues that would support the nation’s development and reduce poverty, Orji said NEITI shared in the pain of Suraju and his family and hope that those behind their ordeal would soon be brought to face justice.
Also, the NEITI Executive Secretary expressed sadness on the recent attack on passengers traveling on the Abuja-Kaduna rail line by bandits.
Orji, on behalf of NEITI, condoled with the families and members of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the leadership of the civil society and all other Nigerian professionals and citizens involved in the tragic rail attack.
“NEITI views the attack as an unfortunate incident and capable of derailing the ongoing government efforts and huge investments to revive the Nigerian railway system,” Orji lamented.
“NEITI’s legitimate interest in the railway rehabilitation project is the strategic importance of the key infrastructure to the distribution of petroleum products and allied goods and services,” he added.
He said NEITI was aware that one of the major problems in the Midstream and Downstream sectors of the petroleum sector currently, was the distribution of the products to all parts of the country to ensure products availability at all times.
“The railway has since been identified by government and NEITI as a very important infrastructure that will enhance the reforms in the sector. The current attack on the rail sector is designed to derail these reforms and instill fear in the minds of Nigerians travelling by rail,” he said.
He appealed to the government and Nigerian Railway Corporation in particular to consider as priority in their ongoing revamping of the railways, adequate security measures for rail travelers”.
Orji urged the government not to relent in its ongoing revamping of the rail sector because of its linkage to the extractive sector development.
“The time has come for us to appreciate the work of the armed forces and other security agencies. The insecurity and terrorist attacks in the towns, villages and communities, including critical infrastructure in the extractive industry can be easier handled if we stopped unguarded comments and vilifications of those men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line every day to keep all of us safe.
“It’s time we appreciate that their job can be anything, but easy. Our security agencies need help, support and encouragement especially at this moment,” Orji said.