Concerning environmental audits in the Nigeria extractive industries transparency initiative

Concerning environmental audits in the Nigeria extractive industries transparency initiative

The Extractive Industries and Society xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx Contents lists available at ScienceDirect The Extractive Industries and Society journal hom...

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The Extractive Industries and Society xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

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Concerning environmental audits in the Nigeria extractive industries transparency initiative Nnimmo Bassey1 Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Nigeria



Keywords: Transparency Extractive industry Audit Environment Accountability

The exclusion of environmental costs by the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) and the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) reinforces the inherent non-transparency of extractive industries. This paper argues that accountability should go beyond profits and revenues to accommodate ecological losses and the impacts of extraction on species. By examining the economic trajectory of Nigeria, before and during extraction of crude oil, the paper examines the ecological footprint of the extractive industry as a blind spot of extractive accounting, and posits that for the NEITI audits to enhance transparency in the sector, they must cover the ecological gap created by externalizing environmental and human costs.

1. Introduction Views vary on the impact that the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has had on practices in Nigeria’s extractive sector. Some believe that NEITI’s audits have had little impact on the corruption-riddled sector, while others think that the sleaze would have been worse without NEITI (Lawrence and Victor, 2016). NEITI audits have revealed shocking gaps between payments by companies and receipts by the government. It has also shown embarrassing ineptitude, or disturbing complicity, on the part of managers of the industry – all illustrating a glaring situation of non-transparency in the sector. Since its creation, arguably, NEITI has become a subject of public discourse on the petroleum industry without the capacity to substantively change the practice of the operators and the government. Industry operators and the government have continued to focus on creating a better business environment rather than protecting the environment and peoples. When the Executive Secretary of NEITI, Waziri Adio, announced the commencement of the 2015–2016 Audit process, he stated that “NEITI is committed to working closely with the companies under the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) framework to create good business environment conducive for inflow of more foreign direct investments into the sector. For this to happen, we encourage all companies to embrace transparency, accountability and corporate governance in conformity with EITI standard” (NEITI, 2017). Unfortunately, creating friendly business environments often translates into easing environmental rules and regulations.


In this paper, our focus is on the exclusion of environmental costs in the auditing processes of the EITI and NEITI. Why has this happened and should it be left so? Our position is that irrespective of whatever may be achieved through financial transparency, as long as environmental corruption due to the polluting nature of the sector and other externalities are ignored in the audits, the cavernous accounting gap remains to be bridged. In other words, NEITI’s work could only be comprehensive when it includes environmental audits of the extractive sector - to assess, among other elements, the extent to which the industries comply with relevant laws, regulations, codes and conventions. Also, a more rigorous approach to extractive industry accounting must include the real costs of operations, rather than ignoring the environmental and human health costs as well as the historical and colonial legacies of natural resource extraction in Nigeria. The environment is probably left out of EITI and NEITI because key extractive industry players sit on their boards. Regulating oneself is not the easiest thing to do. Questioning yourself when your profit margins motivate a propensity to externalize your harms makes it even harder (Albin-Lackey, 2017). We note that NEITI aims to conduct comprehensive audits of the extractive sector and to build the capacities of regulatory agencies and civil society, while equally mobilizing Nigerians in support of extractive revenue transparency. Careful consideration of these aims shows that a comprehensive audit cannot end with payments and receipts. It cannot be just a matter of cash, or of assessments that fail to consider the cost/value implications of ecological degradation.

E-mail address: [email protected] Permanent Address: #214 Uselu, Lagos Road, Benin City. Edo State, Nigeria. Received 25 April 2018; Received in revised form 23 August 2019; Accepted 26 August 2019 2214-790X/ © 2019 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Please cite this article as: Nnimmo Bassey, The Extractive Industries and Society,

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2. Judging by cash (Blinded by petrodollars)

(Galeano, 1997/1973; Galeano, 1997; Rodney, 2018/1972; Rodney, 2018). Historically, this has entailed inadequate protection and regulation of the environment. In a speech on November 2017, the Nigerian Minister of Mines and Steel Development affirmed that the roadmap of the ministry would shift Nigeria from a mineral-rich nation to a mineral mining and processing country, and that by 2025 the sector could amount to $27 billion of Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP). Whereas the reform of the Ministry in 2008 (Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, 2008) stated that government would divest from mining activities to open additional areas for the private sector, the Ministry turned to promoting the government’s full participation in mining activities. According to the communiqué from Mining Week 2017, “There should be synergy among federal, state governments and local government areas through the instrumentality of Minerals Resources and Environmental Management Committee (MIREMCO) as provided for by Section 19 of Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act, 2007; as well as a synergy between the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development and state governments to improve operational collaboration and enhance communication for effective execution of the roadmap for the growth and development of the mining industry” (Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, 2008, 2017). The ministry, from the position of “government as an administrator-regulator, in partnership with the private sector would embark on the reforms of extant legislations. . to give Nigeria a competitive legal framework for the sector” (Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, 2008, 2017). This reference to reform and competition could be construed to point at lax environmental controls, among others, as seen elsewhere on the continent (Graham, 2012; Campbell, 2010).

Looking back in history, in the 1950s, smallholder farming sustained food supply in Nigeria. At the same time, colonial-era cash cropping involving groundnuts, cocoa, rubber and oil palm cultivation brought significant revenues to the regional and central governments, through which the local economy was tied to the global market. In that pre-independence period, the agricultural sector contributed 72% of the total national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Mining and crude oil, in comparison, contributed a mere 1.1% of the GDP. By 1960 the figures were 66% from agriculture and 1.2% from mining and crude oil. In 1970, crude oil contributed 7.5% of the GDP (Akinlo, 2012). However, the contribution from oil revenues to the income of citizens has been minimal. Although individual income rose by about 13% between 1960 and 2000, most of the gains were recorded between 1960 and 1970 when oil was not the primary contributor to government revenues. Analysts noted that between 1985 and 1992, the poor became much poorer and, we can easily guess, the few rich became richer (Olowa, 2012). Some say that the incidence of poverty was “probably higher,” in 1992 than it was in 1950 (Ross, 2003). By 2014 measuring the Nigerian economy took an upward swing when the country rebased her statistical computations, and GDP subsequently grew by 6.81 percent (National Bureau of Statistics, 2014). Still, this sudden jump did not reflect in the living conditions of the poor. 3. The environmental footprints of the extractive industry While the oil and gas sector dominates the Nigerian extractive industries discourse, there are nevertheless significant concerns surrounding the regulation of solid minerals. These also require the critical attention of the NEITI. We call attention particularly to the abandoned colonial-era tin mines of Jos and the coal mines of Enugu. In both cases, it would appear that out of the mine has meant out of mind. In Jos South Local Government of Plateau State, the communities of Sabon-Barkin and Gyel communities have experienced ecological disaster as a result of the mining of bauxite, tantalite, columbite ores, and cassiterite, among others. The International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS) set up in 1980, as a joint venture of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the World Health Organisation (WHO), established the scientific basis for assessment of the risk to human health and the environment from exposure to chemicals. In line with this, a study by the IPCS indicated that high levels of radioactive waste in tin mine sites are capable of causing brain damage and mental deficiency if there is regular human contact with the environment (FoE, Nigeria, 2009). Another study in the Jos Plateau in 1987 also confirmed high levels of radioactive waste resulting from mining in the Plateau (Wapwera et al., 2015). Another not-so-solid mineral waiting to be exploited in Nigeria is bitumen (aka ‘tar sands’) found in the belt between Edo State and Lagos State, with most of it in Ondo State. Reserves volumes of extra-heavy oils and bitumen are estimated at 38 billion barrels of oil equivalent (Milos, 2015), while proven reserves amount to 1.1 billion barrels of oil equivalent and cover an area of 120 square kilometres (, 2019; Premium Times, 2016). In a 2009 event to sell the prospects of bitumen mining in Nigeria, the then Minister of Mines and Steel Development described the mission of her ministry as “to exploit the vast mineral endowments spread across the nation, establishment of a vibrant metal industry for wealth creation, employment generation, poverty reduction, promotion of rural economy and significant contribution to the Gross Domestic Product of Nigeria” (Alison-Madueke, 2009). She also stated the vision of the ministry was “to transform Nigeria’s solid minerals and metals sector into an irresistible destination for global capital (Alison-Madueke, 2009).” The history of the global economy indicates that you cannot make your environment an irresistible destination for global capital without providing conditions, frequently violent, for maximum profit-making

3.1. Environmental costs: blind spots of extractives accounting Extractive business impacts the environment right from the stage of exploration, perhaps with the exception of where exploration occurs through remote sensing from satellites in space. Yet from the perspective of a broader industrial value chain, the industrial inputs to sensing machinery typically include extracted minerals. Moreover, wherever such explorations are terrestrial, their impacts are undeniable. For the oil industry, the initial effects include deforestation occasioned by clearances for seismic lines. These lines open the way for both seismic data collection and an influx of opportunistic wildlife poachers and illegal loggers. Given that regulations are weak and enforcement even weaker, it is unsurprising that Nigeria’s ecology is degraded to a significant degree by the myriad of toxic contaminants in the land and waterways. One estimate, for example, holds that at least 600,000 barrels of produced water are dumped into the Niger Delta environment daily through oil production activities (Nnaji, 2012). In a review of the Ogoni environment, Professor Steiner stated that “evidence suggests that oil companies operating in the Niger Delta are not employing internationally recognized standards to prevent and control pipeline oil spills” (Steiner, 2008). In its assessment of the oil industry’s effects on the Ogoni environment, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) concluded that crude oil spills have a significant impact on the health and food security of rural people living near oil facilities. Although the industry regularly claims that sabotage causes most spills, the UNEP report demonstrated that Shell did not respect its own inhouse standards, did not obey Nigerian rules and did not adhere to international standards in its operations in Ogoni (United Nations Environment Programme - UNEP, 2011). In addition to oil spills, gas flaring, an activity that has been illegal in Nigeria since the introduction of the Gas Re-injection Act in 1984, continues unabated. Following the 1984 legislation, fines were introduced for gas flared although, even then, continuous gas flaring was to be permitted on a case-by-case basis by the responsible Federal Minister. Following a suit brought by Jonah Gbemre against Shell Development Petroleum Company for flaring gas in Iwerekhan 2

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incident begs the question, on what basis does Nigeria monitor transparency in this sector when basic information provided by firms cannot be trusted? The rapacious stealing of crude oil further compounds the unreliability of crude oil reserve figures with apparent complicity of local and international operators (Bassey, 2012). The crude is stolen with sophisticated equipment, not mere buckets and shovels. It is then sold internationally rather than to local refineries that are chronically working at sub-optimal levels. While figures for stolen crude cannot be ascertained, we have had public officer speculate that an amount equal to that which is officially exported daily is shipped illegally. The former governor of Delta State of Nigeria (2007–2015), Emmanuel Uduaghan, has been quoted as saying that oil companies are involved in the illegal activities and that the international community is complicit in this thefts since there is a ready market for the stolen crude (Owuamanam, 2009). According to Mr Dimeji Bankole, former speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives (2007–2011), about half of Nigeria’s crude oil production may be stolen. He pointed out that if that estimate is correct, Nigerian crude may run out sooner than expected (Ojo, 2009).

community, a High Court sitting in Benin City declared on 14 November 2005 that gas flaring was both illegal and an affront to the human rights of the people and should be halted forthwith (Friends of the Earth International, 2006). As we write, that court order has neither been overturned nor obeyed. There was an earlier moment when oil corporations appeared serious about ending the obnoxious act of gas flaring. Exxon at one point set a target date of 2004, Chevron 2006 and Shell pointed at 2007 (Friends of the Earth International, 2009). Over the years, deadlines to end gas flaring have been set through executive pronouncements but were never enforced. By the end of 2009 three deadlines were on the table, illustrating the impunity of the sector in the country. While the Senate set a deadline of December 2010, the Executive arm set December 2011 and the oil companies snidely stated that only a 2013 deadline would be tenable. Later the same month both industry and government operators began to signal that a deadline was of no use as they intended to create longer-term gas utilization projects to register for carbon credits through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Gas flaring continues today. In economic terms, Nigeria wastes $2.5 billion in gas flares annually (Alabi, 2017). Nigeria has a vast reserve of natural gas and efforts have been made to utilise some. However, oil sector operators have taken advantage of the global carbon trading regime to obfuscate matters by claiming to utilize associated gas from oil production when indeed they are utilizing non-associated gas from gas fields. A case in point is Chevron’s futile effort to pass off the majority of the gas transported through their West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) pipeline as associated gas. NEITI acknowledged the opacity of the flaring regime when it noted that the determination of the volume of gas flared is defective and the process of collecting fines for flaring is poor. Furthermore, there has been no compliance with the aforementioned rate fixed in 2008 as the penalty for flaring (NEITI, 2016). Environmental and financial responsibilities are clearly linked in the case of gas flares. By the time the carbon spin doctors began to speculate on carbon trading, the World Bank, positioning itself as the major climate finance bank, sought to benefit from the political economy of gas flares through their valuation in terms of ‘emissions reductions’ and trading (Lohmann, 2008). The World Bank now works with Nigeria to ensure that other countries can offset their own continued C02 emissions by investing in ending gas flaring in Nigeria. This is a clear case of why market mechanisms provide false solutions to climate change, potentially compounding the problems on the ground while facilitating ongoing pollution (Osuoka, 2009). It is estimated that the World Bank will grab 13% of carbon offsets transactions.2 In the Nigerian case, the Bank would make $10/ton of gas that would have otherwise been flared. Additionally, in calculating offsets the ecological costs of ongoing and historic gas flaring have been excluded, a clear illustration of how the environment is a blind spot when oil industry costs are assessed. Key players and banks working in the sector focus on maximizing profit while environmental, socio-economic and political costs are disregarded.

4. Conclusion: broaden the NEITI act It is essential that the NEITI Act be broadened to cover the apparent gap created by overlooked and externalised environmental costs. The fact that local communities of the Niger Delta have been subsidising the production cost of the oil and gas sector should be revealed and accounted for. These communities subsidize industry by bearing the impacts of environmental degradation, destruction of livelihoods and health impacts. They have paid with their blood and by internal displacement of community members. Calling for the integration of these costs in a sense amounts to recognition of the ecological debt accumulated over more than 50 years of hydrocarbon exploitation in the Niger Delta region. In northern Nigeria, the death of 163 children in Zamfara State due to lead poisoning further underlines the urgent need to internalize environmental costs in accounts so that Nigerians can see clearly where the balance sheets stand on revenues from either solid or liquid minerals (Nigerian Voice, 2010). The accounting books must integrate and accommodate the vulnerability and fragility of ecosystems in the oil, gas and mining areas. In a key debate on a bill to amend the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) Act 2006, Senator Abubakar Saraki, then chair of the Senate Committee on Environment stated, “Oil spillage is not an oil business, it is an environmental problem. Oil spill is an irresponsible environmental behaviour. The fact that it is as a result of oil exploration does not detract from the impact on the environment. Nigeria has lost over 13 million barrels of oil to preventable spills.”(cited in Bassey, 2016) He also stated, “It has been acknowledged by several reports including the UNEP Report that fifty per cent (50%) of oil spills in Nigeria has been due to corrosion of oil infrastructure, twenty-eight per cent (28 percent) to sabotage and twenty-one per cent (21 percent) to oil production operations. One per cent (1 percent) of oil spills is due to engineering drills, inability to effectively control oil wells, failure of machines, and inadequate care in loading and offloading oil vessels. It is the responsibility of the spiller to rehabilitate oil spill sites. It is as simple as that. The number of identified sites is over 2000. The majority of these sites are sites with identified spillers. This gives an indication of the problem we already have in our hands” (cited in Bassey, 2016). The 2014 NEITI audit’s reference to the environment suggests a lack of independence in the assessments. In the few places where the audit mentions environmental assessments, the conclusion is that there were no oil spills. The only section that speaks of oil spills is titled, “Impact of Crude Oil Theft and Sabotage,” which states that “among the many factors responsible for the degradation of the environment are; oil spillage resulting from oil theft especially the hacking of pipelines and the activities of illegal refineries which is responsible for the

3.2. Accounting 101: reserving our comments Nigeria’s crude oil reserve is estimated at 37.453 billion and natural gas at 5475.2 billion cubic metres (OPEC, 2017). In 2004 Shell was called out for overstating its reserves by 4.47 billion barrels and fined in Britain and the United States (Timmons, 2004). The Nigerian government did not take any punitive action against the company. In 2008 Shell reassessed its reserves downwards by 200 million barrels. This 2 World Bank Carbon Finance Unit staff, personal conversation, October 19, 2007; again personal conversation with World Bank Carbon Finance Unit staff, World Bank Carbon Finance Unit office, November 20, 2007.


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uncontrolled emission of Carbon into the atmosphere.” (NEITI, 2014). The Nigerian Navy quotes an unnamed report as stating that sabotage and crude oil theft are “responsible for a large percentage of Oil Spills” (Nigerian Navy, 2014). The above claim by NEITI is a regurgitation of the oil company narrative the shifts the blame for oil spills from inadequate industrial maintenance to third party interference. The oil companies have been very successful in claiming that most or all oil spills in the Niger Delta emanate from oil thefts and illegal refineries. Their narratives have successfully glossed over widespread equipment failure and spills from operational mishaps, as well as the fact that installations are insufficiently protected from possible theft (Amnesty International, 2013; Rim-Rukeh, 2015). NEITI as an impartial auditor ought to rise above peddling public relations stories supplied by the oil companies. Their posture in this assessment underscores the fact that NEITI has yet to integrate the environment as a critical consideration in audits of the oil and gas sector.

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