The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) to share information and data to check fraud and other financial malfeasance in Nigeria’s petroleum and solid minerals sectors.
A statement by NEITI’s Head, Communication and Advocacy, Obiageli Onuorah yesterday said the deal was signed by Executive Secretary of NEITI, Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji and Mr Modibbo Haman Tukur, the Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit in Abuja.
NEITI had last week raised the alarm that 77 oil and gas companies owed the Federation about N2.6 trillion in unpaid taxes, royalties and levies.
Dr. Orji explained at the event that agreement would aid investigations into financial underhand dealings by the operators.
According to him, “With the MoU finally signed, the next stage is to activate the contents of the agreement and this will happen in the next couple of months.
“The essence of this partnership is underpinned in our partnering with NFIU to providing intelligence, information and data on the Extractive Sector industries that will aid Investigation into infractions that border on criminality in Nigeria’s oil, gas and mining sectors, especially in the areas where these activities undermine our national securities as revealed in the NEITI Audit Reports, Occasional papers and Policy Briefs, as well as regular capacity building, trainings and awareness workshops”, he explained.
He noted that NEITI has the information and data on extractive sector operations and applauded the collaboration with sister agencies like the EFCC and the ICPC which he said is yielding dividends.
“It gives us great comfort that there are sister agencies that are committed to national governance and development priorities like NEITI. We have identified the NFIU as one of them and will work very closely with them to achieve the objectives especially in the area of knowing who actually owns Nigeria’s oil, gas and mining assets”, the Executive Secretary stated.
Dr. Orji affirms that the signing of the MoU is a “Fundamental step in our relationship with NFIU considering the strategic importance of the extractive sector to our economy and the extensive work NFIU is doing in the sector. This collaboration will strengthen our partnership and enable us to support each other and the Nigerian state”, he stated.
The NEITI Executive Secretary explained that the agency is committed to the continuous and spontaneous disclosure of data and information that will ensure that more recoveries of unremitted funds into government coffers are made and support the validation of any disclosed data.
He reiterated NEITI’s readiness to support the recovery of all unremitted funds into the treasury.
According to Dr. Orji, “NEITI’s job is to provide information and data on transactions and operations in Nigeria’s extractive sector and put the information in the public domain. It is the responsibility of policy makers, the media, civil society and the citizens to use the information and data to hold government and companies accountable. So when we find in our reports some money that can be deployed to address citizens demands for good governance, it is our job to escalate these findings”.
On his part, Mr. Tukur disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the recoveries of the debts owed the Federation by government agencies and oil and gas companies in the country’s extractive sector.
“The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning has been directed to constitute a recovery panel which will have as members, NEITI, the EFCC, ICPC, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and other relevant government agencies to look into the liabilities of operators in the extractive sector”.
He explained that there will be a consolidation of the data coming from NEITI, NFIU and other anticorruption agencies when the recovery panel finally settles down to work.
“There will be very clear reconciliation with both the players and those regulating the sector, so no more hiding of national revenues. Nobody wants to see the government borrowing money, so we need to work in this area to address the issues. We are heading for maximum transparency”, he emphasized.
Mr. Hamman Tukur congratulated NEITI and other anticorruption agencies and assured them that the results of their efforts in the anti-corruption campaign will soon be evident for all.
“We have all seen the zeal. You are talking about 2.6 trillion unpaid, we at NFIU have reported over $5 billion plus another N700 billion not paid, and in some cases companies even receive these sums as payments, but do not remit it to government coffers. Others go as far as using the sector to finance terrorism. We have handled several cases in this area”, he revealed.