Nigeria Intensifies Efforts To Establish Public Register Of Beneficial Owners

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo Monday said that efforts are being intensified to establish a public register of beneficial owners of companies in Nigeria.

Osinbajo who was speaking on day one of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) week in Abuja, said “It is our hope that this will help bring to an end the era of anonymous company ownership which aids capital flight, illicit financial flows and tax evasion.”

The Nigeria Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), he said, is working closely with the Government of the United Kingdom and the Open Ownership – a global project whose aim is to build an open Global Beneficial Ownership Register – to develop Open Ownership Data Standards to achieve this goal.

In July 2017, Nigeria became the 70th country to join the OGP, an international multi-stakeholder initiative focused on improving transparency, accountability, citizen participation and responsiveness to citizens through technology and innovation.

Following Nigeria’s membership of the OGP Osinbajo explained that a National Action Plan (NAP) of fourteen commitments with focus on four thematic areas of Fiscal Transparency, Anti-Corruption, Access to Information and Citizens’ Engagement has since been designed.
“One of the remarkable things about the OGP is that it was designed to function as a partnership between governments and the private sector. Without this coalition-building, I doubt that much progress would be achievable. Regardless of whether the goal is improving infrastructure or fighting corruption, it is clear, and it has always been, that governments cannot do it alone,” he said.

Speaking further on other approaches adopted by the Buhari-led government to fight corruption, the Vice president disclosed that a Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA), established in 2016, to clean up the Federal payroll and pensions systems, across has helped the Federal Government save more than N200 billion by eliminating ghost workers.

The Whistleblowing Programme launched in December 2016, on the other hand, has similarly resulted to recoveries of N7.8 billion, $378 million and 27,800 pounds as at March 2018, Osinbajo added.

He explained that since 2017, Nigeria’s annual national budgets have included a line item on revenue generated from asset recoveries.

“All funds forfeited to the federal government are being included in our yearly budget proposals. We have also committed to investing these recovered funds on Infrastructure projects and our National Social Investment Programme. In addition, we have submitted a Bill to the National Assembly for the purpose of enacting a more comprehensive legislation on proceeds of crime,” Osinbajo said.

In his remarks earlier, Mr. Abubakar Malami, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice/ Co-Chair of OGP said part of the progress is the fact that so far five states have come on board OGP.

They include Kaduna, Kano, Anambra, Ebonyi and Niger states, while Kaduna State has been nominated as one of global subnational pilots.

Also in his remarks, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Paul Arkwright, harped on the fact that transparency is important for a stable environment. He said trust and confidence can only be built when citizens see how transparently resources are being used by the leaders.

“Citizens tend to pay taxes and vote more under a transparent government… and more transparent countries attract more FDI’s,” the envoy said.

While pledging the UK’s support to Nigeria in its effort for an open government, Arkwright said concerning the 2019 general elections: “While the electoral body has a job to do, and citizens a responsibility to vote, it will take a responsible government to get free and fair elections in 2019.”

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