From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja

National Assembly has said there are plans to grant Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) powers to prosecute offenders in the oil and gas sector.

Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Ikeagwuonu Ugochinyere, disclosed this when officials of Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) met with the National Assembly joint Committee on Petroleum.

Ugochinyere said the parliament is working on the review of NEITI Act to grant the agency powers to implement the findings of its investigation, and possibly execute the recommendations of their report.

Consequently, he added that already 70 lawmakers have consented to co-sponsor critical legislations to achieve its objective.

“We are also considering granting NEITI powers to prosecute those found to be in breach of extant laws. We are also considering strengthening the governance structure of NEITI, placing more emphasis on crucial disclosure requirements of EITI, especially as it relates to contract transparency and beneficial ownership.

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“We are also looking at independent funding for NEITI, timely review and action on reports by the National Assembly, among others. We are also working with sister petroleum/oil and gas committees with a view to ascertaining those who operate extractive industries in Nigeria, so as to deepen transparency and public oversight of the industries through the House. 

“We also seek to pursue the recovery of public funds that were either mismanaged, wasted or yet to be remitted from the extractive industries.

“It is also our desire to ensure there is accountability on the part of state-owned extractive industries, to ensure greater value and revenue is derived from the sector for the good of the nation and to foster a sustainable energy transition.” he said.

Deputy Head of the International Secretariat of EITI, Bady Balde, who was part of NEITI  delegation,  stressed the need for a review of the NEITI Act 2007, to ensure it conforms with current realities. Balde said EITI is committed to ensuring the citizens benefit from natural resources in the country.

On his part, the Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, said the agency has conducted a lot of investigations with findings and recommendations. Nevertheless, Orji said reports are just documents except they are implemented.