Billions at stake as Nigeria seeks more accountability

Clare Short discussed NEITI's reform proposals with President Goodluck Jonathan.

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan met with EITI Chair Clare Short and a delegation from the international EITI Board on Monday.

Clare Short commended President Goodluck Jonathan for his strong support of Nigeria’s EITI and said:

“Nigeria EITI has provided much-needed and trusted facts about how its resources are governed. A lot of work has been done to prepare a reform agenda. The challenge now is to implement these reforms so that the people can get the benefit from these resources.”

NEITI’s disclosure of government oil revenues in Nigeria has uncovered huge loopholes and discrepancies between what the government has received and what they should have received. These identified issues include payments that cannot be traced and missing tax payments from the national oil company NNPC due to incorrect deductions of fuel subsidies. 

The incorrect deductions of fuel subsidies add up to US $8.3 billion of missing revenues for the years 2009-2011. These missing payments are larger than the Federal Government spent on education in the same period.

Doing the “dirty job”

President Goodluck Jonathan promised to further strengthen NEITI. He said:

“We give free will to NEITI. Their reports can be hard on the government. Because of this, many do not believe that NEITI is a government body. But an independent NEITI is the only way we can improve. We need NEITI - someone must do the dirty job of digging up the problems in the management of our resources.”

In order to ensure that NEITI’s identified issues are addressed and missing payments are recovered, President Goodluck Jonathan   said that he would next week reconstitute a new Inter-Ministerial Tax Team (IMTT). The IMTT would have representation at a higher level and be tasked to follow-up on the identified loopholes and recommendations from NEITI. They will work for effective delivery of the ultimate aims of NEITI, to ensure that Nigerian citizens receive what they should from their country’s natural resources.

President Goodluck   Jonathan finally highlighted the problem with the theft of oil in Nigeria and challenged NEITI to find a way forward. A recent report by Chatham House estimates that the country looses between US $3 and $8 billion as consequence of theft of oil.

In a meeting with Clare Short earlier the same day, NEITI officials highlighted that the country's draft Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) should be strengthened in the way NEITI has suggested and then passed into law as soon as possible. NEITI recently presented its recommendations on how Bill should be improved.

Wednesday this week, the international EITI Board meets in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire.