The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has set December 31, 2019, for the unveiling of a comprehensive register of beneficial owners of oil, gas and mining companies in Nigeria.
The Executive Secretary, NEITI, Dr. Waziri Adio, disclosed this in Abuja at a one-day stakeholders’ engagement meeting on the implementation of the beneficial ownership roadmap in extractive industries in Nigeria.
Adio, stated that the move would help entrench transparency and accountability in the extractive sectors, saying with such information, Nigerians would begin to know the real persons having significant influence directly or indirectly in the nation’s extractive sectors.
“We are going to have the register of all the companies operating in Nigeria by December 31, 2019. A lot of discussions have been going on both at the level of the EITI and at the level of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). We have had a lot of discussions. We need to stop talking; we need to start acting,” he said
He pointed out that hidden ownership could be used to fuel terrorism financing, money laundering, and drug financing, noting that such act could benefit only the minority elite in the country.
“We know that hidden ownership can be used as a mast for conflict of interest; it can be used as a mast for abuse of office; it can also be used to facilitate corruption; it can be used to facilitate tax evasion, it can also be used to perpetrate money laundering, drug financing and terrorism financing,” Adio added.
He, however, expressed concerns about the challenges of adopting beneficial ownership disclosure in Nigeria.
These, according to him, ranged from lack of legislation on beneficial ownership disclosure; low level of awareness on the issue, and lack of capacity and readiness to comply with the disclosure of beneficial owners.
Also speaking at the forum, the Director, Legal and Compliance, Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Alhaji Garba Abubakar, explained that the fact that Nigeria has no register of beneficial owners does not mean that the laws do not allude to it.
Abubakar revealed that there were sections of the Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) that compel businessmen to disclose their shareholders and the capacity of ownership of the shareholders.
He said the commission was proposing a law that would make it mandatory for companies to disclosure their beneficial owners, noting that “already, we have designed the beneficial owners’ form register.”
“Disclosure of beneficial owners has been one area that Nigeria has recorded non-conformity. People whose original interest is to hide will never comply with this,” he said.
According to him, the register which might have some challenges arising from coincidence of name, would however, have the date of birth differentiating the owners of the companies throughout country.
Contributing during a panel session, the Chief Conduct and Compliance Officer, Access Bank Plc, Mr. Pattison Boleigha, said the issue of beneficial ownership was at the core of the banking and financial services sector, stressing that the sector would benefit from its adoption immensely.
He said: “Banks will benefit immensely from the register of beneficial owners of extractive companies. Not having a beneficial ownership register will even affect Nigeria at the global stage.”
However, other speakers at the forum stated that the gathering and compilation of names of the beneficial owners in a comprehensive document would help to have proper corporate governance and accountability in the extractive sector.
According to them, this would among other things, help to curb the issue of money laundering and save the wealth of the country from dubious persons in the sector.
They urged NEITI to interface with all the relevant stakeholders and harmonise inputs made to ensure the register was produced and implemented.