EITI and the need for transparency

By Abdullahi M. Gulloma

If anyone ever wondered why there must be transparency in Nigeria’s extractive industry, his worry was recently put to rest. The government, said Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, would continue to embrace transparency in the extractive sector because it is in the country’s overriding national interest to do so.
Osinbajo stated this during a bilateral meeting with the Chairman of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), Mr. Fredrik Reinfeldt, on the side-lines of the just-concluded EITI Beneficial Ownership Conference in Jakarta, Indonesia.
“Transparency in this sector is very important for Nigeria,” Osinbajo said. “It is in our enlightened self-interest to do so because of the strategic nature of this sector to our economy. So we are doing this more for ourselves.”
According to him, and he’s right in many ways, Nigeria upholds the principle of transparency in the sector “with all sense of seriousness, not because we are looking for applause or commendation, but because we are convinced they are in our best interests.”
Consequently, the Vice President reiterated the Buhari-led administration’s commitment to a sustained EITI implementation in Nigeria and the establishment of a publicly accessible register of the ultimate owners of companies operating in the country.
He said the EITI implementation was in line with the present administration’s anti-corruption drive, and the commitment the President made at the May 2016 London Anti-Corruption Summit.
Thankfully, the administration’s effort in this direction is paying dividends for in his remarks, the Chairman of EITI and former prime minister of Sweden, Reinfeldt, said the EITI board and secretariat would continue to support Nigeria in its initiatives and praised Nigeria for attaining “meaningful progress” at the last validation, despite the complexity of EITI operation in Nigeria.
Yet, while this can be described as a good development, Reinfeldt, in his speech, raised a critical issue of concern for the government when he specifically bemoaned the “complexity of EITI operation in Nigeria.”
His observation, on the other hand, is not a good development mainly because the extractive industry thrives on transparency.
The EITI is a global standard to promote prudent management of oil, gas and mineral resources, and it’s implemented in 52 countries, including Nigeria, which signed up to the initiative in 2003 and started implementation in 2004.
Thus, for Nigeria, regarded as one of the leading EITI-implementing countries, to allow its operation in the sector to be shrouded in some kind of darkness or complex is to say the least undesirable.
Agree, even under the Buhari-led administration, which has in many ways expressed its disapproval for corrupt practices in the nation’s ways of life, reforms must take time to blossom. And agreed too that the measures taken by the administration against corruption have started yielding fruits.
Still, if truth must be told, much remains to be done, especially in the extractive industry, where transparency in operation is not only needed, but it must be seen to be practiced primarily to encourage investors into the sector.
On fresh $321m Abacha loot recovery
If all goes well, and we pray it does, Nigeria will be richer with $321 million soon. This week, the Federal Executive Council (FEC), has empowered the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Abubakar Malami to sign an agreement, on behalf of the country, with Switzerland for the repatriation of $321 million.
According to the government’s plan, Malami should commit Nigeria to the agreement during the global forum in the United States of America (USA) scheduled to hold in December.
Speaking in Abuja, Malami said that government’s efforts to recover stolen assets had started yielding fruits with the recent recovery of £185 million from the United Kingdom on Malabu oil deal.
“The federal government has been making efforts to recover stolen funds, loot, assets and the efforts have indeed been yielding fruits, particularly as it relates to local recoveries,” Malami said. “We are in agreement substantially with Swiss [government] for the recovery of additional sum of $321 million.”
The Attorney General said that he has been mandated by the council to execute the agreement that will see to the repatriation of the $321 million from Switzerland.
And, what, at this time, can be more pleasing to ears of Nigerians? For too long, but for so little, efforts were made by the previous and current governments to recover what infamously came to be known as the Abacha loot and other funds stolen from the treasury by those entrusted with the responsibility of leading our country and keeping its resources safe.
Therefore, the Swiss government and all patriotic national and international bodies must, even if it’s not ideal to some people, in the event the Abacha loot is recovered insists that such money must be spent on projects and programmes that have direct benefits to the welfare of ordinary Nigerians.
Essentially, Nigerians must see where the funds are eventually used and it must be used for betterment of their welfare. Not again should funds recovered be allowed to be diverted to private pockets by unpatriotic and corrupt leaders.
Every Nigerian should, henceforth, show interest in how the looted funds are recovered and expended.
Welcome, new SGF, Boss Mustapha!
President Muhammadu Buhari, this week, administered oaths of office and allegiance on the new Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha.
Mustapha replaces Babachir David Lawal, who was sacked by the President following, presumably, his indictment by a presidential panel headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, which investigated allegations of financial misconduct against him.
The new Secretary to the Government of the Federation is a lawyer, management consultant, politician and businessman.
He was, until his latest appointment, the Managing Director of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA).
Mustapha, who hails from Adamawa, was a Deputy National Chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), one of the parties that coalesced to form the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
He was also the chairman of the APC 7-man committee that undertook the screening of 27 aspirants of the APC for the office of the governor in Kogi state in 2015.
Thus, from the foregoing, Mustapha is qualified to be appointed as SGF. Yet, Babachir Lawal, before him, and others previously and currently holding political office but who have allegations of corruption leveled them, were equally considered fit by Mr. President for their office.
So, it’s one thing to qualify to hold office and it’s a different thing to incorruptibly discharge functions of your office to the admiration of your appointer, in this particular case, the President, and Nigerians and in the interest of Nigeria.
Therefore, while the recent appointment of Mustapha can be described as recognition of his diligence, loyalty and, above all, hard work and commitment to the principles of the party, it remains now for him to justify his appointment, confidence reposed in him by Buhari and eminently discharge his functions in many ways different from how the office of the SGF was handled by his immediate past predecessor

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