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Earth Finds

Niger’s Application To rRe-join EITI Approved

Following the country’s withdrawal from the EITI process in October 2017, the Government of Niger has committed to fully implement the 2019 EITI Standard. Its candidature was approved by the EITI Board today, making it the 53rd country implementing the EITI Standard, and the 26th in Africa.

Opportunities for EITI implementation

Helen Clark, Chair of the EITI, said: “Niger has played a role in the development of the EITI Standard and in efforts to improve extractive industry governance over the years. We welcome them back as an implementing country and look forward to the EITI contributing to public debate in Niger.”

Niger first became an EITI candidate country in 2007. The country implemented the EITI for 10 years, producing EITI Reports covering fiscal years 2005 to 2014. Niger’s decade of EITI implementation spurred tangible public finance reforms, including annual audits by the Cour des Comptes (auditor general) of the government’s extractives revenue collection.

Niger’s re-admission to the EITI is timely. EITI reporting provides an opportunity to improve public understanding of the way in which subnational transfers are allocated and to track the amounts due to each local government.

EITI implementation can also support the publication of contracts in the official gazette (Journal Officiel), as provided for by the country’s 2010 Constitution provisions (Article 150).

The EITI could provide a way of tracking those contracts not yet disclosed. Three extractives products in Niger – uranium, oil and gold – currently account for 8% of GDP and approximately 50% of the country’s export receipts.

Evaluating EITI implementation in Niger

Niger was first evaluated against the EITI Rules, which preceded the EITI Standard, and was deemed compliant in 2011. Niger’s Validation under the 2016 EITI Standard began in November 2016.

On 26 October 2017, the Board assessed that Niger had made inadequate progress overall in implementing the 2016 EITI Standard, and that it had not made satisfactory progress on civil society engagement.

As a result, the country was suspended from the EITI process. The Government of Niger announced its withdrawal from the EITI on 25 October 2017.

Pathway to implementing the 2019 EITI Standard

During the country’s withdrawal, the EITI has continued to work with government, companies and civil society in the country. In January 2019, Prime Minister of the Republic of Niger Brigi Rafini publicly announced the Government of Niger’s intention “to resume its place within the International EITI and to play, fully and responsibly, as it has always done, its role in the governance of the extractive industries.” On 11th October 2019, the government submitted its candidature application to the Board to re-join the EITI.

EITI implementation in Niger

Niger’s multi-stakeholder group (MSG) was reconstituted on 19 November 2018. It is composed of 30 members, 10 government representatives, one local government representative, nine mining companies and 10 civil society members.

EITI-Niger National Coordinator, Abdelkarim Aksar, said: “The EITI in Niger aims to provide up-to-date relevant information on the extractive industries in Niger in accordance with Articles 149 and 150 of Niger’s constitution. We are working towards transparency at the source. We will continue to support mechanisms to fully integrate transparency within government and company reporting systems".

The World Bank supported the selection of civil society representatives to the MSG. A three-pronged methodology was applied, namely: civil society mapping of active and recognised civil society organisations; the creation of an Action Platform for Civil Society Organisations involved in the Extractive Industries; and the nomination process for civil society representatives to the MSG.

Ali Idrissa, head of civil society organisation ROTAB in Niger, stated: “Local civil society supports Niger’s reintegration into the EITI process and had no objections to the process led by technical and financial partners to support the selection of civil society representatives to the MSG. We intend to hold government accountable for its commitments under the EITI.”

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Parliament Wants Deputy Governor Job Quickly Filled After Kasekende Departure

The minister of Finance Matia Kasaijja has been summoned to appear before Parliament Thursday next week to explain when they have not appointed a new deputy governor of Bank of Uganda.

The Speaker issued the directive on Thursday in response to a complaint raised by MP Michael Mawanda (Igara East) who said that work at the central bank has been paralysed since the office of the deputy governor has not been filled ever since Dr. Louis Kasekende left after the expiry of his contract.

“The office of Deputy Governor, Bank of Uganda has been quite vacant for quite some time and he is the vice chairperson of the board. This is a strategic institution and I fear we may face some challenges if a position isn’t filled in the shortest time. As you know, I have been processing a bill and I asked some information but nobody was committal to answer questions,” Mawanda told Parliament.

In response, Speaker of Parliament Rebeca Kadaga said, the Minister of Finance should come and brief Parliament on which the position will be filled.

“The Minister of Finance should come and update us about the deputy governor despite resolutions to separate the management board positions, they haven’t happened but they are still bound in the old law. The minister for finance should come back next week and brief the house.”

Former Bank of Uganda deputy governor Louis Kasekende contract expired recently and President Yoweri Museveni refused to renew his contract. Kasekende is one of the top former officials of Bank of Uganda who contributed to fraudulent sale of seven commercial banks.

Rajiv Goes To Mbarara Rally With NRC Title Ambition

The city of Mbarara is bevvy with rally activities and personalities ahead of the Rukaari Lake Mburo Rally 2020 also known as Mbarara Rally, the National Rally Championship (NRC) season opener on Saturday and Sunday. 

The NRC opener has attracted 30 crews but Champion Yassin Nasser and runner up Arthur Blick Jr. ruled out. Information from Mbarara suggests that Ronald Ssebuguzi, navigated by Anthony Mugambwa, will open the route.

And this year, the NRC title chase has a new challenger in Rajiv Ruparelia who was impressive last year in beginners Clubman Rally Championship.

Now buoyed by the good results last year, Rajiv Ruparelia is optimistic that he can clinch the title this season and learn more about the sport he loves most.

“I still have a lot to learn. But I will try to maintain my pace and see if I stand a chance with this year’s title,” Rajiv is quoted by Kawowo Sport saying. “It has been a lot of learning from the time I joined the competition," he added.

“Just because I have been winning stages before it doesn’t make me the best yet. The truth is, I am not even forty percent as a driver,” Rajiv, who drives a Volkswagen (VW) Polo Proto, said.

It surely is going to be a long year for Rajiv but he has his ambition and work cut out and to achieve all this he assembled a  team that will spur the Rajiv Ruparelia Rally Team to great heights.

Like his maiden year in the cockpit, Rajiv will be riding with Enoch Olinga as his co-driver and has no plans of changing that unless the reason is unavoidable. “I am after building talent. I have no reason for changing a co-driver. We can only improve each other," he said his cockpit-mate.

“I am putting up some systems in place that will manage my progress. It’s the reason I have a manager, a chief mechanic, a professional trainer. All these will make me a good driver ready for big races. That’s what matters now,” he asserted.

 

Locusts, Climate Change & Oil Exploitation

On Sunday, February 9, 2020, media reports indicated that Uganda had been invaded by locusts. That same day, the 33rd African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government Assembly commenced in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The two-day meeting was held under the theme: Silencing the guns: Creating conducive conditions for Africa’s Development.

As the leaders deliberated on topics such as conflicts in the Sahel region, sustainable funding of Africa’s development agenda and others, scores of Ugandans panicked over the locust invasion.

A government inter-ministerial met to discuss measures to address the locusts, which the public was informed could eat food that could feed 2,500 people per year!

In addition, army officers and others were shipped off to Karamoja, the site of the reported invasion, to address the threat. Several other efforts were engaged in.

LOCUSTS AND CLIMATE CHANGE

While some of the above was ongoing, the AU Heads of State and others deliberated on matters that would improve the wellbeing of African citizens.

However, they did not discuss how African Heads of State in alliance with national and international agricultural, oil and other companies are contributing towards climate change and are exposing Africans to more potential locust invasions.

With the permission of African leaders, activities such as destruction of forests such as Bugoma in Uganda for sugarcane growing and exploitation of fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas) including in eco-sensitive areas such as national parks, lakes, rivers and forests in Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria among others are ongoing in Africa today.

Both the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation are drivers of global warming and consequently, climate change.

Yet climate change is part of the reason that Uganda, Kenya and other Eastern African countries are in the predicament they are in today. Moreover, this is a predicament that African countries are ill-equipped to deal with.

As pointed out by the UN Secretary General, Mr. Antonio Guterres, warmer cyclones caused by climate change have created the perfect breeding conditions for locusts. Per information from the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), the warmer cyclones resulted in rains in Oman, which enabled the breeding of the desert locusts. 

The locusts invaded Eastern Africa thereafter and have caused serious damage. FAO estimated that 200 billion locusts invaded Kenya. The locusts, which eat their own weight in food every day, destroyed pasturelands which had only been rejuvenated after drought.

Further, the damage caused by the locusts in Somalia was so much so that the country declared a state of emergency after the insects damaged about 70,000 hectares of food supplies in the country and in Ethiopia.

Experience shows that when food and pasturelands, which are major sources of income for many households are destroyed, other impacts follow.  Incomes reduce, children’s education suffers as parents lack incomes to pay school fees, and even domestic violence due to increased poverty in homes is seen.

OIL AND CLIMATE CHANGE

Now, several countries in Africa including Nigeria, Angola, Cameroon Niger, Algeria, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and others are oil producers. In addition, several countries including Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Togo and others are planning or are undertaking activities to become coal, oil and gas producers.

The above countries argue that they need to produce coal, oil and gas not only to create jobs but to generate revenues to support their respective economies among others.

However, the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas is the biggest contributor to climate change.

As earlier noted, climate change has been cited as the cause of the biggest locust invasion to be seen in Kenya in 70 years and in 25 years for Somalia and Ethiopia.

To continue to exploit oil to exacerbate climate change is to put the lives of African citizens at risk. Moreover, poorer African states are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. African states have too few resources to manage climate change impacts.

Indeed, the Ugandan government’s response to the locust invasion in Uganda on Sunday, February 9, 2020, was a testament to this. The country had no standby expert manpower and equipment such as airplanes to spray the locusts. Communities in Teso reported that they resorted to making noise to scare the locusts away.

One may argue that oil revenues could be used to make African states climate-resilient. However, experiences from Nigeria, Angola and other oil-producing countries show that oil revenues are never used for the benefit of citizens. Instead, they are largely abused by corrupt government officials at the expense of citizens’ wellbeing.

In line with available evidence that says that up to a 75% of known fossil fuel reserves including oil, coal and gas must be left unexploited for the Paris climate target to be attained, African countries must consider leaving fossil fuels unexploited. They should invest in other economic activities such as agriculture, tourism and others.

Further, in line with the AU’s 2020 theme, African countries should demiltarise oil production and should stop attacking citizens that critique oil activities in Africa.

The writer is the Senior Communications Officer at Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO).

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