Senate begins re-examination of NEITI report

Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

The Nigerian Senate on Wednesday began the process of re-examining the 2013 audit report released by the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI), as part of efforts to ascertain necessary legislation that could block leakages in government revenues.

To this end, the Senate at Wednesday’s plenary set up a nine man ad-hoc committee to re-examine the financial processes and the fiscal audit report of the NEITI, the financial loss and leakages to government and all its ramifications, and remedial measures and sanctions where necessary.

Another term of reference given to the committee is to recommend any relevant legislative action that would be required to block all forms of leakages in the extractive industry.

Senate’s decision to re-examine the NEITI report became necessary after the lawmakers were briefed by the Executive Secretary of the Agency, Mr. Waziri Adio.

“Based on the fact that the issues we talked about cut across a lot of the different standing committees, and in view of the enormity involved, the general opinion is that we will set up an ad hoc committee with the responsibility of addressing them,” the Senate President ruled.

Members of the ad-hoc committee, are, Senator Tayo Alasoadura, Senator Bassey Akpan, Senator Andy Uba, Senator John Enoh, Senator Jibrin Barau, and Senator Chukwuka Utazi. Other members are, Senator Kabir Marafa, Senator Solomon Adeola and Senator Bukar Mustapha.

The Committee will be chaired by Senator Jubrin Barau, while Senator Andy Uba as the Vice Chairman. The Committee has four weeks to complete its assignment and report back to the red Chamber.

 Weak oversight

Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary of the NEITI, Mr. Waziri Adio believes that inefficiency in public offices, and weak oversight by the legislature contributed immensely to the leakages that led to the loss of revenues reported in the audit report.

Mr. Adio urged every public office holder to exhibit high level of integrity in discharging their duties, so as not to betray the trust reposed in them by other Nigerians.

“Whether it is the money that people are holding onto that they shouldn’t hold onto, whether it is the loses that were incurred that shouldn’t have been incurred, whether it is under payments due to the fact that we don’t have clear terms of payment, it’s because the system failed. And until we fix the system, the same thing would continue to happen over and over again.

All these issues they are not as difficult as we make them seem. There is a factor that has always been missing, and that is the factor of political will. So, that is why we are happy that the present government is demonstrating sincere political leadership because the NNPC that used to be the problem child is the one now opening up.

For the first time, NNPC now publishes its monthly account, and that could be because of the new government that the body language is different. So, what we need to do is to go beyond just episodic interventions, and get to the level where you have systems in place. Let’s have the kind of system that, even when the most depraved persons are in power the system will not allow them to exhibit such acts of depravity.”  

The NEITI Executive Secretary also commended the Senate President for allowing him interact with the Senators publicly on the issues of the audit report, noting that the upper legislative chamber has demonstrated commitment to transparency and accountability.

He urged the lawmakers to make the event annually so that NEITI will go beyond publishing its audit report to public debate on the floor of the Senate where such issues would be thoroughly discussed. This, he believes, would help Nigeria to maximize the opportunities in the extractive industry.