There are indications that the law establishing the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), may be amended to enable the Agency retain certain percentage of recovered revenues from extractive companies to bridge its funding gap.
This was disclosed by the Chairman of Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream), Tayo Alasoadura, in Abuja, when he led the committee to the NEITI Secretariat on oversight function.
He explained that the step would assist NEITI overcome the funding challenges it is presently grappling with and lauded NEITI for demonstrating courage in the pursuance of its assignment as shown in the quality of its audit reports.
Senator Alasoadura re-affirmed the commitment of the Senate to continue its support for NEITI through improved budgetary provisions.
The Chairman described NEITI as a ‘special agency’ of government deserving of special attention by way of adequate funding.
He also hinted that the issues raised by the NEITI industry audit reports are receiving the attention of the Senate, and expressed dismay over poor funding of the agency.
While welcoming the committee, the Executive Secretary of NEITI, Waziri Adio, identified the need for a new law for the petroleum sector as one priority area that the Senate needs to pay immediate attention.
The Executive Secretary used the opportunity to present NEITI’s latest policy brief titled: “The Urgency of a new Petroleum Sector Law” to the committee. Adio said the urgency of a new petroleum sector law was the focus of the policy brief. He informed the committee that the policy brief examined Nigeria’s challenges in enacting an over-arching law for the petroleum sector despite repeated attempts, and the resultant huge negative economic implications and revenue losses.
Quoting from the policy brief, Adio said: “Nigeria’s petroleum bill is perhaps one of the most important bills ever to be contemplated in Nigeria’s history, yet the one that has taken the most time and generated the most activity without legislation.”
The NEITI Scribe noted that Nigeria might have lost about $200 billion as a result of the absence of a new law in the petroleum sector.
He advised that a piece-meal rather than an omnibus approach to the passage of the law be adopted, and underlined the need for the law to have robust transparency, accountability and efficiency measures.
Adio said that as an agency saddled with the responsibility of ensuring transparency and accountability in the extractive industries, NEITI has a legitimate interest in the bill.
He therefore urged the Senate to work with all the relevant stakeholders to ensure that a new petroleum law is prioritised, enacted and used as one of the strategies for economic recovery.
The Executive Secretary informed the committee that NEITI is currently confronted with serious financial challenges capable of hampering its core mandate and appealed to members to do everything within their powers to rescue the agency.