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Nigeria Sponsors Beneficial Ownership As Global Corruption Fighting Tool At UN

UN 2021 international anti-corruption day theme

By Juliet Ukanwosu

As the Conference of State Parties to the United Nations Convention against corruption begins today in Egypt, Nigeria is sponsoring a resolution on Beneficial Ownership (BO) as a tool for fighting corruption globally extractive360 has learnt.

This was disclosed during the commemoration of the International Anti-corruption Day 2021, jointly celebrated in Abuja by anti-corruption and accountability agencies under the auspices of the Inter-Agency Task Team (IATT).

Disclosing this in her remarks, Lilian Ekeanyanwu, Head, Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-Corruption Reform (TUGAR) which houses the IATT secretariat, explained that the resolution is calling on the whole world to join Nigeria in ensuring coast to coast surveillance on assets ownership and illicit flows.

“The resolution is calling on the whole world to join us so that from coast to coast we know who is behind what asset, and when assets get stolen from our country we are able to track it and find out who is behind the stolen asset, who is benefiting from it” she said.

In his remarks, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, restated that Nigeria is using all possible means to fight corruption and tackling the menace beyond political rhetoric’s

He noted that the successful deployment of robust legislation has enhanced the fight against corruption so much so that from 103 convictions in 2015, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alone, has secured 1400 convictions in 2021.

Speaking on the relevance of the global theme for this year; “Your right, your role: Say no to corruption,” Chairman of Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) Board, Olusegun Adekunle, emphasized how corruption impedes the attainment of development goals while acting as enabler for other crimes and anomalies thereby creating a vicious circle.

“To make significant development progress, corruption must be reduced to its barest minimum. The theme is to draw attention to the right and responsibility of everyone to take their roles seriously to prevent corruption. The UN also calls on every country to put measures and systems in place to ensure that people do not only know their rights but have functioning systems to report corruption,” he said.

He stressed the need to evaluate the implementation of existing strategy adopted by the government in 2017, aimed at developing and strengthening the governance mechanism at institutions, federal and sub-national levels.

Adekunle noted that the drive to recover proceeds of corruption is a key policy of the government, to deprive the corrupt of the benefit of their crime and ensure restitution to the citizens and the state. Irrespective of the work done so far, he however, said much more needs to be done, which include the need to rapidly inject a new phase in our national anti-corruption strategy as the current strategy expires at the end of 2021.

In his presentation on BO disclosure as tool for fighting corruption, Executive Secretary of NEITI, Dr Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, stated that NEITI recognised very early that secret ownership of companies is responsible for major problems that Nigeria and other developing countries face today, as it fuels corruption, facilitate illicit financial flows and undermines the capacity of government to function effectively.

“In NEITI’s first audit report, just before the rest of the world adopted the United Nations Convention Against Corruption in 2005, we identified Beneficial Ownership Disclosure as a measure to prevent corruption and illicit financial flows in the extractive industry,” Orji said, and informed that Nigeria, in December 2019, became the first country in Africa to establish a publicly accessible BO register, and the first globally to establish a register in the extractive sector.

He pointed out that some reports estimate that Africa and other developing countries lose about $1trillion every year to corrupt activities, highlighting in particular, a recent report by the African Union Panel led by Thabo Mbeki, that Africa loses more than $50 billion every year to illicit financial flows, with Nigeria accounting for about one-third of said amount.

However, in his remarks, representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC), to Nigeria, Dr Oliver Stolpe, commended Nigeria for having come a long way in the fight against corruption. He noted that Nigeria has created a formidable legal and institutional anti-corruption framework and operational capabilities which are the envy of many nations within and beyond the African continent.

“Arrests, prosecutions and convictions of the corrupt have become a daily occurrence. Nigeria remains a leader and strong advocate at the international and regional level, for a more robust international anti-corruption framework and mechanisms, allowing for investigations and return of corrupt proceeds.

“Nigeria once again will exercise its leadership with the introduction of a new draft report to set standards for increased transparency of BO and to reduce obstacles created by opaque corporate structures allowing the corrupt to hide their illicit gains. These are major achievements that we should collectively take pride in,” Stolpe added.

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