Policy Alert, a data-driven non-governmental organisation, has launched a campaign to demand transparency and expose corruption in Nigeria’s extractive sector. The campaign, tagged #WetinWeGain2, is aimed at putting citizens at the centre of beneficial ownership in the sector. It is also aimed at contract transparency reforms in Nigeria.
It is a follow-on project to #WetinWeGain, which was implemented between 2019 and 2020 in partnership with Publish What You Pay (PWYP-UK), a civil society organisation advocating financial transparency in the extractive industry, the officials of Policy Alert said on Monday in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, during a training organised for reporters.
The campaign will focus on mining in Cross River, and oil and gas in Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Delta states, which are all within Nigeria’s South-south region.
The project lead, Mfon Gabriel, said Nigeria’s situation is a paradox of plenty in which huge resource wealth has failed to translate into economic wellbeing and sustainable development. He said the secrecy of contracts and company ownership in Nigeria’s extractives sector have wreaked havoc on revenues and undermine the ability of citizens to demand accountability from government and companies.
“The country, for instance, earned N24.1 trillion from the oil and gas industry between 2015 and 2019, representing 60.25 per cent of the combined budget figure during the period, yet it ranked 161 out of 189 in the 2020 Human Development Report, and recently overtook India as the world’s poverty capital.
“Natural resource wealth comes with inherent incentive for capture, corruption and rent-seeking behavior. “To worsen matters, citizens are often not involved in the production process or the computation of natural resource receipts,” Mr Gabriel said. The campaign, according to him, would complement the efforts of other initiatives like the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and Open Government Partnership (OGP) in improving availability of fiscal data on the extractive sector.
Mr Gabriel further said that beneficial ownership disclosure, which exposes conflict of interests among the political class, derives from the need to trace people who hide their identities behind corporate structures to defraud the country.
“While the constitution and other laws guiding business in the extractive sectors in Nigeria are publicly available and accessible, the specific contracts entered into by the government with companies, as well as associated licenses and permits, are shrouded in secrecy.
“The practice of hiding extractive contract details in Nigeria has, over the years, stolen from citizens the power to ensure that the best deals which most benefit development(s) are attained and that they are effectively implemented. “It has also encouraged massive corruption in the sector,” he added.
The campaign is expected to reduce fiscal leakages, increase revenues from the federal government, and ensure more democratic and citizen-responsive management of natural resources in the country.