National Coordinator of the month: Zainab, Nigeria

"My aspiration was to become the Accountant General."

As a young girl the EITI National Coordinator of November aspired to be the Accountant General of her country. Today, she is leading reform efforts in her home country through Nigeria's EITI.

My name is Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed and I am the Executive Secretary and National Coordinator of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI). Born some fifty three years ago in Kaduna State in Northern Nigeria, I had my first degree in accountancy from the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, a Masters in Business Administration.

Managing public finances for 28 years

As a young accounting graduate, my aspiration was to become the Accountant General of my State and possibly that of the Country. This was why I took up a career in the public service in 1982, with Kaduna State Ministry of Finance, North West Nigeria. In the last 28 years, I served in several accounting and public finance management positions in the Nigerian economy especially in the telecommunications industry at the time the Nigerian public and private sectors depended solely on NITEL for Communication services. From the rank of Deputy General Manager in charge of Corporate Treasury in 2002, I moved to Nigeria Mobile Telecommunications as General Manager Finance in September, 2005 and later became Chief Finance Officer of MTEL.

My appointment as the Managing Director of Kaduna Investment Company by the Executive Governor of Kaduna State in March, 2009 was to help Kaduna State define, plan and implement an accelerated industrial development programme. This was the position I held until my appointment as member of the National Stakeholders Working Group (NSWG, the Board of NEITI) and later the Executive Secretary of Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) in October 2010. I hold the Fellowship of Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN), a member of the Nigerian Institute of Taxation and the Nigerian Institute of Management.

Of course, issues in the extractive sector were not new to me; I have stayed and lived in Kaduna and Zaria, home to one of Nigeria’s refineries and mining base in the North.

My sojourn with NEITI commenced at a time when the agency’s activities were mainly in the oil and gas sector. However since I assumed duties in November, 2010, some three years ago, NEITI has expanded the scope of its activities to the solid minerals sector. We intend to move further into fisheries and forestry resources with time because Nigeria is heavily endowed with a lot of natural extractive resources.

Reforming Nigeria, one audit at a time

At the time the Nigerian government embraced the EITI in 2003, it was part of the larger reform programmes embedded under the National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (NEEDS) focused on four main areas. These were: improving Nigeria’s macroeconomic environment; pursuing structural reforms; strengthening public expenditure management; and implementing institutional and governance reforms. NEITI was therefore part of the institutional and governance reforms.

I will say that the enactment of the NEITI Act 2007 is the singular most enduring impact of the Initiative in Nigeria. This legislation is leading other reforms in the sector, such as the Petroleum Industry Bill awaiting passage into Law by the National Assembly. NEITI is encouraged that the draft legislation provides for sound policy road map, legal and regulatory frameworks upon which the reforms initiatives in Nigeria’s petroleum industry will be driven.

I note with keen interest that the PIB deliberately made sufficient provisions to strengthen the roles of NEITI and deepen EITI processes in Nigeria. NEITI has made known its observations and comments on the PIB through a memorandum to the National Assembly. I join all well-meaning Nigerians to hope for an early passage of the PIB into Law by the National Assembly.

Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed