The Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) on Thursday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Independent Corrupt Practices and other offences Commission (ICPC) on information sharing, partnership and cooperation.
The Executive Secretary of NEITI, Orji Ogbonnanya Orji, signed the MoU on behalf of his agency, same as the Chairman of ICPC, Bolaji Owasanoye, as part of efforts by the two agencies to build their strategic partnerships and cooperation.
Following the change in the leadership at NEITI with the appointment of the new Executive Secretary, Orji said NEITI visited ICPC on April 15, 2021 to solicit its support, deepen their cooperation and explore areas to strengthen existing relationship as allies in the anti-corruption war.
Since the visit, Orji said discussion between the two agencies have culminated in the development of an MOU that defines and spells out the obligations and specific areas of cooperation and roles of each agency.
For NEITI, Orji said its role was to ensure transparency and accountability in the oil and gas industry, with expanded roles covering forestry, environment, and energy transition.
He expressed confidence that working with ICPC would strengthen NEITI’s capacity and resolve to reward good conduct and incentives as well as hold accountable through specific consequences and sanctions those determined to take its mandate for granted.
The executive Secretary pledged to continue to demonstrate commitment to the contents of the MoU to the benefit of the two organizations and the country.
Welcoming the NEITI delegation to the ceremony, ICPC Chairman, said the areas of cooperation identified in the MoU would cover capacity building for the staff of the two agencies, and exchange of information as well as cooperation on areas of common interest.
The MoU also covers extracts of some cases in the NEITI Audit reports bordering on corruption that require follow-up actions and further investigations, considering the strategic importance of the extractive industries to the Nigerian economy, particularly its implications to economic growth and national development.
He described as good the timing of the signing of the MoU between the two agencies, in view of the recent signing into law of the Petroleum Industry Act, saying their collaboration would have a positive impact on the implementation of the legislation and the improvement of transactions and governance in the oil and gas sector.
ICPC and NEITI, he noted were already part of some current global interactions and initiatives like the global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and intelligence bodies focused on illicit financial flows,
He said the Commission recently provided some advisory to the government aimed at eliminating opacity practices, like confidentiality clauses in contract agreements, that sometimes characterize the oil and gas industry, which result in a lot damage to governance.
Such practices, he said, provided leaders the opportunity to sign away important aspects of the country’s economy.
“Some of these practices would be positively impacted by the passage of the PIA,” the ICPC Chairman said, adding that government deserved commendation for taking the initiative to pass the law.
He lamented that before now government officials were using mere memos and ministerial letters to modify major extractive industry agreements without making such letters open to the public.
Citing the case of the controversial award of OPL245 considered the most lucrative oil block in Africa, Owasanoye said this was facilitated by lack of transparency and poor governance arrangements in place at the time.
Under the new arrangement, he said NEITI has a key role to play, by insisting that when such awards are to be awarded in future, there must be openness and transparency in the process.
“With such arrangement under the new regime, we are not likely to see the kind of situation we experienced in respect of OPL245.
“Information sharing is very important in the work of the two agencies, as all parties are obliged to let others know what they are doing.
“We have the duty and responsibility to ourselves and our country to share and exchange information.
The MoU spells out the intentions and desires of the two agencies on how to get things done the proper way to realize their respective mandates.