The Executive Secretary of NEITI, Mr. Waziri Adio have called on the Nigerian government to mainstream and strengthen accountability and good governance mechanisms like the EITI in the management of the country’s natural resources.
He stated this while delivering the keynote speech titled “Preventing Corruption and Enhancing Transparency & Accountability in the Management of Revenues from the Extractive Sector: The NEITI experience” at the Academics Stand Against Corruption (ASAP) event held recently at the University of Lagos.
Waziri Adio, explained that the EITI process empowers the citizen by providing information and data about the extractive sector which had been otherwise characterized by opacity. He added that transparency enhances public financial management while public understanding of government revenues and expenditure over time would aid public debate and inform choices made by governments on behalf of their people for sustainable development.
According to Mr. Adio, citizens can thus “take full control of the management of their resources by monitoring and demanding changes using the myriad of accountability instruments at their disposal such as the NEITI reports”. NEITI is a national chapter of the global EITI set up to ensure that there is transparency and accountability in the management of resources from Nigeria’s extractive sector.
Mr Adio gave some of the highlights contained in the NEITI 2013 Audit reports to buttress the need for Nigerians to take the reports more seriously. He stated that the huge losses in revenues amounting to trillions of naira were due to inefficiencies, poor governance and abuses which could otherwise have been avoided.
NEITI, he said, has continued to seek ways to address issues such as enthronement of clear fiscal terms, open and transparent processes, removal of discretion etc. He however called on Nigerians to organise and make their voices count. “We must demand equitable, sensible and sustainable allocation of revenues from mineral resources, we must question and challenge rules and practices that undermine our ability to derive optimum value from our natural endowment. It is not ‘government’s money’; it is the people’s money and we must organise and engage on the basis of knowledge and not just passion”, Mr. Adio stated.
The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) says it is set to push the boundaries of transparency and accountability through the implementation of beneficial ownership, contract transparency and tracking of utilization of government revenues from natural resources to ensure that citizens benefit more from extractive resources.
He defined corruption in the governance of public resources as simply the use of public office for private gain. According to him “since natural resource revenues are not taxed from the sweat of citizens, the people are not involved in the process of generation or computation and this creates huge incentives for capture by public officials”.
To curb this corrupt tendencies, Mr. Adio canvassed the need to introduce competition, democratise access to information, remove discretion, and strengthen instruments of accountability.
He explained that natural resources in themselves are not curses which afflict the society where they are found and extracted but the mis-management of the opportunities created by these mineral revenues make them look like curses. He was however optimistic that the EITI as one of the several transparency and accountability tools, with the right lessons learnt, the curse of resources can be reversed, citing the examples of Norway, Botswana and others.
He further advised that in order for resource-rich countries like Nigeria to insure themselves against the shocks that come with mineral resource prices, “they must curb their appetite for consumption, political actors must find the will to save and the foresight to invest in physical and human infrastructure, while money meant for public services must not be cornered or diverted”.
NEITI he said “will continue to improve on the quality, the relevance and the usability of the information in its audits, while the citizens must hold the government to its commitment to openness, accountability, good governance and anti-corruption especially now that the present administration has shown the political will to do so”.
He commended ASAP for organising the conference bearing in mind how decades of corruption wreaked havoc on Nigeria’s development process.