The Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) is to focus on developing the solid minerals sector as part of its new strategy to ensure its activities and programmes directly impacted the lives of Nigerians.
The Executive Secretary of NEITI, Orji Ogbonnanya Orji announced this on Monday in Abuja at the unveiling of the agency’s five-year strategic plan, 2022-2026.
The unveiling of the plan held at NEITI House, its new permanent office complex, was performed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary in the office, Maurice Mbaeri.
In his welcome remarks, Orji said the Board of the transparency agency has resolved to focus more on the content and the details of the work plan that would ensure the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in Nigeria not only delivered impactful results, but also energizes more reforms in the oil, gas, and mining sectors.
Specifically, the NEITI Chief said the five-year strategic plan, which has three major objectives, would enhance extractive sector governance reforms through policy research, strategic stakeholder engagement, communication and inter-agency collaboration.
Also, the plan would maintain extractive reporting and relevance by prioritizing national and international priorities, while achieving operational excellence in implementing the NEITI mandate through professionalism, innovation, use of technology, resource management, and capacity building.
Under these strategic objectives, he said NEITI would focus on the comprehensive implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) to address the challenges within the oil and gas sector.
Orji expressed displeasure that the solid minerals sector, which he described as “an enormous sector that can grow the economy more than oil” was currently contributing a little over 1.8 percent to Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP).
He said NEITI’s projection was the sector has the potential to contribute over 60 percent to the nation’s GDP if thrown open for investment.
Based on NEITI’s extensive scoping study in the sector, Orji said at 60 percent of Nigeria’s GDP, its potential would outperform the oil sector.
Already, he said NEITI has identified six strategic minerals, particularly Gold, it was planning to focus attention on their development.
Reviewing the activities of NEITI over the years, Orji said the agency conducted and published 11 cycles of audits in the solid minerals sector between 2007 and 2020, which revealed that about N624.1 billion, or $1.4billion was realised by the government as revenue from the sector over 13 years.
Compared to about $394 billion earned from the oil and gas sector in just 10 years, Orji said this showed negligence to the enormous potential in the solid minerals sector.
Although he expressed delight that the Federal Executive Council a draft bill has already been developed to amend the 2007 Mineral Act and liberalize the solid minerals sector for the inflow of investment, he said however that there was still a deadlock between the Federal and State governments over who should collect what taxes.
While expressing the hope that NEITI would be availed the draft document to make an informed position, the NEITI boss said it would move fully into the solid mineral sector to drive reforms and ensure that revenues from the sector were prudently deployed for the growth and development of the country.
On other activities of the agency, Orji said the NEITI Automation Management System (NAMS) was currently being deployed in the conduct of its industry reports.
Also, he said NEITI reports helped the National Assembly to set up a public hearing where about N1.5 Trillion ($3.8Billion) recoveries were made by the government, with over N1.07 Trillion ($2.67 Billion) still outstanding.
He announced that the update on the companies’ compliant status would be provided in the 2021 industry report scheduled to be released next month, while a survey was commissioned to determine the actual consumption of Petrol Motor Spirit (PMS) in the country.
On the debate on fuel subsidy, Orji said NEITI has already released a policy brief to show where its stand was on the issues of subsidy removal, adding that another study would be conducted on 13% Derivation to ascertain whether the benefiting states were getting what they really were supposed and the extent of utilization.
He used the occasion to express concern that the work of the PIA Implementation Steering Committee (PIASTERCO), which NEITI was co-opted into, appeared not to have been concluded and the report submitted to the government.
Orji urged the SGF, who is the Chairman of the Transition Council, to make a special case to the President for the PIASTERCO to be allowed to conclude its work and hand over a comprehensive report to the next administration.
In his speech, the SGF reiterated the government’s commitment to the implementation of the global EITI, pointing out that this was evident in NEITI being given a prominent role in the governance of the extractive industry.
“The Federal Government is satisfied with all the efforts of NEITI in championing ongoing reforms to make our extractive industry work for all Nigeria,” the SGF said.
The NEITI Strategic Plan (2022-2026), he noted, was part of the measures to strengthen and sustain the implementation of EITI in Nigeria.
He urged NEITI to ensure that under the plan, it would expand its scope of operations to sub-national levels and become more effective in addressing EITI emerging issues – contract and ownership transparency, gender and environmental reporting, energy transition, while strengthening its intervention in policy engagements in the oil, gas and mining sectors.