From Uche Usim, Abuja
In a move towards tackling environmental degradation, the Federal Ministry of Environment on Tuesday said it would henceforth obtain inputs and recommendations from the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) on projects before approvals and certifications are given.
The Minister, Dr. Mohammed Abdullahi, stated this in Abuja during the “Validation Workshop for Framework Study on Environmental Impact Reporting in the Extractive Industry” organised by NEITI.
Represented by the Director, Environment Assessment, Dr. Abbas Suleiman, the Minister also said he would advise the National Environmental Standard Regulation Agency (NESRA) to work more closely with NEITI in the urgent task of protecting the environment from harmful activities in the extractive industry.
He vowed that with the validation workshop, the ministry will improve on the existing environmental impact certification process in the overall interest of the nation.
He said: “Going forward, the Federal Ministry of Environment will be more proactive in making sure that NEITI’s comments are taken on board before we present any project to the Minister for environmental approval and certification.”
In his remarks, the Executive Secretary of NEITI, Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji explained that the agency does not generate industry data, though it is officially mandated to implement EITI in Nigeria.
He emphasized that such a task has been legally left to covered entities and relevant institutions to handle.
Orji said: “NEITI subsequently collects this data to publish in the annual audit reports. With the implementation of data mainstreaming and systematic disclosure, the relevant institutions will begin to take on both responsibilities to generate and publish data in real time.
“This will add significant value to transparency and accountability by further increasing the timeliness and relevance of data.”
Orji said while NEITI is reporting industry data through the traditional process of data collection and reconciliation, the long-term goal is to mainstream disclosure practices.
He recalled that when he was appointed Executive Secretary in February last year, one of his immediate tasks was to assess the status of Nigeria’s commitments under the new EITI Standard.
“The assessment left me with no doubt that we must deepen the foundation that was already being laid for the implementation of the evolving issues in EITI implementation.
“The second consideration was the need to mainstream gender and environmental impact reporting within existing government systems and institutions equipped with the mandate and capacity to do so. The careful identification and selection of stakeholders to participate in this process is designed to foster ownership of the process by the relevant stakeholders”, he added.
Orji noted that with the implementation of data mainstreaming and systematic disclosure, the relevant institutions will begin to take on both responsibilities to generate and publish data in real time.
“The National Stakeholders Working Group is fully involved in this process and are here to oversee today’s proceedings. On behalf of the management and staff of the NEITI secretariat, I welcome members of the Board to this validation workshop”, he stated.
In his keynote address at the event, the Chairman, National Stakeholders’ Working Group, Olusegun Adekunle said NEITI was founded 20 years ago on the noble principles of equity and sustainable development.
The principles, he maintained, remain relevant today if not more than they were in 2002.
“In no other context is the sustainability agenda more pronounced than in the objectives of social inclusion and environmental accountability.