As Nigeria prepares to unveil a Beneficial Ownership (BO) register for the extractive sector by Thursday, 12th December, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed has said it is a critical tool that would help the nation in its fight against corruption.
Ahmed who was speaking at a roundtable on Beneficial Ownership organised in Abuja by Media Initiative on Transparency in Extractive Industries (MITEI) assured civil societies, the media and Nigerians in general that the federal government is committed to the establishment of the register.
The minister said the absence of full disclosure of owners of companies operating in the extractive sector has led to lack of transparency which has enabled corruption, tax invasion, money laundering and illegal activities in the industry over time.
Presenting a keynote address at the roundtable which was organised in partnership with Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), the Minister noted that the register is line with the government priority focus on fighting corruption.
“The government in line with global standards has been working with critical stakeholders such as the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and civil society organizations to achieve the goal of establishing the register in January 2020. Nigeria is amongst the countries taking bold steps towards the use of public beneficial ownership register as a critical policy-making tool in the fight against corruption,” she said.
On the importance of establishing a public central register of company owners in the extractive sector, she said, “Through the establishment of such a central register, we will be better able to follow monies linked to tax evasion, corruption, drug trafficking, money laundering and terrorism financing. The resulting impact would be increased transparency, improved revenue collection and a reduction in corruption.”
Also speaking at the event, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr Timipre Sylva, said the Beneficial Ownership Register in Nigeria accurately reflects the pulse of the ministry’s stands on the need for transparency in the sector, stressing that it aligns with the key priorities of the ministry.
Mr Sylva who was represented by his Senior Technical Assistant, Engr. Moses Olamide, said there is need to clearly identify the key players in the oil and gas industry with a view to understanding the “identity of who does what, where and how.”
He further reiterated that the current effort at reviewing the Petroleum Industry Bill captures Beneficial Ownership with a view to creating an open and globally aligned process that will ensure transparency.
The Executive Secretary of NEITI, Mr Waziri Adio, in his presentation stated that establishing a national beneficial ownership register is only a means to an end stressing the need for it to be an all inclusive document.
Addressing the issues of the absence of legal backings to compel disclosure of company ownership, Adio stated that the laws establishing regulatory agencies in Nigeria empower them to make bye-laws and policies which are binding on stakeholders. He added that Executive Orders by the President can equally be used to ensure the implementation of the new initiative while awaiting the repeal of CAMA.
On her part, the acting registrar-general CAC, Azuka Azinge said the requirements for beneficial ownership register are adequately provided for in Sections 119, 791 and 868 of the Companies and Allied Matters(Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill 2019.
Azinge who was represented by Peter Nyaw Gai said, “Beneficial Ownership is currently not only in the front burner of the global space, but an absolute necessity to ensure transparency and accountability, integrity of financial system and check corruption, money laundering and financial terrorism.”
He however, noted that implementation of the scheme requires appropriate legal framework, enormous technology and financial resources.