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Nigerian journalists call for speedy release of NEITI’s audit report

Training Workshop for Energy Correspondents   on the NEITI Process.  Organized by the Civil
Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)  With support from PACT Nigeria-USAID. Held at the Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja on Tuesday, July 7, 2009.  Communique

About 39 Energy Editors, Correspondents and Reporters from the Print and Broadcast sectors participated in a one-day Workshop for Energy Correspondents on the NEITI Process held at the Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja on Tuesday, July 7, 2009.  The workshop was organized by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) with support from PACT Nigeria. Through USAID . 
The Executive Director of CISLAC, Mr.. Auwal Musa (Rafsanjani) , delivered a welcome address to the meeting, which also received a goodwill message from Mr. John Ikubaje, on behalf of PACT Nigeria. The Keynote address was delivered by the Executive Secretary of NEITI, Mallam Haruna Yunusa Saeed,
while presentations were made by Mr. Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA), and Mr. Alabi Williams, of The Guardian newspaper.

Following the presentations and discussions at the meeting, the participants hereby adopt the following Final Communique:

It is important for Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) to ensure transparency and accountability in the extractive sector so that the government is made accountable for the revenues it receives, which would ultimately benefit a range of stakeholders, including communities, the industries and companies, the government, the country and its citizens;

Since the Act establishing NEITI does not require it to submit the audit report of the extractive industry companies to the President or the Federal Executive Council for approval before making it public, there can be no basis for the current practice where the report is tabled before the FEC before it is released. This
practice should be discontinued forthwith;

That efforts need to be made so that NEITI’s yearly audit reports come out on time, rather than through a backlog of so many years, and at points when specific issues of revenue inflow and utilization are no longer very topical in the public’s memory. It is imperative to follow the spirit of the NEITI Act that mandates the audit to be conducted within six months of the previous auditing year;

The media has a primary responsibility under the Constitution for ensuring efficient and equitable management of resources, including resources from the extractive sector, having regard to Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution which enjoins the media, among other things, to “uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people.”

Although the Media is critical to the effective management of extractive resources, for it to be effective in playing its role, the media practitioners should engage the NEITI process more actively and scale up their capacity to cover the issues which are highly technical.

The Media and media practitioners covering issues of the extractive sector require access to relevant information to engage the process effectively. Although the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) Act 2007 provides a framework for accessing some information, the transparency regime instituted by the Law is inadequate. The media must therefore continue to campaign for the passage of a
comprehensive Freedom of Information Act

The Media, civil society and the NEITI Secretariat should find ways to collaborate in order to make the NEITI Act work and ensure the achievement of its objectives. This can be done through the sharing of ideas and information, while civil society organizations with specialized knowledge of the extractive industry
should make such knowledge and information available to the media.

Deliberate efforts should be taken to build the capacity of the media to engage the NEITI process through improving journalists’ awareness of oil contracts and anticipated revenues; improving their understanding of the NEITI Act and all aspects pertaining to the management of oil revenues and expenditures.
Journalists should also be equipped with the skills for investigative reporting through specialized training on how to monitor the spending of oil revenues and report the upstream sector more professionally.