Monday, March 7, 2016

Issues with appointment of NEITI executive secretary.

Chapter 4 of the NEITI Charter is very clear on the steps to be taken before the executive secretary of NEITI is appointed by Mr. President. As a matter of fact, the exact words as contained in chapter four of the Charter say that the NEITI secretariat SHALL(emphasis mine) be headed by an executive secretary who SHALL be appointed by the President from within the National Stakeholders Working Group, NSWG’.  All other sections of chapter 4 of the Charter concern requirements that an executive secretary must or should possess together with instructions on his tenure. 

But with the recent appointment of Mr. Adio Waziri as executive secretary for the NEITI board, various stakeholders and interest groups have taken up the gauntlet, saying the entire process leading to Mr. Adio’s appointment is a travesty of the rules and should be reviewed. In a widely circulated statement in the media, and signed by the much-respected Faith Nwadishi of Publish What You Pay, PWYP, said that Adio’s appointment did not follow due process, transparency and accountability. Publish What You Pay representative in Nigeria has therefore has called on Mr. President to remedy what it believed to be an ‘innocuous error’, and recommends that Mr. President reverse himself by first appointing Mr. Adio Waziri as a member of the NSWG and allow the process of the appointment of the executive secretary go through the process as recommended by the Charter. 

In that widely circulated release as well, PWYP also called on Mr. President to fill certain gaps in the composition of the board of NEITI – that of the representative of the oil and gas sector. The argument is that since over 90% of the activities in the extractive industry in Nigeria are in the oil and gas sector, an oil and gas representative will help bring critical stakeholders together in the coming debates about reforms in the sector.
The PWYP position is derivable more from their understanding of certain semantic elements inherent in the clauses and phrases of chapter 4 of the NEITI Charter. The Charter clearly says that NEITI shall (not should) be headed by an executive secretary who shall (not should) be appointed by the president from within the National Stakeholders Working Group, NSWG.  I do not understand why the framers of the Charter chose to say that the President SHALL appoint an executive secretary from the board of the NSWG if their desire was that Mr. President must as matter of obligation consult the NSWG before he appoints an executive secretary. The usage of shall  in the clause above predisposes that anybody who is going to challenge Mr. President on his choice of executive secretary would be doing so merely from quasi legal grounds, especially if Mr. President envisages that the rules will not favour a candidate he is favourably disposed to.  Therefore, the connotative implication of the lingo of that Charter says - and unfortunately so - that the President has discretionary powers with respect to the appointment of the executive secretary – the choice to either consult with the rules as enshrined in the Charter or to ignore them is exclusively left to him. 

If the framers of the Charter were intent on the President following the rules, the verbal of the Charter should have read something like this: NEITI should (must) be headed by an executive secretary who should (must) be appointed by the president from within the National Stakeholders Working Group. Semantically and logically, the use of ‘should’ implies obligation and logical necessity for Mr. President to wait for the recommendation of a constituted NSWG before announcing the appointment of an executive secretary for NEITI. And as a matter of fact the way the ‘body language’ of Chapter 4, and indeed several other chapters of the NEITI Charter is coined, leaves room for inconsistencies that mischief makers can exploit. One of them is that the usage of ‘shall’ also predisposes that if Mr. President so wishes, he may decide not to appoint any insider from the NSWG of NEITI. 

I do not blame the PWYP for asking Mr. President to remedy what it calls an ‘innocuous error’.  If we have a Mr. President whose overall demeanour favours transparency and accountability, and zero-tolerance for corruption, shouldn’t we all be surprised that he is the one promoting something that is anathema to the very tenets of his demeanour? But I submit that that error is not for Mr. President to remedy but for the framers of the Charter. 

And this as well brings us to the question of not having a representative for the oil and gas sector on the NSWG of the NEITI board. This seeming oversight appears regrettable because right now there is a glut in oil prices. That, perhaps, is why our president is travelling here and there to try to negotiate some sort of amity among oil producing countries. The intent is to attempt to influence some stability in oil production and improve on sales. But both Mr. President and the PWYP who on the one hand is looking for answers outside, and the other that seeks an oil and gas representative on the board of the NSWG of NEITI are not helping matters. First Nigeria has overly relied on oil and gas to our detriment, and therefore my suggestion is no different from what has been suggested again and again by respected Economists but which we are hard-put to harken to – that we must diversify our economy and consolidate on building on the foundation of the 2014 rebasing of our economy.  According to figures on Nigeria from OPEC, Nigeria’s other natural resources include tin, iron ore, coal, limestone, niobium, lead and zinc. Yet oil and gas have contributed only 35% of GDP.  Another country in OPEC, Indonesia, has used income from oil and gas to develop key industries like manufacturing, agriculture, mining, services and tourism. Nigeria has not done so.  Respectfully therefore, I believe that instead of agonizing over who would be representing the oil and gas sector in the NSWG of NEITI, we should be thinking of creating a renewable energy sector within the framework and mandate of the NEITI Charter as a complement of our efforts at diversifying our mono-economy.  

Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku, Benin City.