By Tosin Omoniyi
Sixteen civil society groups have commended the recent dissolution of boards of parastatals, agencies and departments by the federal government, expressing particular satisfaction over the dissolution of the
Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, which they accused of corruption.
The organizations also asked the government not to be intimidated into going back on its intention of changing the leadership of the various boards.
The groups held out the NEITI board for indictment, alleging that members were politically partisan and corrupt.
The civil society organisations include Partners for Electoral Reform, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, Protest to Power, Transition Monitoring Group, TMG, Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education, CHRICED, Centre for Information Technology and Development, CITAD, State of the Union, SOTU and Zero Corruption Coalition, ZCC.
Others are, Civil Society Network Against Corruption, CSNAC, Social Action, Say No Campaign, Women in Nigeria, National Procurement Watch Platform NPWP, Environmental Rights Action, ERA, Tax Justice Nigeria
and Procurement Observation and Advocacy Initiative.
The groups claimed that based on their findings, several members of the dissolved Board had long lost their credibility, independence, neutrality and therefore, the moral right to remain on such boards.
They said that not less than three members of the dissolved board displayed brazen partisanship during the recently held general elections.
Those listed included Musa Nashumi, a People’s Democratic Party, PDP, governorship aspirant in Katsina State; Bassey Ekefre, former commissioner of works who was an active participant in the PDP presidential campaign team from Cross River State, Patrick Udonfang, PDP director of legal services in Akwa Ibom State and Abiola Ige, another active participant in the PDP campaign in the South West.
The groups alleged that all members of the NEITI board representing each geo-political zone in the country were fully involved in partisan-politics during the just concluded 2015 general elections.
They also stated that the board’s initiation of formal correspondence with the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation requesting and obtaining approval to be downgraded from status A to D
to facilitate their operation like the boards of conventional parastatals contravened Section 9 (1) of the NEITI Act 2007.
The CSOs said this was aimed at legitimizing the corrupt collection of allowances by the board members for meetings, many of which never held, thus enriching themselves in the process.
They alleged that the NEITI board usually expended up to five times its allocated budget annually.
The groups also alleged that the board initiated the idea of a NEITI Multi-Donor Fund and initiated correspondences with the International Oil Companies and the NNPC, soliciting funds for the use of the board which weakened its ability to effectively play the role of keeping the companies in check.
“Although the Fund never effectively took off because the sound judgment of the Executive Secretary, who as Secretary to the Board clearly understood that this would undermine the institution, there are clear indications that several members of the Board benefitted financially from some of the companies through sponsorship to the annual Offshore Technology Conference in the USA. It is difficult for such a Board to effectively protect national interest in relations with the oil companies,” the organisations said.
The CSOs also said that they had proof that the dissolved board interfered with the procurement processes for the appointment of the NEITI auditors thereby compromising their independence.
They noted that this was a clear violation of the fundamental principles of the global extractive industry transparency initiative and the Public Procurement Act 2007.
“There are indications that the EITI recently observed gaps in the recent Solid Minerals Audit Report where the auditor questioned the validity of the data. We are also investigating the role of the members of the dissolved Board especially the civil society representative, who should ordinarily serve as a whistle blower, concerning allegations trailing the 2012 oil and gas report. The findings already are quite revealing. All of these, including allegations of conflicts of interests in the award of contracts by some members of the Board, all combine to completely discredit the Board and makes its dissolution timely and deserving,” the groups noted.
They said while they recognized the genuine efforts of some board members, several of the others who were appointed on the basis of political patronage made the board tainted the integrity of the board.