29 May 2012

Nigeria: Oil Theft - NEITI Seeks Partnership With EFCC

The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has approached the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to support its fight against continued disregard of findings and recommendations in its audit report of activities in the nation's extractive industries by operators and stakeholders in the sectors.

NEITI in this regard is seeking to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the EFCC on enforcement of the provisions of the NEITI Act 2007, which will likely see the EFCC go after defaulters of the Act as regards the implementation of recommendation in NEITI's audit report

The new partnership is coming on the request of the Executive Secretary of NEITI, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, who made a courtesy visit to the Chairman of EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde in Abuja to seek for specific ways of partnership in the fight to bring firms and persons found to have been shortchanging the country of revenues from its extractive resources.

Ahmed in her explanation of the need for such partnership stated that in view of flagrant abuses of revenues from the extractive sector and difficulties encountered by NEITI in enforcing the recommendations from its various audits reports, it had become necessary to collaborate with other anti-corruption agencies particularly the EFCC to investigate complaints arising from the reports with a view to prosecuting offenders.

She noted that from NEITI's experience over the years most covered entities were reluctant to implement the recommendations of NEITI's audits reports, thus, capitalising on some perceived gaps in the NEITI Act 2007.

The NEITI Act 2007 empowers the agency to impose sanctions on erring covered entities, but it lacks the required capacity to investigate or prosecute offenders.

"If the covered entities think NEITI does not have enough teeth to bite, we have now come to borrow more teeth from EFCC to strengthen our capacity to bite," said Ahmed.

Lamorde in his response described the visit as timely and strategic. He noted that from the various NEITI audits reports and the House of Representatives' fuel subsidy probe panel, "it is now very clear to us at EFCC that there are monumental corruptions going on in the extractive industries especially oil and gas sector."

He pledged the willingness of the anti-corruption agency to collaborate with NEITI, adding that if the recommendations contained in the various audit reports had been implemented, the rot in the oil and gas sector would have been minimised.

According to him, "In the future, all erring companies and covered entities identified by NEITI audit reports will be subjected to thorough investigation and prosecution, the EFCC shall set up a special desk for NEITI audits reports."

The two agencies have so far set up a committee to work out modalities for the MoU, which accordingly will cover investigation of complaints arising from NEITI audit reports, prompt prosecution of offenders, information sharing, and stronger partnership in the fight against corruption in the extractive sector, capacity building and institutional support in the EFCC-NEITI operations.

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