Friday, February 21, 2014

Governance/Transparency: EITI Puts Youth Leaders Behind Big Thieves

By Fai Cassian Ndi
A two-day inter-regional workshop aimed at empowering some 32 youth leaders of the North West, West and South West Regions on Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative –EITI has raised pertinent points on the corrupt practices in the oil, gas and mining sector which have become endemic. Participants expressed fear that the most outstanding challenge is not on the interpretation of EITI reports but on how youth pressure can control the use of revenue accrued from oil, gas and extraction in a country like Cameroon when figures are a taboo or when management of revenue and extraction is in the hands of the big thieves, mostly politicians and multi-internationals. Organized by Dynamique Mondiale des Jeunes-DMJ in collaboration with the World Bank, the Bamenda workshop is also geared to promote the rapid adoption and exploitation of the new EITI standard by young people so much so that they are able to make critical readings of EITI reports. Yet, some participants during the workshop expressed doubts whether they would ever have the opportunity to question, interpret and control the use of extraction revenues. This is so due to the fact that in Cameroon, nobody knows how many companies are carrying out explorations and not to talk of exploitation. More so, another worry also steamed from the fact that local government structures like councils hardly organize public hearings whereby youths could ask question on the management of resources. In the North West for example, BOCOM Exploration Company is currently carrying out iron ore exploration at Mayo-Binka (Nkambe Central) and Petroleum exploration in Mbembe (Ako Sub division) in Donga Mantung Division. Yet no youth leader from this part of the North West Region was present. From all indications, the Bamenda workshop was addressing a wrong audience.  The Eye is aware that in seeking solutions, EITI believes that all stakeholders have important and relevant contributions to make in order to encourage high standards of transparency and accountability in public life but this action can only be sustainable when the right targeted group is reached. Implicitly, the reason why local communities have no knowledge on the EITI abound high. However, the fact that its organizers couldn’t use the Cameroon National Youth Council that oversees the activities of youth groups in the North West Region speaks volume. A question which is hungry for answers is whether the organization didn’t fall into wrong hands. However, it should be recalled that Bamenda workshop is the second in the series of workshops that would be organized nationwide to build the capacity of youth leaders. Note should be taken that Cameroon joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative in March 2005 and was accepted as an EITI candidate country on September 27, 2007. It was on October 17, 2013 became a fully compliant member country. This is so due to the fact that Cameroon failed to validate its candidacy in October 2010 and February 2012. Since then, and in compliance with EITI process, Cameroon has published six conciliation reports of volumes and figures under the impetus of a Tripartite Monitoring Committee made up of representatives of the state, civil society and extraction companies. This initiative which seeks to promote good governance and transparency in the management of revenue from the exploitation of subsoil resources places a lot of emphasizes on criterion 1 of its Rules which states that: all significant payments made by companies to governments, in respect of oil, gas, and mining exploitation and all material revenues received by government from oil, gas and mining companies, are published and regularly disseminated to the public in an accessible, comprehensive and comprehensible form.

It should be recalled that before Cameroon became a member, information on the production of oil and gas was a highly classified. Only few state personalities were privy to it. 

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