At the heart of Nigeria's struggle towards accountability

The Nigeria EITI (NEITI) National Conference is underway in Abuja. Entitled “Delivering transparency, reaping accountability and prosperity”, the conference takes stock on lessons and progress in the implementation of the EITI standard in Nigeria.

NEITI is an independent agency that was created with the mandate to ensure transparency in Nigeria's extractive industry. It has been at the heart of Nigeria’s struggle to improve the accountability of its main economic motor. Nigeria has published NEITI Audit Reports that disclose revenue data from ten fiscal years (1999-2008) and have uncovered major irregularities in the revenues due from its oil and gas industry.

The recent fuel subsidies crisis, which saw thousands of protestors on the streets of Nigeria’s cities, has stressed the urgency in tackling the enormous challenges in managing Nigeria’s oil and gas wealth.

At the NEITI conference, Nigeria’s Attorney General Bello Mohamed Adokie, speaking on behalf of President Goodluck Jonathan, acknowledged that “our recent experiences with the petroleum industry underscore the need to promote transparency and accountability and generally strengthen the governance processes in the industry so as to ensure maximum returns from the exploitation of our natural resources”.

Several bodies have been recently set up to respond to urgent need of reform, including a re-draft of the long-debated Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). NEITI has already made important contributions to these processes. Senator Babajide Omoworare, representing the National Assembly, recognised that many of the issues actually being debated would have not been possible were not for the NEITI audits.

Professor Asobie, outgoing Chairman of NEITI and former EITI International Board’s member, however reminded all that “that the gap between rhetoric and practice is gargantuan”. Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, Nigeria’s World Bank Country Director, agreed. She reminded the conference that the big challenge is “transforming recommendation into actions”.

Zainab Ahmed, Executive Secretary of NEITI, warned that “the era of secrecy is over” in Nigeria. She was assured that NEITI is a vibrant platform for discussion and the National Conference was “a deliberate effort by NEITI to expand the scope of dialogue in the extractive sector”. On the recent announcement that a new Petroleum revenue task force under Nuhu Ribadu had been appointed with a similar mandate as that of NEITI, Mrs Ahmed said it is a welcome effort to follow up on the findings in NEITI audits.

NEITI’s international example was highlighted. Faith Nwadishi, National Coordinator of PWYP, called for Nigeria to become “a leader on the continent by making Africa’s voice heard internationally”. Terence McCulley, the US Ambassador to Nigeria and Jonas Moberg, Head of the EITI International Secretariat, noted that the recent US decision to implement the EITI, was following the Nigeria’s example, which was the first country to embed the EITI Principles into law.