FOR the oil majors operating in Nigeria- Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Total, and Agip- there will no longer be hiding places for them, as oil-bearing communities in league with civil society groups, are currently pushing for a new regime of transparency in the country's secretive petroleum sector.
The new campaign which is being galvanised by the Environmental Rights Action (ERA) the country's wing of the Friends of the Earth, is challenging President Goodluck Jonathan Administration's anti-graft posturing.
Executive Director of ERA, Nnimmo Bassey, who enunciated their new campaign at their 5th Annual National Environmental Consultation in Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria, on Thursday, said the existing transparency initiatives have overlooked a fundamental base.
As a result, ERA, with the support of oil-bearing communities, has formally launched Publish What Crude You Pump (PWCYP).
They are demanding that the oil companies ''must publish the exact amounts of crude oil and gas they pump from every well'', pointing out that a situation where revenue estimates are based only on crude figures from distribution/export points is unhealthy.
''Nigerians deserve to know what is going on at both ends of the pipelines. Publish what you pump! Time to metre the wells! Enough of the oil thefts! Without this even Nigerian reserve crude oil and gas figures are fictional'', Bassey said.
According to him, ''it has been said that corporations do not seek to do what is right but to close the doors of justice. Examples of this are found in their routine insistence at courts outside Nigeria that crimes committed here should not be scrutinized in their home bases.
''Shell failed to block the suit brought against them at The Hague by four Nigerian farmers. The Bowoto versus Chevron case was held in the USA. Now the case of Kiobel versus Shell at the Supreme Court of the USA is a key test case as Shell is challenging a longstanding law that provides that corporations should not find hiding places for crimes committed anywhere''.
On the controversial Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), he said it is an excellent template for corporations to show that they perform their civic responsibilities as corporate citizens.
''The budget for this should ordinarily come from the profits of the corporations but they largely count them as part of their operational costs. This has implications for taxes and revenues that accrue to government. In the oil sector, the companies deduct these expenses as production costs, with clear fiscal implications as the costs of those projects are not independently verified or monitored.
''In a joint venture situation, it is especially obnoxious that the major shareholder, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), whose logo conspicuously adorns the project signboards, never claims ownership of those projects.
''If NNPC steps up to claim that they provide those school blocks and clinics it would become clear that the oil companies are majorly takers and not givers - and certainly not philanthropists'', the ERA boss said.
Continuing, Bassey said, ''the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) or NEITI in Nigeria as well as Publish What You Pay (PWYP) provide the corporations platforms to show that they are transparent and responsible. They have also become the Achilles heel of some of the corporations, especially those in the oil and gas sector, because they are not really ready to strictly do what those platforms demand.
''Both PWYP and EITI require that corporations publish payments made by them to governments of countries where they operate. Interestingly, oil companies through the American Petroleum Institute and other mining companies fought a US government reform that requires that mining, oil and gas companies who trade their shares on the American stock exchange issue an annual report detailing the 'type and total amount' of payments they make to foreign governments.
''These companies struggled to smuggle in clauses that would offer escape hatches through which they can choose which laws to obey and which to break - the laws of the United States or the laws of the countries in which they operate. They also claimed that disclosure could harm their business interests and that in some countries revenues are state secrets!
''It is worthy of note that the companies had no problems with the EITI that requires the private sector to disclose payments made to governments and for the governments to disclose payments received''.
But according to mining giant Rio Tinto, ''because the EITI also encompasses disclosure by governments, of payments they receive from companies, we believe it is more effective than the proposed rules at improving governance and eliminating corruption in both the private and public sectors. Therefore, we urge the Commission to follow the EITI principles to the fullest extent possible''.
In the mean time, the new campaign is capable of sparking off a new wave of Occupy Oil Platforms in Nigeria as community-based organisations press for Publish What Crude You Pump. ENDS