By Abubakar Jimoh
A group of civil society organisations working on good governance, transparency and accountability in the extractive sector in Nigeria has reiterated support for and passed a vote of confidence in Kolawole Banwo, a Snr. Program Officer at CISLAC, over his appointment as civil society representative on the National Stakeholders Working Group (NSWG) of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).
This was made known in a statement signed by 73 civil society organisations representing the six geo-political zones in the country.
The group however, described as “shock and disappointment”, a recent statement signed by 19 individuals of 18 organisations purportedly challenging the appointment of Banwo.
The group expressed displeasure over the statement which came after several local and international civil society groups and development partners had warmly received the news and congratulated Banwo who has since taken his seat in the Board.
It said, “The so-called self-selection process referred to which is coming eight full months after the dissolution of the former NSWG in July 2015, three weeks after the constitution of the Board and only after a meeting at the instance of the Executive Secretary was nothing short of a panic decision meant to quickly legitimize an exclusive arrangement to suit the pre-determined ends of throwing up one among the signatories who is known to have been going around lobbying those believed able to make this happen.
Debunking the rumour that Banwo’s appointment was secured through “the back door”, the group noted that neither Banwo nor CISLAC for which he works went craving for the NEITI Board appointment. “We are aware that a formal letter has been sent to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), who issued the Letter of Appointment, by the same group and we will leave them to respond accordingly.
“It is necessary to recall that although the process that threw up the immediate past civil society representative on the NEITI Board was facilitated directly by civil society organisations themselves through a Committee they set up. The committee was made up of credible and very senior and highly respectable actors in the sector, issued with a Terms of Reference and widely publicized its process.
“The Statement issued by the purported PWYP-Nigeria on Banwo’s appointment created the impression that the step taken will freeze the civic space for civil society participation in the NEITI process. Again this is misleading, as it is not and cannot be the case. It will rather expand it. Indeed, one of the grouse some of the signatories have against CISLAC and the person of Mr. Banwo is his deliberate strategy over the past three years of deepening and decentralizing the knowledge of the Extractive sector and the NEITI process to state based groups in locations considered to be the backyard and stronghold of some of the personalities who signed the statement,” it explained.
The group therefore reiterated confidence in Banwo’s appointment as civil society representative in the NEITI Board having been in the forefront of extractive industries work in Nigeria, calling for restructuring and repositioning of PWYP-Nigeria to enhance civil society’s effective engagement with extractive industries work with a view to taking it to the next stage.