Remtrack… follow the money!
Being Nigerian in today’s world is a mix of emotions. First, there is the notorious image bestowed on citizens because of a burgeoning criminal enterprise championed by a triangle of confidence tricksters, shady politicians, and crooked business execs. However, on the flip side Nigeria enjoys an elitist position as the sixth largest producer of petroleum in the world and biggest in Africa. It gets better: a 2018 estimate positions Nigeria as the 8th largest proven natural gas reserves in the world. That translates to billions and billions of coveted US dollars.
Petroleum proceeds equates to 70 percent the national income. It has been a bit of a rigmarole since the drill head struck oil in 1957 in Oloibiri, in present day Bayelsa State. Fast forward to 2019, the current infrastructure does not reflect the revenue. 200 million people, 250+ ethnic groups, and those on the fringes, still holding their breath, waiting for the mythical El dorado.
Oil and Gas is serious business; this is underscored in a 2017 estimate that international transactions in the sector alone were in the excess of $1.5 trillion dollars.
Nigeria is certainly involved in some of the world’s largest drilling projects with the commencement of the Egina project in 2017, as its first ultra-deep offshore field. The field daily production is estimated at 200,000 barrels of crude oil per day which is currently one of the highest. This not only has huge imports for income but also for specialised engineering. This is one of Total’s most ambitious projects ever.
Nigeria is not just about crude oil; the gas reserves by far surpasses the oil. The recent execution of the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Train 7 project, signed off in September 2019 will move production from 22-million-tons capacity from its six trains currently to 30 million tons, essentially about 35 percent increase in capacity. This translates to billions of dollars added to the national income. Train-7 Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) Contract is between NLNG and the preferred consortium- SCD, which is constituted by three entities – Saipem, Chiyoda and Daewoo. The project will at its peak create over 40,000 direct and indirect jobs.
The numbers are mind boggling. There are several projects in the sector going on across the country with massive investments and proceeds. So, while Nigeria seems to be coasting in its position of being the poverty capital of the world, the numbers in the background clearly indicate that there is a parallel world. Nigeria is a member of the 15-member Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) which is the cartel that produces 44% of the world’s oil and 81.5% of the global reserves. This is a huge position to be leveraged but requires a huge awareness in the society. Nigeria has no business being in a state of want. There is no rational reason that the country and its citizens are not on the same pedestal with the likes of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, also members of the same cartel. Some would say that the problem is mismanagement of the national economy, and this argument has its merits. However, what must happen from this point on is to use information as leverage to ensure funds are properly accounted for. This is the age we live in – where information is power. There must be a conscious effort to become aware of and understand the dynamics and goings-on in this huge and prosperous industry. No doubt, the sector is highly technical and somewhat opaque in terms of the way transactions are carried out – this is the reason RemTrack was conceptualised.
RemTrack is a tech platform that enables core stakeholders and the rest of us, to effectively track progress in the implementation of recommendations of audit reports of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI). It is a technology-for-development tool that simplifies the concept and process of remediation issues in the extractive sector and reduces them into user-friendly information and datasets that enable stakeholders, especially civil society and the media, to make evidence-based advocacy in furtherance of transparency and accountability in Nigeria. Remediation is the process of resolving identified gaps and shortfalls in NEITI audit reports to ensure transparency and accountability in payments and receipts as well as adherence to due process and best practices in the oil, gas and solid minerals industries. The idea is to fix the leakages and prevent reoccurrence in the future. NEITI audit reports clearly point out remediation issues via recommendations that impact on policies, and operational procedures that would address corruption in the extractive sector if adequately implemented. The reports examine physical, financial, and process issues in the oil and gas sector and reconcile the monies the extractives companies pay to the government with what government declares it receives.
RemTrack will help us follow the money trail. As an advocacy tool, the app provides users with a simplified overview of the oil and gas sector; relates the data to outcomes and opportunity costs of losses or gaps. It also has a web-based component for covered entities to interact and engage the option of an automated reconciliation process. RemTrack users have a platform to cause a change for the better in the most important economic sector. The 2017 oil and gas audit released by NEITI late November showed that the sector generated up to $21billion. The easy questions that emerge are: what were the pay-outs? How much impact did it have on lives and living conditions? These are the conversations that should pervade public and private spaces in this new world driven by tech. RemTrack is designed and developed by OrderPaper Nigeria in collaboration with the Civil Society Steering Committee of the Nigeria Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) and is available for download in the Google Play and iOS Stores for android and apple devices respectively.
Epia is the founder and executive director, OrderPaper Nigeria
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