N’Delta: Valiant Efforts to Reverse a Resource Curse

ThisDay Newspaper

Analysts have for long insisted that the abundance of Nigeria’s resources is a ‘curse,’ which is slowing down the country’s pace of development, especially in the Niger Delta, the source of crude oil and gas, mainstays of the economy. However, government’s efforts at ameliorating the situation is being crucially complemented by the civil society and other concerned organisations. Abimbola Akosile examines various efforts aimed at turning a curse into a blessing for the common good

That Nigeria is blessed with abundant natural resources is no longer news. Neither is the fact that oil and gas are two of the most important resources in the country, which forms the cash-cows of an ailing economy. However, what is new is various novel formulae by different experts, individuals and organisations to translate the gain from the nation’s abundant resources into tangible, equitably distributed wealth to the long-suffering citizens, especially those in the Niger Delta, which forms the core area of minerals supply and revenue earning.

What is new is that up till now, no administration has found the magic key to unlock the wealth of the nation and ensure it percolates to the average citizen in the hinterland, in both rural and urban areas; which is a key form of expression of good governance.
What is also new is that efforts are on currently to revamp an ailing economy through focus and vital legislation to monitor and properly account for the wealth accruing from a previously opaque oil industry; to the chagrin of former beneficiaries, the multinational oil companies and some wealthy and connected citizens.

CSOs Efforts
In the struggle to ensure good governance coupled with transparency and accountability in the extractive industry, the civil society appears to be charting a creditable course.
From their vital interventions in the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) to advocacy for a better operating and economic environment, some organisations appear to stand out in the struggle.
Some, not all, of these organisations include the Publish What You Pay (PWYP) Coalition; the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Niger Delta Budget Monitoring Group (NDEBUMOG), Transparency in Nigeria (TIN), Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ).

ANEEJ Intervention
The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), based in Benin City, Edo State, has taken a bold step at reversing the resource course phenomenon; which is showcased in a project currently being undertaken by the organisation, led by seasoned civil society practitioner, Rev David Ugolor.
The novel project, entitled ‘Strengthening Oil Revenue Management in Niger Delta’, covers 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.

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 and 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++).

Derivation Proceeds
According to a report compiled by the Programme Officer of ANEEJ, Mr. Innocent Edemhanria, the entire three-year 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 per cent derivation of Federal oil revenues.
This derivation, the report said, has been in place since 1999 and although figures are not freely available, 13 per cent 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).

According to Edemhanria, “It is 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.”

Crucial Project
The Strengthening Oil Revenue Management in Niger Delta project design was 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. The project responds to these indicators with appropriate training that will support the implementation of the policies and initiatives.
ANEEJ intends 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.

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

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

Complementary Fora
An inception workshop was held in Benin City on May 21, 2009, to formally introduce the project to stakeholders. The inception workshop, according to the ANNEJ report, was hosted by Edo State Government and attended by several dignitaries.
These include 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.
The Government team comprised 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 Commission; Civil Society Organisations as well as the media.

At the end of the Inception workshop, Rev. Ugolor, ANEEJ Executive Director in company of Ambassador Tores and some participants, paid a courtesy call at the palace of Oba Erediauwa of Benin, where the Oba endorsed the project and assured ANEEJ of his support for the project.
One of the consultative meetings with Governor Rotimi Amaechi of River State was held on January 6, 2010 where the governor noted that Rivers State has quite a number of legislations to strengthen good governance but welcomed ANEEJ’s desire to partner with the state towards the enforcement of existing laws. He assured the team he was interested in the operationalisation 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. Ugolor briefed the state government of the goal of the three year project being currently implemented by the organisation 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.

Vital Legislation
The ANEEJ report noted that 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 as possible, the report added.

To Edemhanria “this is important because all issues of corruption revolve around procurements – contracts, purchases, supplies etc. It is hoped that other Niger Delta states will be encouraged by the progress in Edo.”
Recently, the Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Relations with Civil Society is partnering with ANEEJ in the implementation of a World Bank supported programme on Improving Civil Society Involvement in Economic Reform and Governance Project (ERGP).
ANEEJ was also one of the NGO invited by Canadian Govt. to participate in the Civil G8 Dialogue that took place on the 15-16 April in Vancouver as part of consultation with civil society before the G8 Summit in June in Toronto. About 60 CSOs were involved in the process, and prior before the meeting, ANEEJ organised a Roundtable in Abuja with support from Canadian High Commission.

Lesson for All
ANEEJ, led by Ugolor, has set a precedent in civil society intervention concerning the issue of resource management and transparency in revenue process. But the organisation cannot tackle the myriad problems in the Niger Delta alone.
The onus is on all stakeholders to join hands together to ensure revenue transparency in the extractive industry, the results of which will impact positively on the lives of the average long-suffering citizens of Nigeria. For the desired development to occur, this is a crucial step. Kudos to ANEEJ and other relevant stakeholders.