By Gift Eguavoen
Nigeria has won the first position at the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Global Awards announced on Wednesday in Seoul, South Korea, at the opening ceremony of the Summit of OGP member countries.
Nigeria beat other countries in Africa and the Middle East that are implementing the OGP, to get the top position. The country emerged tops for the honour following a painstaking independent review of reforms embarked upon by implementing countries.
The review tracked and assessed milestones achieved by the Nigerian government in setting up a Beneficial Ownership (BO) registry to end anonymous companies in the country, amendment of the Companies And Allied Matters Act (CAMA) and the recent Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), which made specific provisions for Beneficial Ownership transparency.
Extractive360 reports that the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) led the Extractive Industries Thematic Group that implemented Beneficial Ownership disclosures as part of President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s commitment to Open Government Partnership.
Other agencies that worked with NEITI were the Nigerian National petroleum Corporation Ltd, NNPC, the defunct Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the Corporate Affairs Commission, and the Nigerian Civil Society representatives.
A statement by NEITI’s Head, Communications and Advocacy, Obiageli Onuorah, explained that “In picking Nigeria for the global honour, the Summit considered the Buhari Administration’s overall commitment to reforms in the oil, gas and mining sectors and the governments support to NEITI to establish a beneficial ownership register of companies in business in Nigeria’s extractive sector.
“Also considered are the broader reforms in beneficial ownership disclosure by the CAC through the amendment of the CAMA and the recent PIA, which made specific provisions for Beneficial Ownership transparency,” she said.
The OGP Summit in Seoul also recognized Nigeria’s commitment to integrate BO information as a tool to fight insecurity, illicit financial flows, tax evasion and money laundering.
In his congratulatory message to Nigeria, Executive Secretary of NEITI, Dr Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, expressed delight that the international community is beginning to assess Nigeria’s efforts at fighting corruption and deepening its democracy, while complimenting other sister agencies and stakeholders that worked with NEITI for the collective success.
“This Award is quite timely. We received the news here in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt venue of the ongoing Conference of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, with excitement. Nigeria is leading four other countries to introduce a Resolution that will recognize and use Beneficial Ownership information and data as an empirical tool in the recovery of stolen assets from developing countries. The OGP Award has strengthened our position as we prepare to submit Nigeria led draft resolution to the UN Conference of State Parties here in Egypt,” Orji said.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Dr Zainab Ahmed, has also congratulated Nigeria for bagging the first position award, noting that establishing a BO register has helped Nigeria “Track, reduce and arrest corrupt practices that are undertaken either by companies or beneficial owners of companies.”
Also reacting to the development, Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani commended the OGP for considering Nigeria for the awards, stating that the OGP has brought about the synergy between state and non-state actors, thereby accelerating Nigeria’s development.
Extractive360 reports that besides Nigeria, other recipients at the global gathering were Tunisia and Ghana, which bagged the second and third places for the Right to Information and Open Data Initiative.
The OGP is celebrating its 10th anniversary, showcasing how government and civil society partnerships have brought ambitious reforms and more robust results.