By Dr Orji Ogbonnaya Orji

The international development community was excited by the recent decision of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to join the global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) as a supporting company. The decision followed a request by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) and its international partner (the EITI) arising from series of engagements with the company for reforms under the Mele Kyari leadership as Group Managing Director.

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BY

Obiageli Onuorah

In 2013, Nigeria began its journey towards revealing the real owners of its assets in the extractive industries. By 2016, at the anti-corruption summit which took place in London, Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari made a pledge alongside other world leaders to work together towards revealing real owners of companies doing business across jurisdictions in the world. A communique issued at the end of that summit highlighted the key role that beneficial ownership (BO) disclosure will play in the fight against corruption and illicit financial flows especially in resource rich and developing countries like Nigeria.

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And, sadly, it came to pass. It is well predicted that most countries blessed with natural resources, even in the best of times, perform worse economically than countries not so endowed; and that, when times are tough, countries that are dependent on natural resources come to an assured grief. There is a popular name for this strange but common condition: resource curse. It sounds metaphysical, it seems counter-intuitive even, but it is a position supported by enough evidence. And there can’t be better evidence than this: a Nigeria that is in the choke-hold of economic recession right after fifteen years of consistently high oil prices and over N70 trillion of oil revenues earned by the federation.

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All over the world, resource-rich countries like Nigeria that depend on revenues from natural resources to finance annual budgets plan early to insulate themselves from  price volatility in the international market and eventful depletion of the resources. Many of these countries do so by setting up stabilization funds to save for the rainy day and for the future of the next generation.  This essentially requires a deliberate policy to set aside money earned from natural resources especially during periods of high prices to smoothen expenditure when prices fall.

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By December this year, the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) would have clocked sixteen years and eight months in the making, and more than eight and half years since it was first presented to the National Assembly. That would have been two hundred months of several committees constituted for the purpose, of countless stakeholder consultations and engagements, of endless back and forth between the executive and the legislature.

By then, according to a Policy Brief recently published by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), the PIB would have gone through four presidents, five presidential terms and five legislative tenures - without resulting in an overarching petroleum industry law.

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