On Wednesday, February 16, BudgIT, with support from Oxfam Nigeria, engaged CSOs and the media in Portharcourt, Rivers State, in a 1-day workshop, on the Need for Open Contracting and Contract Transparency in the extractive industry. Among other objectives, the training was designed to discuss the need for open contracting and its progress to induce improved policy reforms in the extractive industry.
The training had 14 participants across distinguished media houses and Civil Society Organisations who have constantly worked towards transparency and accountability in the sector.
Engr. Adejoke Akinbode and Iniobong Usen, the two facilitators from BudgIT, emphasised the need for open contracting and beneficial ownership reforms at the sub-national level. In Adejoke’s words, the need for transparency goes far beyond the oil sector, even by the public procurement law.
The workshop emphasised two main issues – sharing personal knowledge and the progress of open contracting, and strategic ways to advocate and implement Open contracting, facilitated by BudgIT’s Extractive Lead, Engr. Adejoke Akinbode and Iniobong Usen, BudgIT’s Senior Research and Policy Analyst.
During her session, Engr. Adejoke Akinbode noted that contract transparency is important at the subnational level. She also mentioned that out of the five focus states for the project, Rivers and Imo States were the only states that had procurement laws. However, despite having these laws, both states do not enforce the law.
“The purpose of the beneficial ownership is to improve corporate trust and promote transparency in oil, gas, and mining operations. This essence is to clear to law enforcement agencies, regulators, competing businesses, the media, and the interested public at large who ultimately owns and controls these extractive companies,” she added.
Ken Henshaw, the Executive Director of We the People, started by noting that the procurement law in Rivers state is faulty such that the law states that the government can do up to 30% of procurement without the course of the due process prescribed in the public procurement law and thereby making transparency difficult.
Mfon Gabriel of Policy Alert said that there are issues that need to be addressed regarding contract transparency, especially now that NNPC is a state-owned implementing company of the EITI. He said BudgIT should hold engagements like this consistently, and strategies to implement contract transparency should be encouraged.
Iniobong Usen, during his brief session, spoke on the importance of engagement as this will help identify areas of collaboration and how to leverage the strength of the CSOs and the media.
“As different actors working in different states, we can find rallying positions to see how we can build on each other’s strength and push for a reform,” he added.
Engr Adejoke also spoke about the desk research and findings made by BudgIT on the 5 focus states (Akwa-Ibom, Cross River, Delta, Imo, and Rivers States) regarding contract transparency and the SFTAS program.
Ken Henshaw said reforms could happen if politicians and policymakers grow a conscience and realise that it is politically expensive to take the citizens for granted.
“We need to point the searchlight by the rules and regulations that were created to ensure transparency as these laws are being neglected in the state”, he added.
Iniobong added that calling out for open contracting and beneficial ownership in the state and making it an electoral issue is crucial because it will lead to transparency and accountability, and it will reduce personal gains.
It was a highly participatory engagement where the participants were asked to share their knowledge on their past works related to transparency and accountability.
To further reinforce the objectives, the facilitators emphasised coming up with strategic ways to implement contract transparency and as CSOs, staying united with a voice gives room for successful advocacy.
Deborah Ununu works with BudgIT Extractives Transparency Unit.