By Chineme Okafor in Abuja | Thisday
The recent dissolution of the board of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) by the federal government has continued to create division amongst Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), which partake in discussions in Nigeria’s extractive industries.
This development may delay Nigeria’s pending revalidation by the global EITI in January 2016.
EITI conducts a mandatory three-year revalidation on its members to ascertain their levels of compliance with its set philosophies.
The ongoing disagreements in the rank and file of the CSOs that are crucial partners in the EITI tripod in Nigeria like all other EITI-compliant countries, started with an alleged slanting of the intentions of a letter written by one of the CSOs, the National Coordinator of Publish What You Pay (PWYP), Faith Nwadishi to the global EITI.
Nwadishi who represents the CSOs in the dissolved board had allegedly written to EITI albeit unilaterally, intimating it of the dissolution of the National Stakeholders Working Group (NSWG) of NEITI and its possible consequences on Nigeria’s revalidation.
Her letter was sent to the Chair of EITI, Clare Short, and it requested for EITI intervention in the dissolution, demanding that it requests the government to exempt the NSWG of NEITI from the development.
Apart from NEITI, the board dissolution affected 246 other parastatals and agencies of government.
But her letter was not taken lightly by a couple of other CSOs who alleged that she unilaterally wrote the letter to influence EITI to blacklist Nigeria on the strength of the dissolution.
Even though there were explanations offered in several official correspondences between Short and Nwadishi on the issue, as well as Short’s advice on same, a group of 16 CSOs in the sector however wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari and Short, insisting that the board dissolution was appropriate and should stand.
In their letters to Buhari and Short which was made available to THISDAY in Abuja, the 16 CSOs alleged that the invitation of the EITI into the board dissolution was a deliberate arm-twisting mechanism by their former representative.
They in the letter to Buhari stated that the dissolved NSWG had lost touch with its mandate and constituted a clog in the wheel of NEITI’s anti-corruption mandate in the country’s extractive sector.
In the letter which was signed by Ezenwa Nwagwu of Partners for Electoral Reform, Auwal Musa of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Idayat Hassan of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) and Jaye Gaskia of Protest to Power amongst others, the CSOs alleged that four members of the past NEITI board were partisan political players and could not have worked in the interest of NEITI and transparency in the extractive sectors.
They said that the four – Musa Nashumi, Bassey Ekefre, Patrick Udonfang, and Abiola Ige had political affiliations in their respective States and region of Katsina, Cross River, Akwa Ibom and the South West, under the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The CSOs thus requested Buhari to resist such overtures on him to reverse the board dissolution, adding that it was done in the interest of NEITI and the extractive sectors of the country.
“We are aware of surreptitious and covert moves by some interests to stampede the government into reversing this decision. These individuals have been making subterranean moves to truncate the reforms you are on the verge of instituting in the NEITI board,” the letter to Buhari partly read.
It further stated: “We are morally compelled to advance to Your Excellency, reasons why the dissolution should be allowed to stand.
Based on our findings, we can state categorically that several members of the dissolved board had long lost their credibility, independence, neutrality and therefore, the moral right to remain on the board of an institution meant to ensure transparency and accountability in the oil sector, which has become a cesspit of corruption.”
“Our assertion is based upon the revelations, which came to the fore after thorough investigations. Not less than three members of the dissolved board have displayed brazen partisanship, which runs contrary to the core values of a transparency driven institution like the NEITI,” the letter added.
In advising Buhari on the way forward, they asked that the government should approach the EITI Secretariat to explain its position and intention for early constitution of a new board for the NEITI.