Nigeria sets up team to throw open oil industry's books

Feb 17, 2004 01:00 AM

Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo unveiled a team he has appointed to throw open the books of his country's notoriously murky oil and gas industries. Obasanjo said the creation of the 28-person working group demonstrated Nigeria's commitment to the British-backed global anti-corruption campaign dubbed the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).
"Not only do we embrace it, we internalise it, we practise it and we show to the world that we practise it," the Nigerian leader said as he inaugurated the EITI National Stakeholders' Working Group.

Under EITI rules, Nigeria plans to publish all payments made by and to its multi-billion dollar oil industry which, with exports of more than 2 mm bpd, is Africa's largest. In doing so, the government hopes to deter bribery and graft within a sector which is reputedly rife with illegal commissions on contracts, large-scale theft and lax environmental controls.
Obasanjo wants to hold to account both Nigeria's state oil firm and its international partners, including US giants ChevronTexaco and ExxonMobil, the Anglo-Dutch major Shell and France's Total.
"I don't see why it should be difficult to say 'This is what we received, openly declared', and those who have given to us should be able to say 'This is what we gave, openly declared'," he said.

Nigeria's oil exports have in the past served to prop up a series of kleptocratic and brutal military regimes, and billions of dollars in looted profits have been hidden in foreign banks.
Earlier, Nigeria joined US and French investigators in launching a probe into an alleged $ 180 mm bribe said to have been paid by US firm Halliburton for a slice in a natural gas contract.

EITI is a British-backed initiative under which oil, gas and solid mineral exporting countries can voluntarily sign-up to a code of practice designed to combat secrecy and corruption within their industries. Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair launched EITI in June last year and Nigeria -- despite its reputation as one of the world's most corrupt countries -- has become one of the first oil exporters to sign up.
Anti-corruption and pro-development organisations have welcomed the initiative, but some groups say it does not go far enough and should be made compulsory for both companies and states.

Source: Agence France Presse
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