By Cyprian Ntiamba Obi Ntui in Yaounde
In line with warnings issued before now, Cameroon has finally been suspended from the global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, EITI over alleged embezzlement of 200 million FCFA and other issues. According to a statement sent to The Guardian Post by officials of EITI, the institution is bent on forcing the Biya regime to exhibit transparency in the governance, use and management of natural resources such as oil, gas and minerals. They added that their effort helps to ensure that there is no plunder and waste in the exploitation and use of these natural resources in any given country.
As a signatory to the international body, they stated that Cameroon has failed in these areas, notably the publication of its activities especially as it concerns the 2018 report of the EITI Cameroon office. Officials indicated that, in the 2018 report, the country office of the EITI headed by Anges Solange Ondigui Owona was queried over expenditures amounting to some 200 million FCFA; a query for which neither the government nor country officials had responded to. As a consequence therefore, and with effect from April 1, 2021 Cameroon was slammed a suspension.
“Cameroon’s status has been reduced to ‘Yellow’ which is the lowest level in the international EITI; which, in other words, is a way of showing that Cameroon has been suspended from the organization,” the official statement indicated. The statement further clarified how countries under the organisation are ranked by using specific colours. In which case they sated that a deep green colour placed beside the name of a given country is an indication that the country in question is progressing satisfactorily on the EITI yardsticks mentioned above. A light green colour alongside a given nation’s name is an indication that the country is making meaningful progress. Whereas, the yellow colour indicates that a country is making inadequate progress or it has out rightly been suspended from the organisation as Cameroon stands today.
The statement went on to clarify that there are two categories of suspension; the first case being where a country could be suspended due to political instability. According to the officials, a country could also be suspended because it has missed a deadline given it by the supervisory hierarchical body. It would be recalled that before reaching this point of earning a suspension, the international body gave the government an ultimatum to publish the 2018 country EITI report. In a letter sent to the Minister of Finance, they gave the government until 31 March, 2021 to make public the said report. The EITI hierarchy expressed dissatisfaction with the way and manner the National Coordinator of the EITI in Cameroon, Agnes Solange Ondigui Owona is handling the affairs of the country office.
In terms of governance, a 17 July 2018 decree describes the functioning of the Multi Stakeholder Group charged with handling the EITI office. The President of the Multi Stakeholder Group is the Minister of Finance, Louis Paul Motaze; while Agnès Solange Ondigui Owona is the National Coordinator.
The mix up is coming at a time when the local EITI Board agreed on 21 January 2021 that Cameroon has made meaningful progress with considerable improvements in implementing the 2019 EITI Standard. The Board therefore proceeded to validate the country’s performance so far which should have put everyone at ease until 2023, since Cameroon’s third Validation review is scheduled to commence on 1 April 2023. The international body stated that the 2018 Cameroon Country Report is a document of about 300 pages in which the government was questioned to explain how and why expenditures of up to 200 million FCFA were engaged.
For not responding, the international body queried Cameroon for acts of insubordination; glaring incompetence in handling the affairs of the Cameroon Country Office and embezzlement of public funds to the tune of 200 million FCFA.
This act they blamed on Madam Agnes Solange, adding that Cameroon was evaluated in January this year and found wanting in meeting international EITI standards for the current year 2021. The international body warns that after one year of being under suspension, Cameroon could be expelled entirely from the EITI if government continues to be recalcitrant. “We cannot tolerate a situation where a country is governed with such a high level of negligence,” officials of EITI at international level concluded in their statement.