A one-day interactive Media Editors’ Roundtable on Transparency and Accountability in the Oil Sector was organized by HEDA Resource Centre in Lagos on Thursday, 10 October, 2014.
The one-day session was attended by participants which included editors drawn from both print and electronic media with the sole objective of improving the level of transparency and accountability in the Nigerian oil industry.
The impact of oil theft and illegal refining is registering on the social, economic and political lives of Nigerians. The increasing wave of internal insurgency, terrorism, violent crimes and other organized financial and economic crimes have been widely traced to the growing criminalities in the oil sector.
Editors have therefore been identified as key stakeholders in spearheading the fight against the challenges created by oil theft and illegal refining.
Following extensive deliberations by participants and in furtherance of the need to take concrete steps on the pertinent issues emanating from the interactive session, participants identified the following as key problematic areas:
There is a general disillusionment among young people and high level of impunity in the polity.
The failure of International Oil Companies (IOCs) to comply with internationally acceptable operational and environmental standards is a crucial factor precipitating oil spillages, oil theft and illegal refineries.
Regulatory agencies and the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) are poorly equipped and ill motivated to monitor oil production and perform allied functions.
Security agents are largely compromised in the war against oil theft.
Communities do not have a sense of ownership in oil resources and infrastructures within their domain.
The pervasive poverty and lack of benefits among indigenes of the oil producing areas is a disincentive to participate in the fight against oil theft.
Though crucial to the fight against oil theft, Press men are vulnerable to multifarious attacks in the discharge of their duty.
Sometimes, Media ownership, like other business organizations influence the reports on transparency and accountability in the oil industry.
Illegal refineries are not dismantled in environmentally friendly ways.
As part of efforts to curtail oil theft, pipeline vandalism, check illegal refineries and fight piracy along Nigeria’s coast the federal government recently awarded contracts to some former militants.
Acknowledging that though stakeholders may not be able to totally stop oil theft and illegal refineries, but can help to reduce it drastically, participants deliberated and proposed the following recommendations:
Oil theft, illegal refineries and other economic and environmental crimes cannot be eradicated without addressing fundamental issues including; poverty, impunity, hopelessness and the general state of deprivation and exclusion pervasive in the country
Any genuine effort aimed at combatting oil theft and illegal refineries must prioritize host communities: youth, women and men; as beneficiaries and co-owners of the resources/facilities
Government should address the issue of oil theft and illegal refineries not only as an economic sabotage but also as an environmental and public health concern. Security agencies should conduct dismantling exercise of illegal refineries without causing further harm to environment and public health.
There is need for stepping up of legislative oversight and Citizens’ oversight of the activities of regulatory agencies and the NNPC in the management of Nigeria’s oil resources
Government should develop mechanism (including possible regulatory and licensing scheme for small scale petroleum refineries) to redirect and integrate the skills and energy of young people involved in illegal refineries and oil theft into productive economic engagement.
Government should adequately equip and motivate security agencies through leveraging on technology and a robust incentive regime to enhance their efficiency in the war against oil theft and illegal refineries. Stern disciplinary measures should be however employed to check criminal compromise by some security agents.
Media owners, Government and all Stakeholders should take measures to facilitate the important role of the journalists and reduce their vulnerability to multifarious attacks in the discharge of their duties
Journalists including editors should take advantage of technology and online platforms like www.hedang.org/ouroilourcurse to publish credible reports and information whenever they face red tape in their formal media establishment
Participants thank the organizers for their commitment to help keep the fight against oil theft and corruption in the oil sector alive through their capacity building and mobilization progammes for the media. Participants urge the organizers to continue with the initiative and affirmed their commitment as media gatekeepers to continue to play the role of Nation’s Watch Dog.
Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju and Mr. Tunde Akanni
Heda Resource Centre, Consultant.