NIGERIA’S controversial management of its stupendous oil wealth over the years would form one of the important themes of discussion for G-8 leaders in June, when they meet in Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom, according to diplomatic sources.
Already, the presidency of the summit for this year under United Kingdom is currently reaching out to other G-8 leaders and an international consensus is said to be quietly formed to demand transparency from leaders and governments of developing countries, whose huge resources and wealth are being frittered away.
International donors, including private foundations and agencies, are also concerned about the perception of increasing wealth but decreasing living standards of the people.
For instance, US Billionaire, Bill Gates, in an interview during the week, said, “Nigeria really needs to think that, relative to its level of wealth, it is really far behind…”
The G8 Summit, which holds annually, is a gathering of presidents and prime ministers of the top eight advanced economies of the world — the US, UK, Germany, France, Canada, Italy, Japan and Russia.
The Summit, which normally holds about the mid-year and focuses on global economy and socio-political issues, is presided over in turns by its eight-member-countries.
For 2013, UK holds the presidency and Prime Minister David Cameron is said to be forming the issues the summit should focus on this year.
Sources said before Prime Minister Cameron’s speech last week in Davos, where he made mention of Nigeria’s oil wealth and its management, he had intimated other G-8 leaders of the need for an agenda that brings such issues of financial accountability and transparency to the fore in a country like Nigeria.
A January 2 letter written by the British Prime Minister to all G-8 leaders, including US President Barack Obama, revealed that this year’s summit would stress trade advancement, tax compliance and transparency.
Nigeria’s example is said to be agitating the minds of the G8 leaders, just as there is controversy over the seeming squandering of past oil windfall.
After Cameroon wrote the other G8 leaders hinting on his intent to pursue the issue of transparency aggressively as president of the summit, he then proceeded early last week in Davos to publicly pin-point Nigeria as a case in point, where transparency issues have made some progress but corruption and mismanagement of huge oil wealth still continues to deny the nation’s people of their prosperity.
In a speech that has been so widely and globally received, Cameron said just last year alone “Nigeria oil exports were worth almost a hundred billion dollars. That is more than the total net aid to the whole of sub Saharan Africa. So put simply: unleashing the natural resources in these countries dwarfs anything aid can achieve, and transparency is absolutely critical to that end.”
He went on to say the G8, under his presidency, would be more aggressive on how governments of such countries like Nigeria spend the money from such huge returns, declaring that the western and Japan’s leaders are “going to push for more transparency on who owns companies; on who’s buying up land and for what purpose; on how governments spend their money; on how gas, oil and mining companies operate; and on who is hiding stolen assets and how we recover and return them.
“Like everything else in this G8, the ambitions are big and I make no apology for that.”
According to Cameron, who said he had no apology for his stance, “I want this G8 to lead a big push for transparency across the developing world, and to illustrate why. Let me give you one example. A few years back a transparency initiative exposed a huge hole in Nigeria’s finances, an $800 million discrepancy between what companies were paying and what the government was receiving for oil – a massive, massive gap.
The discovery of this is leading to new regulation of Nigeria’s oil sector so the richness of the earth can actually help to enrich the people of that country.
In fact, diplomats added that Cameron’s aggressive resolve, and his choice of Nigeria as an example, is making the rounds in western capitals and around the world, highlighting the Nigerian condition.
Sources added that Cameron’s speech was further highlighted by former Education Minister, Oby Ezekwesili, who, at a recent Convocation at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), gave a hint on how over $67 billion of Nigeria’s huge returns from oil sales might have been wasted.
Ezekwesili, who was until mid last year, the Vice President of the World Bank for Africa, is said to have developed a commanding respect among global and African leaders, many of who are listening intently to her voice on the matter.
A source said: “The expected diplomatic buzz being generated in messages from western diplomats from Nigeria to their capitals now over both speeches centering on Nigeria’s perceived waste of its huge oil wealth over the years is not difficult to imagine.”
For instance, a former president in Africa was said to have described Ezekwesili’s statements on the wasting of Nigeria’s financial fortune as a “bomb.”
Even sources said at global agencies like the United Nations, and the World Bank, the perception of Nigeria wasting its oil wealth is not a new proposition, which explains, according to sources, why Cameron’s voice is attracting considerable welcome and acceptance by other western leaders.
Pointing to Cameron’s words about a huge discrepancy when the British Prime Minister said “a few years back a transparency initiative exposed a huge hole in Nigeria’s finances,” a source noted that such long lasting gaps continue to exist even in official data that governments dole out in Nigeria, making them unreliable.
For instance, sources said while Cameron and Ezekwesili stated some figures of revenues raised from oil sales, government spokespersons have only managed to counter with puerile figures, which are tainted by controversies in the past over the true state of the nation’s accounts, especially between the federal government and the NNPC.
In his letter to other G8 leaders, Cameron disclosed even before he specifically listed the Nigerian example, that “we must put a new and practical emphasis on transparency, accountability and open government.
“Too many developing countries are held back by corruption-and this can be reinforced or even encouraged by poor business practice and a lack of transparency from those that trade with them.”
The G8 meeting will be coming up on June 17 and 18 at Lough Erne, Northern Ireland. A statement from the UK Cabinet office said: “the venue of Lough Erne 2013 was also chosen because it creates the right conditions to encourage open and frank discussions between the G-8 leaders.”
Later on, the G8 presidency would issue invitations to other world leaders, especially from developing countries and it is expected that Nigeria would be invited to this year’s G8 summit, according to sources.
– Guardian Newspaper