By Kolawole Banwo
A group of civil society working on transparency and accountability in the extractive sector also known as Accountability in the Extractive Sector (AES) Cluster under the aegis of the Strengthening Advocacy and Civic Engagement (SACE) project has urged the Federal Government to step up its implementation of the reforms in the oil and gas sector.
The group made this call during a press conference held recently in Abuja.
It said the Federal Government under the present administration had committed to the implementation reforms to enhance transparency, accountability and efficiency in the oil and gas sector.
“This included the Short and Medium Term Priorities to grow Nigeria’s Oil & Gas Industry 2015–2019 conveniently called 7 Big Wins which was unveiled in October 2016 by the President with much fanfare and media hype.
“There were also sector specific commitments in the National Action Plan of the Open Government Partnership. This is in addition to the already established subscription to the EITI principles and standards through the NEITI since 2007.
“We note that in the 7 Big Wins, the government committed to collaborating with the National Assembly to conclude and pass the Petroleum Industry Reform Bill and Petroleum Fiscal Reform Bill by December 2016 and draft new regulations consistent with it,” the group explained.
It bemoaned non-fulfilment of relevant commitments including 7 Big Wins, one year past the time line in spite the N100 Million budgeted for the purpose in 2017.
“We find it strange that despite making it a promise during the campaign and with repeated pronouncements by both the executive and the legislature hat is dominated by the same party, the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) remains elusive with barely one year left in the life of this administration.
“We are concerned that another N120 Million is proposed in 2018 budget for the passage of the PIB, even when there is not a sign of the executive making any visible efforts toward the drafting of a Bill.
“We observe with scepticism the intent behind the proposal to expend N610 Million for the implementation of the 7 Big Wins, including the sum of N200 Million for Oil and Gas Reforms in 2018.
“While we acknowledge that petroleum and gas policies have been developed in furtherance of the 7 Big Wins, we consider this to be marginal progress, considering that more far-reaching actions such as the clean-up of Ogoniland and establishing sufficient mechanisms of public disclosure of operations and financials are only being scratched in the surface.
“We lament that we are approaching the year 2018 and with elections already set for February 2019, leaving this government with practically six (6) months of governance, it is becoming glaring that the 7 Big Wins may end up as another reform cloud that bears no rain,” the group lamented.
Reiterating disappointment over the Federal Government’s inaction, the group condemned wastefulness, opacity and purposeless that characterise the use of resources at sub-national levels, narrating the ill-mannered approach in which governments of oil producing states earning 13% derivation transfers from the federation account.
It called on the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to undertake an evaluation of its performance in the implementation of the 7 Big Wins with a bid to developing a responsive and result oriented implementation plan that recognises the urgency brought about by the little time left of this administration and expedite the process of implementation.
The group also called on the executive and the legislature to close ranks and expedite the passage of the PIB in all its ramifications to provide clarity and certainty and attract the needed investment into the sector.
“We call on the Ministry of Justice to expedite progress on the needed frameworks that will ensure that the declaration of beneficial ownership becomes mandatory in line with Nigeria’s OGP commitments.
“We call on the National Assembly to institutionalise the practice of debating the report of the NEITI in plenary and following through with effective oversight to ensure that its recommendations are implemented.
We call on the governments of all oil producing state to be prudent, open, transparent in the management of the 13% derivation fund received from the federation account and devise an inclusive way of expending it for people oriented development in their respective states. The AES cluster further calls on the Federal Government to ensure that resources are made available to the NEITI to conduct the Fiscal Allocation and Statutory Disbursement Audit for citizens to see how governments in their states have been applying their commonwealth,” it requested.