FG moves to uncover beneficial owners

The commitment by the Nigerian government to establish a public beneficial ownership register received a boost today, as key agencies of the government met in Abuja to fine-tune strategies for implementation.  The meeting which was held under the auspices of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) had in attendance the representatives of the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative(NEITI), the Corporate Affairs Commission(CAC) and the Federal Ministry of Justice amongst others.

The Nigerian government has committed to ending secret company ownership as part of the anti-corruption commitments under the Open Government Partnership(OGP) in May 2016, by opening a publicly accessible beneficial ownership register. Such efforts are expected to bring an end to situations where individuals and entities especially politically exposed persons(PEPs) mask their identity while retaining controlling powers over companies, corporations and assets.

Speaking at the end of the meeting the National Coordinator of Open Government Partnership and Special Adviser to the President on Justice Reforms, Mrs Juliet Ibekaku- Nwagwu outlined how such efforts can complement other anti-corruption efforts of the current administration. According to her: “Beneficial ownership transparency is the sixth commitment in the National Action Plan of the Open Government Partnership. It critical to ongoing efforts to trace, recover and repatriate stolen assets and disrupt illicit financial flows. By the time the beneficial ownership register is made public, there will be no hiding place for those who wish to conceal “dirty” money’

The representative of the Corporate Affairs Commission(CAC), A. G Abubakar confirmed that government has commenced the initial procedures for the review of the Company and Allied Matters Act 1990 as amended to ensure that beneficial ownership information become part of the data required to be disclosed by every company. You may recall that the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) had earlier in the year, unfolded a beneficial ownership transparency roadmap in the extractive industry. According to the Executive Secretary of NEITI, Mr, Waziri Adio who was represented by Dr. Ogbonaya Orji, Director of Communications: “The National Stakeholders Working Group(NSWG) of NEITI is determined to use activities in the roadmap to push the boundaries of implementation of transparency and accountability in the extractive industries in Nigeria. This is in line with the ongoing reforms in the extractive industry. We are working with all relevant stakeholders in the industry including civil society”

On the 24th of August this year, President Muhammadu Buhari(GCFR) signed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty(MLA) on commercial and criminal matters between Nigeria and United Arab Emirates which includes the speedy recovery and repatriation of stolen assets which may be stashed away by unscrupulous elements in that country.

It is expected that the implementation of beneficial ownership transparency will lead to a reasonable reduction of reputational risks that Nigeria is currently facing in terms of attracting the much needed capital that will help revamp the economy.