By Obas Esiedesa
Civil Society Organisations working in the extractive sector in Nigeria have called on the Federal Government to put in a place a framework on contracts transparency in the petroleum and solid minerals sectors.
The CSOs, in a joint communiqué issued, under the Contract Transparency Network (CONTRANET) banner, urged the Federal Government to commence multi-stakeholder consultations on how to proceed with the implementation of contract transparency in the extractive sector in accordance with all her international commitments.
According to the communiqué issued by the network at the end of a meeting for the validation of the advocacy strategy for the adoption and implementation of contract transparency in the extractive industry in Nigeria, they observed that natural resources in the country belong to the Nigerian people who must be informed on how the resources are managed.
The network also advocated that “the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Mining Cadastre Office, respectively, should collaborate with the NEITI and other stakeholders, including civil society, to develop and adopt a Framework for the implementation of contract transparency in the extractive sector in Nigeria
“That civil society organizations should engage the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minster of Justice through the Open Government Partnership Secretariat to commence the review of the necessary legislative and policy frameworks that will make the implementation of contract transparency in the extractive sector a reality in Nigeria”.
The CSOs observed that “natural resources belong to the Nigerian people and the government only acts on behalf of citizens and should therefore be transparent when they enter into contracts for the extraction and sale of oil and gas, and other mineral assets
“That contract transparency is compatible with the anti-corruption thrust of the present administration and constitutes a major way to consolidate anticorruption efforts in the extractive sector
“That Nigeria has made commitment to contract transparency on international platforms and cannot renege. These include the London Anticorruption Summit in 2016 through the President and the Open Government Partnership through the National Action Plan from 2017 till date, as well as the Nigeria Extractive Transparency Initiative through its Standard to which Nigeria has subscribed since 2004.
“That the current practice in which contracts entered into by government are negotiated and held in secrecy negates the globally accepted practice of transparency and accountability and predisposes the sector to corruption, unfavourable contracts and revenue loss to the nation
“That such scandals and potential loss to the nation as exemplified by the ongoing legal tussle in relation to Gas Supply Purchasing Agreement (GSPA) between Nigeria and Process and Industrial Developments (P&ID), could have been avoided if contract transparency is adopted as a policy
“That the practice of keeping contracts secret between companies and an exclusive group of government officials breeds suspicion and distrust between government and citizens as to whose interest.
“That the concerns that making extractive contracts open to the public is inimical to the commercial interest and competitive edge of companies is no longer sustainable as the practice is now common in several other parts of the world
“That contracts do not have to be couched in technical jargons compiled in bulky documents to make then seemingly incomprehensible by members of the public”, the network added.
The CSOs congratulated the NNPC for signing on to EITI as a supporting company and called on them to champion the implementation of contract transparency in the extractive value chain according to EITI standards.
“This will complement the success recorded by the launch of an online register of beneficial owners of mining asset and ensure that Nigeria retains the satisfactory progress status achieved in 2019 as the first Anglophone country to do so”, they added.
The CSOs in CONTRANET are: Centre for Transparency Advocacy, Publish What You Pay Nigeria, OrderPaper Advocacy Initiative, Policy Alert, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre ( CISLAC), Global Rights, Koyenum Immallah Foundation, African Network Environment and Economic Justice, Sustainable Environment & Peace Initiative and Community Outreach For Development and welfare Advocacy (CODWA).
Others are the Media Initiative on Transparency in Extractive Industry (MITEI), Institutional and Sustainable Development Foundation, Initiative for participation Accountability and Inclusive Development, Association of Niger Delta Host Community Leaders, Global Awareness for Development initiative, Coolfm/Wazobiafm, Youth Forum on EITI, Citizens Centre for Integrated Development and Social Rights (CCIDESOR), Woman in Extractive, Responsible Citizenship and Human Development Initiative (ReCHDI), and Save a Soul Foundation Zamfara.