The Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, has said a coordinating committee on Beneficial Ownership (BO) implementation in Nigeria will soon be set up by the agency.
Speaking while addressing a forum of government agencies, companies, civil society and the media on BO implementation in the extractive industry in Nigeria, Orji explained that NEITI was encouraged by the volume of work so far done on beneficial ownership reporting.
He explained that NEITI will work out a joint coordination initiative with Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) , Mining Cadastre Office (MCO), NFIU, EFCC, civil society, media and other anti-corruption agencies to help track beneficial owners of extractive assets in Nigeria.
He noted that Nigeria has two commitments to beneficial ownership reporting which involves compliance to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and in response to the commitment made by Nigeria to the Open Government Partnership (OGP).
According to him, beneficial ownership disclosure has become very important in view of the serious dangers that secret ownership of companies pose to individual countries and the global community. “Crimes like tax evasion, illicit financial flows and terrorism financing which are associated with or facilitated by secret ownership frustrates national development, increases poverty in developing countries and threaten the national security of even powerful nations”, Dr. Orji stated.
The Executive Secretary made reference to the report by ONE – an international anti-poverty organization – that developing countries lose up to $1trillion a year from such activities, noting that the figure is seven times more than the total aid and foreign debt that flow into these poor countries.
“The Thabo Mbeki report on illicit financial flows estimates that Africa loses up to $50 billion a year from some of these activities. Nigeria accounts for the lion share of these losses, with the extractive industry accounting for 93% of total illicit financial flows from Nigeria”, he stated further.
In his keynote address, the Registrar-General, CAC, Mr. Abubakar Garba disclosed that the Commission has commenced collection and disclosure of beneficial ownership information from the 3rd January 2021 following passage of the Company and Allied Matters Act in November 2020.
“Information on persons with significant control of companies is now available online on the Commission’s website to members of the public free of charge and in line with Nigeria’s commitment to the global EITI and OGP. This is the least we can do to support transparency and fight against corruption”, he stated.
On the integrity of information on the register, Abubakar explained that his Commission is working to integrate beneficial ownership information into the national identity data base to ensure valid and correct information. He also noted that once information is publicly accessible, the public will be able to find out if there are errors.
Addressing the forum from Oslo Norway, the EITI Policy Director, Ines Marques informed the audience that about 20 EITI implementing countries have undertaken legal reforms to facilitate ownership transparency, while 30 others have publicly disclosed some beneficial ownership information through EITI reporting.
Ms. Marques advised Nigeria to integrate information on beneficial ownership into government processes and urged citizens to take advantage of the initiative and use the data for accountability purposes.