Nigeria’s Beneficial Ownership (BO) register on the extractive sector, launched in December 2019, has been adjudged as the first globally to focus on the oil, gas and mining sectors with good functionality and innovations such as licensing data.
The assessment came from OpenOwnership, an organization, a global civil society organization which focuses on increasing corporate transparency across the world.
The organization stated that being the first register to connect BO data with extractives data could be a game-changer, particularly with the links to licensing data, a known high-risk area for corruption.
OpenOwnership said it has been assessing the register’s performance and analysing the quality of the data disclosed since its launch in December 2019.
“This is a solid first step and OpenOwnership stands ready to support Nigeria’s continuing journey to beneficial ownership transparency,” Townsend added.
The organization, however, identified some areas that require attention, such as the unique identifiers for companies. It observed that currently the register only lists names, which can be confusing when entities have similar names or human error leads to mistakes during data submission.
“This may also hamper efforts to use the data more widely in connection with other global data sets as users must be provided with enough data points to tell companies apart”, it stated.
The organization suggested a structured-name information such as breaking names into first name, last name and title, noting that many of those who are listed as beneficial owners in the register are actually companies based in offshore jurisdiction making it difficult to trace the true beneficial owners.
OpenOwnership further suggested constant disclosure of a natural person as the beneficial owner (in line with legislation for all Nigerian companies) while retaining the requirement to disclose direct shareholders to enable traceability as an approach to this challenge.
“Where companies are exempted from declaring a beneficial owner (for example, wholly-owned subsidiaries of publicly listed companies) this should be flagged in the data, to allow mistakes and dishonesty to be distinguished from expected absences”.
The organisation also observed that links to stock exchange listings for public companies are provided but not yet working, adding that the link would be a very useful feature of the portal once working.