President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday drafted the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) into the newly-inaugurated Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) Implementation Steering Committee (ISC) to ensure openness in the operations of the body.
A statement by the Head, Communications and Advocacy, NEITI, Mrs. Obiageli Onuorah, said the president's approval of the appointment of the transparency watchdog was conveyed to the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva and the Executive Secretary of NEITI, Dr. Ogbonnaya Orji, by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Mr. Boss Mustapha.
The president stated that it was necessary to include NEITI in the committee to utilise the agency's independent knowledge, information, and data to help align the implementation of the Act with emerging global issues in the sector as expected.
"NEITI will also work with the committee to put in place sustainable systems and processes for institutions that will emerge under the act. NEITI is also expected to work with the committee to lay a solid foundation for a culture of good governance and open a new era for the industry," the statement said.
While approving NEITI's inclusion, Buhari said the body has used its industry audit reports to facilitate successful implementation of the administration's anti-corruption reforms in the oil, gas and mining industries.
According to him, this has advanced the economic development policies of the current administration and helped Nigeria to continue to meet the expectations of the international community, especially the 55-member countries of the global EITI.
Reacting to the development, Orji applauded the president's consideration to include NEITI into the PIA committee.
"It is the right step in the right direction, considering the mandate of NEITI and its objectives, its pivotal roles in the ongoing reforms and strategic importance to Nigeria's oil and gas industry.
"We commend Mr. President for his insight and foresight. The inclusion of NEITI in this committee will provide the platform for our agency to bring in EITI standards and work with sister agencies in the committee to design a workable, result-based implementation plan for industry-wide use," he said.
Orji explained that some of the new requirements of the global EITI on contract transparency and beneficial ownership are captured in the PIA.
"NEITI's membership of the committee will provide opportunity for close monitoring of these issues right from the beginning of the PIA's implementation," he added.
He noted that the organisation currently ensures that revenue payments to the federation from all extractive sources are properly assessed, remitted and tracked, ensuring that entities are held accountable on the deployment and application of revenues for the benefits of the citizens.
Buhari recently approved the constitution of the nine-man steering committee which is headed by Sylva, with representatives from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Federal Inland Revenue (FIRS), ministry of justice, ministry of finance, budget and national planning, among others.
The committee is expected to guide the effective and timely implementation of the PIA and ensure that the new institutions to be created have the full capability to deliver on their mandate under the new legislation.