The Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative along with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) are tacking initiatives to tackle financial crimes in the country’s oil and gas sector together.
Crude oil sale, the major foreign exchange earner for Africa’s biggest economy, has remained plagued by lack of transparency and massive corruption resulting in huge losses in revenue by successive administrations.
According to the Executive Secretary of NEITI, Waziri Adio, the country lost about $9 billion in 2013 alone due to sharp practices in the sector.
“They said we don’t have teeth to bite, and right now we’ve gone to the EFCC to borrow the teeth,” NEITI’s Director of Communications, Ogbonnaya Orji, said on Thursday at a journalism training programme for oil and gas reporting in Lagos.
The training, sponsored by the Natural Resources Governance Institute (NGRI) held at the School of Media and Communication, Pan-Atlantic University, Lekki, with participants drawn from different media houses across Nigeria.
The NEITI spokesperson said there were some aspects of the NEITI’s 2013 audit reports that bordered on financial crimes.
He said the transparency agency was currently trying to develop a memorandum of understanding with the EFCC to help investigate those aspects.
“NEITI does not have the power to investigate or prosecute,” Mr. Orji said. “We don’t have that mandate. We have presented our reports to them (EFCC), and they are looking at the areas where there are infractions.”
He also spoke of NEITI’s independence, saying the agency had been operating without any government interference.
“NEITI is not influenced in anyway by the government, despite receiving 90 per cent of its funding from the federal government. No administration has ever tried to suppress our independence. No government has tried to censor our reports.
“Yes, the government provides funding for us, but we have a mandate. If you follow our reports, you’ll know that we are independent of government,” Mr. Orji said.
He challenged journalists to find out if there was anything in NEITI’s operations or reports suggesting the organization wasn’t independent of the Nigerian government.
NEITI, the director pointed out, was also working out a partnership with the NRGI and another civic organization in the country, BudgIT, to simplify its audit reports and make them easily understandable for the general public.
On NEITI’s impact, Mr. Orji said, “Because of NEITI, (oil) companies are alert to the fact that there is a team that will always come to check their books. Before now, there were no such checks.”