Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), in collaboration its partners yesterday launched a programme to identify Politically Exposed Persons (PEP) in the oil, gas and mining industries.
The web-based platform created to cross-reference the various data sources on politically exposed persons seeks to highlight red flags in the licenses award processes in the country’s extractive sectors.
Speaking at the event in Abuja, the Executive Secretary of NEITI, Dr Ogbonnaya Orji, said the move became necessary because the challenges and risks of anonymous beneficial owners of extractive assets in resource-rich countries result in monumental corruption.
According to him, it has also led to tax evasion and diversion of the country’s wealth into the pockets of a few privileged individuals.
Some of the partners include Directorio Legislativo, BudgIT Foundation as well as Transparency in Totality, among others.
Orji stated that the programme tagged: ‘Connecting the Dots’ will facilitate transparency and accountability in Nigeria’s extractive sector and contribute to the unfettered and public access to data on politically exposed persons in Nigeria.
“NEITI piloted the first Beneficial Ownership (BO) reporting in 2013 and officially launched a BO register in 2019. At the global EITI level, all implementing member countries are required to report on the BO of the country’s extractive assets. Globally, over 100 countries have made commitments to implement BO reforms”, Orji said.
He added that in the past one year, NEITI had provided the technical support for the project and backed it up with the relevant data and information.
“Joining the Dots-JTD is a tool that cross-matches the data on beneficial ownership and politically exposed persons against oil, and gas and mining licenses in other to detect the existence of conflicts of interest,” he noted.
According to him, NEITI’s mandate is to ensure transparency and accountability in the nation’s oil, gas and mining sector and has made copious recommendations in its annual industry reports.
Orji explained that he believed that a collaborative approach for obtaining, verifying, and holding beneficial ownership information involving all critical stakeholders could facilitate the adoption of trusted mechanisms for determining real beneficial ownership of oil, gas and mining assets.
“Therefore, under the global extractive industries transparency initiative, NEITI is determined to push the boundaries of implementation of international standards on beneficial ownership transparency.
“This includes adoption of BO transparency reforms, assessment of risk of misuse of legal entities, and implementing progressively best practice in beneficial ownership transparency relying on access to data to me made available by connecting the dots project,” he noted.
In her remarks, Favour Ime of Open Ownership, which supports countries in deepening transparency in the extractive industry, said beneficial owners of assets in the sector were largely hidden.
“We don’t know who is bidding for the contract. We don’t know who owns what. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other law enforcement agencies can’t fight crime under such an arrangement. The people don’t know who mines their resources.
“We need to know who’s really controlling the natural resources in Nigeria. That’s why we’re here. I’m very proud to say Nigeria was the first to launch a Beneficial Ownership Register in 2019,” she stressed.
Also, The Registrar General of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) represented by his Special Assistant, Mr.Tever Ayua, in his goodwill message commended NEITI and all stakeholders for their leadership role and efforts on the project.
In his comments, Mr Juan Krahl of Argentina‘s Directorio Legislativo, explained that assessment of data requires adaptability and creativity as joining the dots differs in different countries.
He further explained that the demand for accountability lies squarely on the shoulders of civil society and the media who are the intermediaries between the citizens and the state.