Yemisi Izuora
The global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) may have dashed any hope nursed by members of the past National Stakeholders Working Group (NSWG) of  the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative that it could pressure President Muhammadu Buhari to review his decision to dissolve boards of various government agencies including NEITI.

Premium Times had reported that the executive board of the global EITI has opted not to interfere in Nigeria’s internal affair, thus closing any possibility of such international pressure on Buhari.

Following Buhari’s recent sack of the NSWG of NEITI along with 264 other government agencies, some members of the dissolved NSWG had written to the EITI, asking it to interfere and pressure the country to rescind its decision based on the risk it portend for Nigeria’s revalidation in January 2016.

However, civil society groups working for the promotion of transparency and accountability in the country’s extractive industries had, in a memo to the international EITI Chair, Clare Short, declared support for government’s disbandment of the NSITF.

The groups hailed the decision as the best for Nigerians, alleging that the former board consisted of persons with partisan leanings, who lacked the capacity to act independently and neutrally on transparency and accountability issues in the industry, with little or no interest on EITI and NEITI.

But the International EITI Board, in a circular to all EITI member countries, a copy of which Premium Times reportedly saw, urged all parties to see the dissolution of all boards of government agencies and parastatals, including NEITI’s as normal.

The circular issued by Short made it clear that, “there was nothing unusual for new governments to choose boards that would reflect the character and vision of the new administration.”

The EITI Chair further said that the sacking of the NEITI Board should be seen as part of the determination by President Buhari’s administration towards reforms in the sector.

“The international Board does not see any immediate need to interfere in the on-going reforms embarked upon by the Muhammadu Buhari government in Nigeria,” Mrs. Short said.

She said her interaction with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, during her recent meeting in Abuja in June, had reinforced the confidence of the global transparency group in Nigeria’s commitment to the principles of the international EITI.

While expressing optimism that the government’s process for engaging a new NEITI board would allow civil society and other constituents to freely choose their representatives as required by the EITI guidelines, Short said she would continue to monitor the development to ensure that NEITI did not continue for too long without a board.

Premium Times also quoted a presidential source who disclosed that the NEITI Secretariat has already written to the president on the need to ensure that the board was reconstituted as soon as possible.

It noted that the NEITI letter which was signed by the Executive Secretary of NEITI, Zainab Ahmed, drew the president’s attention to important schedules in the transparency agency’s calendar that require a functional board to be in place.

Apart from the pending process to commission fresh audit exercise for both the oil and gas and the solid mineral sectors, Nigeria is expected to play host to all EITI members countries expected to converge on Abuja in January 2016 for the crucial global EITI compliant re-validation exercise.

EITI revalidation is an independent evaluation process to assess the level of compliance by EITI-member countries with the implementation principles and standards to promote transparency and accountability in the management of extractive industries revenues.

Nigeria, which became an EITI-compliant country since March 2011, has since grown over the years to occupy a prominent position in the international transparency group, having produced about 13 EITI reports among 39 countries that have published findings on government revenues from its natural resources.

The EITI has 48 implementing countries, out of which 31 are currently compliant with the transparency group’s requirements and principles.

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