For public interest companies and sectors such as Nigeria’s oil, gas and mining sector, etc., data disclosure, standard implementation, among other issues, can present great opportunities as well as significant challenges. Concerning regulatory oversight, data management and regulation could encounter difficult decisions.
Finding the right balance between the ‘duties to disclose’ against ‘pressure to disclose’ dilemma is not easy. If done right, such milestones are a great way to raise visibility within the investment communities. If done wrong, the consequences may be severe. It is in forging the paths for streamlining the above factor and every other regulatory compliance concerns that Mr. Mark Robinson, Head of International Secretariat of Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) based in Oslo, Norway, is in Nigeria.
In a meeting in Abuja with Mrs Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, he said he was in Nigeria to meet with stakeholders in the extractive industries and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), to relay some priorities on how NEITI in Nigeria has worked with data and systemic disclosure, and how the ministry is using NEITI data for inclusiveness. “I am here to meet with NEITI and to see how it works, how both NEITI and EITI can work together with right information, and how capacity building can be shared,” he said.
Robinson, who is in Nigeria to access the level and impacts of EITI implementation in the country, is also here to review progress so far made by Nigeria in the implementation of EITI standards as part of the overall on-going reforms agenda in Nigeria’s oil, gas and mining sector.
Talking about NEITI in Nigeria and the need to ensure revised standard on systematic disclosures, he said by 2020 all information about business in the sectors must be disclosed and transparent.
Responding Ahmed said NEITI has been working to ensure more data update so that the government can use such data for development purposes. Expressing her happiness for the visit, she said she was also happy with EITI’s effort to empower more sectors. She said that due to environmental differences, Nigeria has realised that just following international protocol would not be enough. She added: “EITI mandate is more about reporting standards, improving process, systems, identifying loopholes and leakages. Fighting corruption should be left for the anti corruption agencies.”
The Honourable Minister disclosed that government agencies are on data automation but not interfacing with one another, hence each having different figures. She said this is the reason that President Muhammadu Buhari has asked a Committee to reconcile government revenue since 1999, which is now being done on weekly basis with a more realistic data and information from the different reporting agencies.
In order to enhance open disclosure, government has a template on remittances and disbursement, thereby giving citizens room to ask questions, if need be, according to Ahmed.
Mr Waziri Adio, Executive Secretary of NEITI, said an amendment to Companies and Allied Matters Act is required to ensure confidentiality and openness, while Ahmed advised NEITI to develop a template to extract information from contracts on websites, as this would be more beneficial to the citizens, for transparency and openness. She said she was looking forward to the December 12 meeting and the launch of Beneficial Ownership Register (BOR) to be hosted by NEITI.
While Adio also said NEITI has been a very important institution, providing value for the sector and government through data provision, to interrogate various sectors, the Honourable Minister noted that every country has her own idea about green energy, though EITI could facilitate a discussion about this.
Of course the laws establishing the regulatory agencies empowered them to collect data, but the Presidential Committee on Reconciliation (PCR) will enhance NEITI’s job as many agencies do not give timely disclosure. On this note, Mrs. Ahmed had asked how the PCR will ensure that data reconciled could be handy and on the database, also disclosing that the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation will soon launch a portal to disclose government spending.
While in Abuja, the EITI chief executive is scheduled to also visit the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite. Robinson and his team will hold consultative meetings with the Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Mele Kyari. He will also meet with the Executive Secretary, the Board and Management and staff of NEITI, which is the domestic branch of the global organisation.
The EITI chief will also hold interactive session with the civil society/media and later address a press conference in Abuja before proceeding to Lagos in continuation of his visit. While in Lagos, he will meet with the management of Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), as well as oil and gas companies under the platform of NEITI-Companies Forum.
The EITI International Secretariat, led by Robinson, is coordinating and overseeing the affairs of 53-member implementing countries of the global organisation.
Robinson was appointed as the Executive Director of EITI in November 2018. He had previously worked as global director for the Governance Center at the World Resources Institute (WRI). He has held several senior positions at the Department for International Development, the Institute of Development Studies, the Ford Foundation and the Overseas Development Institute, where he helped countries to formulate reforms in areas such as anti-corruption, transparency and natural resources governance. He has also held numerous board and advisory roles, and currently serves as Board Chair of the Open Government Partnership Secretariat.
He was educated at Sussex University where he earned his Ph.D and MA in Comparative Politics. He also holds a BA honours degree in Social and Political Science from the University of Cambridge.