Clare Short, head of the Oslo-based Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to make oil and other extractive industries to work for the majority of Nigerians rather than for a few people.
At a press conference she addressed in Abuja after a stakeholders’ meeting recently, Short said that by implementing significant reforms, Buhari could reverse the curse that oil had brought to the people of the country and make it a blessing to them.
She said that several reports and analyses done by the Nigerian Extractive Industry Initiative that had not been fully implemented provided a basis for implementing reforms that could change the fortunes of the country in the extractive industry.
“We hope and expect that the new government will pick up the analyses, work with the people, work with the agencies and really drive forward significant reforms that will turn the rich oil and mining resources in Nigeria to a blessing for the people rather than the curse that it has been for some of the people. We are very optimistic that Nigeria is going to make a great leap forward.
“The analyses that have been done are of good quality. They show what needs to be done to reform the sector. Recommendations for reforms have not been carried through in the past. The new government says that it wants to reform the sector. NEITI has done the analysis. It is a real opportunity to pick up the recommendations and drive reform forward and it is a real chance.
“It is not like a new government coming in and saying it wants to reform but then may have to start examining to know where the problem is. A lot of work has already been done. The government and the authorities can drive through the reform. So, this is a great opportunity for Nigeria right now,” Short said.
Answering questions on possible sanctions that the government could impose on international oil companies that failed to remit the appropriate taxes to the government, Short said it was the responsibility of the government to dish out sanctions in accordance with the laws of the land.
“Sanctions are the enforcement of the laws of Nigeria to ensure that companies pay their taxes and that taxes are properly managed for the benefit of the people. Sanctions are in the hands of the government to enforce,” she added.
Ledum Mitee, chairman, NEITI, said a series of sanctions had been contemplated but added that the organisation had not invoked the power to drag defaulting companies to court through the office of the attorney general of the federation.
Mitee said NEITI was excited about the prospects of better opportunities offered by the policy direction of the new administration and was determined to work with the government to ensure that the President delivered on his promise to fight corruption.
“Encouraged as we are by the stance of the new administration on the vexed issue of corruption, particularly in the extractive industries, NEITI is working closely with all the relevant government agencies to ensure that all outstanding revenues reported as underpayment and under-assessment are recovered into the Federation Account.
“To this extent, NEITI has commenced the implementation of the comprehensive framework on remediation and enforcement developed by the current board through the machinery of the Inter-ministerial Task Team,” he said.
Zainab Ahmed, executive secretary, NEITI, revealed recently that over $7.5 billion still needed to be recovered from oil and gas companies in the country.
“The amount represents clear cases of underpayments, under-assessments of taxes, royalties, rents…which have not been adequately addressed in the past,” she said.

Folashade Olubayo
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