Stories by Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives (EITI) has warned that projects initiated in the extractive sectors of natural resource-rich and dependent countries before the outbreak of the COVID-19 may experience delays and outright cancellations when the pandemic ends.
In a message of solidarity to its member-countries which included Nigeria, the EITI also called on governments and stakeholders in its member-countries to imbibe greater transparency measures in their management of the COVID-19, adding that their reliance on natural resource earnings to fight off the virus required more transparency in their use of extractive revenues.
“In light of the escalating COVID-19 pandemic, I would like to express my support for all EITI implementing countries affected by the current circumstances on behalf of the EITI Board.
“We recognise that countries around the world are facing a deeply challenging and unpredictable situation caused by the spread of the virus.
“At the same time, the upheaval in the markets for oil and other commodities will have far reaching consequences for governments which depend on revenues from the extractives sector.
“In some countries, even small changes in commodity prices can have a material impact on both industry profitability and government revenues.
“Under current price scenarios, we can expect exploration and the development of new projects to be delayed or cancelled,” said the
EITI Board Chair, Helen Clark.
Clark stated that the EITI would also expect, “closures and restructuring of some existing projects.”
She explained that companies, their employees and suppliers would be affected by the pandemic while vulnerable communities who depend on extractives operations would be among those most severely impacted.
According to Clark, the EITI equally imagined that, “in some countries there will be short-term delays in EITI implementation as governments and stakeholders reassign their time to more pressing priorities.”
“Over the longer term, there may be delays to technical assistance, capacity development, communication, and dissemination activities. The International Secretariat is working closely with national stakeholders to respond and adapt to these challenges,” she assured.
She also stated that restrictions on travel, trade and everyday life caused by the COVID-19 pandemic would mean that the 47th EITI board meeting scheduled for June will be done virtually.
While calling for more creativity amongst its member-countries in the light of the pandemic, she said: “The events are unprecedented, and we will need to be creative and innovative in how we work.
“One lesson which has been learnt from the current public health situation is the need for transparency.
“In this time of profound uncertainty, the EITI’s work to promote greater transparency and good governance is as important as ever.”
She assured that the EITI would continue to support countries to move towards greater transparency and good governance in the extractives sector, adding that despite commodity price falls, the extractives sector remained an engine for growth in many countries and a source of funding for countries to handle COVID-19.
On how the extractive industry could reinvent itself after the pandemic, she said: “There will be a need to bring stability to the industry after this period of crisis. We see a role for dialogue and collective approaches in this task.
“We stand ready to work with donors, civil society, supporting companies and countries to consider how EITI multi-stakeholder structures may best serve in the current crisis and its immediate aftermath.
The Chairperson of the Global Alliance for Vaccinations & Immunisations (GAVI), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, recently advised Nigeria and other African countries to mount pressure on the G7 and G20 countries for debt relief, due to the ravaging impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has plunged the world into an economic crisis.
The two-term Minister of Finance in Nigeria and a former Managing Director (Operations) of the World Bank, gave this advice in a BBC programme, ‘Focus on Africa,’ which she posted on her Twitter handle.
“And I think that (debt relief) is what they should be going for and we need to move quickly. So, there needs to be a great bit of pressure on the G20, G7, to come forward with these measures.
“If countries get debt relief, that means that the money that they would have been paying to service the debts they had taken from those countries or from multilateral institutions, the monies would now be used to procure food and supplies and support the livelihood of people in the rural and urban areas,” she stressed.
Okonjo-Iweala, also urged African countries to also avail themselves of other sources of support from institutions such as the African Development Bank (AfDB), the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to cushion the impact of the COVID-19 on their economies as well as to support their citizens.