The Netherlands can learn a lot from Nigeria on transparency reporting

"Old" Board member meets "new" - this is what they can learn from each other.

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) board meeting took place yesterday and today in Oslo. And from now on, the Netherlands is also a part of the EITI Board, represented by Special Envoy Natural Resources Dirk-Jan Koch as a new board member.

To learn more about EITI, and one of the implementing countries Nigeria, we asked Dirk-Jan Koch and Zainab Ahmed (Minister of State Ministry of Budget and National Planning in Nigeria) a few questions. Zainab Ahmed used to be the national coordinator for the Nigerian transparency initiative before becoming Minister of State last year:

In what ways did EITI help Nigeria?

Zainab Ahmed: EITI helped to open up the oil, gas and mining sector. In the past, these sectors were a black hole. Very few people knew what was happening in these sectors. EITI changed that significantly. We have been able to track down a lot of ‘lost’ oil money and get it back.

What are the challenges for EITI in Nigeria?

Zainab Ahmed: In the past we used to have a lot of problems with implementing EITI. The former government did not address the recommendations that the report made for reform. Luckily, that changed now. The current government is using the report as one of the main tools in the oil and gas sector.

Do you have any advice for Dirk-Jan as an upcoming board member?

Zainab Ahmed: It is important for board members to have their views ready on the issues beforehand, because they are not speaking for themselves; they are speaking for their countries. Moreover, you need to develop mechanisms to communicate the information of the board meeting easily and efficiently.

How could the Netherlands and Nigeria learn from each other?

Zainab Ahmed: The Netherlands and Nigeria as EITI units should exchange information. Nigeria is one of the oldest members of the EITI Board and we have been compliant for a while, whereas the Netherlands is just getting started: so the Netherlands can definitely learn from Nigeria in this respect. At the same time, in the Netherlands, the corporate governance and the institutions are more developed so we can also learn from you.

Dirk-Jan Koch: I agree with Zainab on this. This is the way we see international cooperation nowadays. There are many things that we can learn from Nigeria and the other way around. That’s what I like about EITI. We are sitting here as equals, discussing how we to make this sector work for development.

What is the role of the Netherlands within EITI?

Dirk-Jan Koch: The Netherlands just came into the Board here in Oslo. We try to make sure that EITI remains a very effective tool for transparency, and we need to make EITI ready for this new phase. It is bigger than it’s ever been before; there are more than 50 implementing countries and it’s touching more topics than ever. Topics like contract transparency and beneficial ownership. EITI has become a much bigger initiative.

What do you think are the biggest challenges for EITI in the Netherlands?

Dirk-Jan Koch: Our Minister wrote a letter to our parliament that we would implement EITI, and now we really have to get our act together and do it. I think we have quit a lot of challenges to actually make it happen now; we realize that creating transparency on the extractive sector and its financial flows and debate about it is easier said than done!

Zainab Ahmed: EITI has become a better tool now. At the beginning it was very simplistic. Now it’s an accountability tool. You are able to use it as a tool to hold companies and governments accountable. EITI provides very rich contextual information about industries and stimulates a much needed debate its added value.

This article is authored by Floor Lammers, communications at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Netherlands. You can get in touch with her via floor.lammers@minbuza.nl