Niger progressing slowly against the EITI Standard

EITI Board suspends the country noting in particular a recent deterioration in civil society space.

Today the international EITI Board agreed that Niger has made progress against key issues in the 2016 EITI Standard but that significant areas of concern needed to be addressed. Having been compliant with the EITI Rules since 2011, this is the first time that Niger has been assessed against the EITI Standard. Acknowledging the security challenges in the country, the EITI Board identified gaps, but also opportunities to make the EITI process more meaningful in Niger. Niger is a leading producer of uranium, ranked as the world’s fourth largest producer in 2016 behind Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia. The country has produced uranium since the 1970s, coal since 1975, gold since 2004 and crude oil since 2011.

Niger has made some progress in difficult circumstances.  We encourage all stakeholders in Niger to work together to resolve key issues related to space for civil society so that this suspension can be lifted as soon as possible.” said Fredrik Reinfeldt, Chair of the EITI Board.

Progress in a challenging environment

Niger’s decade long EITI implementation has led to tangible public finance reforms. Contract transparency is now mandated by the constitution, even if it is not always implemented in practice. These notable achievements by a landlocked country in a volatile region were made despite falling prices of oil and uranium; difficulties of access to the international market for oil production, and increasing transnational security threats. In addition, more than 80% of Niger’s land area of 1.27 million km2 is in the Sahara Desert. A recent discovery of gold in the Djado plateau along the Algerian and Libyan border, where the government is also combatting Islamist groups, has made the governance of the extractive sector even more complex.

The Board praised the commitment of the Government of Niger to the process in challenging circumstances.  It concluded that the country had made progress on publication of exploration activities, production and export data and revenue management and expenditure. Niger also demonstrated strong ownership of the EITI process with key stakeholders involved in the production and dissemination of the EITI Reports.

However, more to do including opening space for  civil society

In addition to internal governance challenges of the EITI process itself, key areas of concerns included the overall quality of EITI reporting. Validation concluded that Niger had made inadequate progress or no progress on 14 EITI Requirements. Outstanding EITI requirements included transparent systems for license allocation, the lack of a comprehensive public license register, gaps between the government policy on contract transparency as mandated by the constitution and the practice of limited disclosure of contracts. EITI Requirements related to state-owned enterprises, data reliability, subnational payments and mandatory social expenditure remained outstanding. Several arrests of civil society representatives in recent months, including journalists and members of the EITI national committee, was also a concern.

An opportunity to use the process to drive reforms

While EITI reporting has successfully been expanded to the oil and gas sector, including midstream refining, the EITI process has tended to operate as a parallel process focused on compliance rather than on addressing the country’s natural resource governance priorities. Despite logistical challenges, Niger’s EITI stakeholders have generated a robust national debate on public management of the country’s resources. Dissemination of EITI reports to local communities has responded to demand for information , such as on subnational transfers, production figures and revenue management by the government.

Jonas Moberg, Head of the EITI commented that “Niger has made progress in opening up the extractives sector.  It now has the opportunity to establish systems to automatically disclose data and to draw all stakeholders - local communities, parliamentarian, anti-corruption watch-dogs – into the national debate about the governance of the sector.” said

Full text of the Board decision

Following the conclusion of Niger’s Validation under the 2016 EITI Standard, the EITI Board concluded that Niger has made inadequate progress overall in implementing the EITI Standard. In accordance with requirement 8.3.c.iii, the EITI Board agreed that Niger will be suspended and will need to undertake corrective actions outlined below. Having considered developments subsequent to Validation, the EITI Board also determined that Niger has made inadequate progress in meeting the EITI’s requirements on civil society engagement, which also implies suspension as per requirement 8.3.c.i. Progress with the corrective actions will be assessed in a second Validation commencing on 25 April 2019.

The Board recognised Niger’s pioneering role in demonstrating the relevance of the EITI to Africa’s largest uranium producer.  It recognised the country’s significant physical, institutional and strategic challenges as a land-locked country ranked at the bottom of the United Nations’ Human Development Index. Validation has confirmed that Niger’s multi-stakeholder group has actively engaged in all aspects of EITI reporting. Validation and subsequent assessments have also demonstrated the importance of the EITI to provide space for civil society oversight of the management of the extractive industries, amidst concerns from some stakeholders that civil society space is being closed.

In making its decision, the Board takes note of the Government of Niger’s efforts to ensure transparency provisions in the 2010 Constitution and expand EITI reporting to the oil and gas sector, including the midstream, and encourages it to implement this statutory openness through accessible, regular disclosure of information on the sector to its citizens.

Validation and subsequent assessments also put the spotlight on longstanding discussions among Nigerien stakeholders about the freedom of expression for civil society to demand information on extractives governance. The challenges for EITI Niger are to ensure freedom of expression about the sector for civil society and to establish robust mechanisms to channel voices not directly represented on the MSG into the national debate to ensure EITI implementation meets domestic challenges.

The Board welcomed ongoing efforts to automate EITI data collection as a first step towards mainstreaming EITI reporting under requirement 2-6. The Board takes note of these developments and looks forward to working together with Nigerien stakeholders on these issues. In the interim, the Board has determined that Niger will have 18 months to carry out corrective actions as outlined below.

Notes