Nigeria’s beneficial ownership register, launched in December 2019 has been adjudged first globally to focus on the oil, gas and mining sectors with good functionality and innovations such as licensing data.
This assessment came from a global civil society organization, Open Ownership. The organization, which focuses on increasing corporate transparency across the world, noted that it has been assessing the register’s performance and analysing the quality of the data were disclosed since it was launched late 2019.
According to the Thom Townsend, Director, OpenOwnership, “Nigeria deserves credit and should be extremely proud of publishing the first public beneficial ownership register in the region and linking the data to the nationally vital oil, gas and mineral sectors to aid its anti-corruption efforts. This is a solid first step and OpenOwnership stands ready to support Nigeria’s continuing journey to beneficial ownership transparency”
The organization, however, identified some areas that require attention. One of these areas is the unique identifiers for companies. OpenOwnership 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.
Open Ownership 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”. It also noted that links to stock exchange listings for public companies are provided but not yet working, noting that the link would be a very useful feature of the portal once working.
The organization stated that being the first register to connect beneficial ownership data with extractives data could be a game-changer, particularly with the links to licensing data, a known high-risk area for corruption.