ANEEJ: A Bold Step At Reversing The Resource Curse Phenomenon In Niger Delta

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By INNOCENT I. EDEMHANRIA

In 2008, Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), a non-governmental organisation based in Benin City, Edo State, commenced a novel project entitled Strengthening Oil Revenue Management in Niger Delta. The project cover five states in the region, namely Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Cross River and is been supported by the Norwegian Government, EED Germany. Recently, the Government of Switzerland, through their embassy in Nigeria, joined the list of donors to the project.

The entire three years project is reacting to the lack of progress in the sustainable development of local communities in the nine Niger Delta States, and in particular to the management of the 13% derivation of Federal oil revenues.  This derivation has been in place since 1999 and although figures are not freely available, 13% of petroleum exports can be estimated to total approximately US$22 billion (1999 – 2005) and US$6 billion in 2006, (extrapolating figures in the 2006 OPEC Annual Statistical Bulletin).

It is quite clear that this finance has not had significant impact on development in the region or in improving the socioeconomic opportunities of the people.  Majority of Niger Delta people still live in abject poverty with little amenities at their disposal to enjoy. This can be attributed to mismanagement of these oil revenues and a mismatch between policy imperatives and the ability to deliver on the ground.

ANEEJ is engaging with State Assemblies and the Executive, Local Authorities, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Oil & Gas Commissions, Media, Civil Society Organisations and other non state actors (including the private sector) in transparency, accountability and good governance through a strategic capacity building programme.

Working with five groups within five Niger Delta States – the Oil & Gas Commissions, State ministries & Legislatures, local authorities and local communities/civil society organisations (including the private sector) and the media – the project seeks to encourage actors in Commissions, State ministries and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to collaborate in the delivery of revenue and expenditure plans, in consultation with local authorities, communities and civil society organisations (including the private sector).  Specific training on strengthening the oversight role of the State Assembly Legislators in holding the Executives and Oil & Gas Commissions to account will underpin the work conducted with the other groups (stepping down the NEITI to the sub-region: EITI++).

The Strengthening Oil Revenue Management in Niger Delta project design has been informed by the report of a survey “Mapping Political Commitment to Transparency in the Niger Delta” undertaken by ANEEJ, which identified five States where actors in all four groups have responded positively to the concept of building technical capacity and knowledge in transparency in revenue management and the extractive industries.  These five States – Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Rivers – have in addition illustrated, through Governors statements, speeches and proposed legislation a commitment to good governance, transparency and fiscal responsibility.  This project responds to these indicators with appropriate training that will support the implementation of these policies and initiatives.

ANEEJ intend to support the Oil & Gas Commissions in Abia, Imo and Ondo States by inviting officials from these three States to attend workshops in Rivers, Delta and Edo.  The project will scale up its activities in Years Two and Three and will aim to extend activities to all nine Niger Delta States by Year 3.

Key indicators of the success of the project would be (a) collaboration among the four target groups; (b) more open and transparent processes around budget management and project delivery, including expenditure, tendering, issuing contracts, monitoring and evaluation; (c) access to information: publication of related documents on revenue and expenditure, tenders and contracts, etcetera; (d) engagement with the local communities (the beneficiaries) through town hall meetings resulting in evidenced based advocacy.

The desired project outcomes would include (a) maintaining the political momentum in support of good governance and transparency; (b) the effective delivery of social services and economic empowerment of local communities; and (c) robust State Legislatures more active in oversight and holding the Commissions and the Executive to account; (d) mobilization of communities in public campaigns.

An inception workshop was held in Benin City on 21st May, 2009, to formally introduce the project to stakeholders. The inception workshop was hosted by Edo State Government and attended by several dignitaries including the then Norwegian Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Nedrebo Tores; the Esogban of Benin Kingdom, Chief David Edebiri, who represented Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Erediauwa, the Oba of Benin; Edo State Government team which comprise Edo State Special Adviser on Fiscal Governance, Mr. Oseni Elamah, Prince Ekpen Akenzua, Deputy Chief of Staff, Dr. Osagie Obayuwana, Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Edo State; Delta State governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan represented by Mr. Tony Nwaka, the State Commissioner for Local Government; Representatives of Oil and Gas Commision; Civil Society Organisations as well as the media.  At the end of the Inception workshop, Rev. David Ugolor, ANEEJ Executive Director in company of Mr. Nedrebo Tores, the then Norwegian Ambassador to Nigeria as well as some participants paid a courtesy call at the palace of the Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Erediauwa, where the Oba endorsed the project and assured ANEEJ of his support for the project and also advised that whenever the palace intervention is needed, he should be appropriately informed.

A number of workshops have been organised and many more on the way, to strengthen governance in the region which targets the five identified stakeholders namely: State Governments-Executive and Legislature, Local authority, Civil Society, and media. It is hoped that the workshops would equally help to put in place legal instruments/Laws that will help to strengthen good governance, curb wastes, encourage prudent management of resources and fight corruption. Some of the laws already in existence at the Federal level need to be domesticated at the states level in the region. Some of the laws are: Fiscal Responsibility Law, Public Procurement law and Access to Information Law.

ANEEJ has had series of advocacy visits preliminary/consultative meetings with State Governments, delivery agents and other stakeholders across the five Niger Delta States. The consultation with Delta State Government on the Niger Delta Capacity Building Programme   took place on the 13th November, 2009 at the office of the Hon. Commissioner for Economic Planning, Delta State, Mr. Bernard Okumagba. The meeting resolved that ANEEJ should make available a formal letter and the training modules for the workshops to commence with the Delta Government officials

One of the consultative meetings with Governor Rotimi Amaechi of River State was held on 6th January, 2010 where the governor thanked ANEEJ for deeming it necessary to partner with the Rivers State Government. The Governor also noted that Rivers State has quite a number of legislations to strengthen Good governance but welcomed organisation’s desire to partner with the state towards the enforcement of existing laws and assured the team he was open to the proposal, and added that he said he is interested in the operationalization and enforcement of existing laws in the state.

ANEEJ has also held series of consultative meetings with Edo State Government, one of such roundtable meeting was held on March 26, 2009. The leader of Government team, Mr. Elamah Oseni welcomed ANEEJ team to Government House and thanked them for coming to support the strengthening fiscal governance in the state. Rev. David Ugolor used the opportunity to brief the state government of the goal of the three year Strengthening Institutional Capacity project being currently implemented by the organization and disclosed that the project was a response to obvious weak institutional capacities to enthrone revenue transparency and good governance in the Niger Delta States.

Significant progress has been made in Edo State where the Fiscal Responsibility Bill is currently before the House of Assembly. It is hoped that the new leadership of the State House of Assembly would consider passing the Bill into law. Much more, the executive arm of government in Edo State needs to work closely with the parliamentarians to present the Public Procurement Bill to the house as soon a

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