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By NBF News
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Nigeria Civil Society Groups, CSOs, have warned the Federal Government against politicizing the appointment of membership into the National Stakeholder Working Group, NSWG, of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI.

They argued that depoliticising appointment into the group will lead to effective implementation of initiatives and policies in the extractive industry, EI, notably the oil and gas and solid minerals sectors.

The CSOs, who gave the warning during a strategic meeting on effective engagement with NEITI/NSWG held in Abuja last week, also noted that the NEITI Act spells out the criteria for the appointment of members into the NWSG, but that these are not being strictly followed.

The Chairman Editorial Board, Thisday Newspapers, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, noted that by law, NEITI/NSWG is not meant for politicians, but for professionals.

'We don't want people who are affiliated to one political group or the other to occupy these positions; this will allow professionals to carry out their job effectively.'

Accordingly, he said the essence of the meeting is to work out modalities for engagement and setting agenda for taking the whole process forward.

The Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center, CISLAC, Mr. Ibrahim Musa, in his opening remarks, said the CSOs have been working closely with NEITI to ensure that Nigerians are aware of the provisions of the NEITI Act.

'In the recent past we have seen that so much corruption occurred in the sector. We, therefore, dim it absolutely necessary that the Nigerian government become more seriously concerned about the Nigerian people who have been devastated by abuses by oil companies, coupled with the enormous funds that have been embezzled in the sector.

'That is why we have come together as a civil society to articulate ways in which we can engaged NSWG and enhance government's effort in tackling corruption that led to the misuse of revenues accruing from the sector in order to boost developmental growth in the country.'

Musa also argued that the country will not be faced with the kind of poverty and underdevelopment it is currently experiencing if resources were properly utilised, adding that due to the absence of political will to implement quality and effective initiatives, the country has stagnated.

He appealed to the CSOs to work together to ensure that government did not appoint politicians into NEITI, adding that the agency has lost its efficiency on account of politicking.

'NEITI is one of the leading agencies in the world, but today we are no longer one of the leading agencies in the extractive sector of the country. We are therefore determined to work with the federal government in order to claim our glorious position,' he said.

The National Coordinator, Publish What You Pay, PWYP, Ms. Faith Nwadishi, noted that the idea of the meeting is to ensure that the NEITI principle does not go down the drain like every other initiatives in the country.

'We have beautiful policies that have not been implemented but because the civil society groups have continued to engage NEITI, we don't want these ideals to die since NEITI is an initiative that we can apply internationally, and we want to continue to be vibrant.'

She explained that last year, the global body, EITI, made provisions for the effective participation of the civil society in setting agenda for the extractive sector.

In his good will message, the Programme Coordinator, Open Society Initiative for West Africa, OSIWA, Mr. Peter Ocheikwu, said civil society is interested to support what CISLAC is doing and the outcome of the meeting should be for the benefit of all Nigerians.