Oge Obi

December 31, 2019 has been set by Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) and Corporate Affairs (CAC) to release a comprehensive register of beneficial owners of oil wells, 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.

According to Adio, the move would help entrench transparency and accountability in the extractive sectors; adding that such information will enable Nigerians 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

Speaking further, the Executive Secretary noted that allowing the ownership of such investments to be shrouded in secrecy could encourage sponsorship of conflict, terrorism, money laundering, and drug financing. He noted 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.

The ES, however, expressed concerns about the challenges of adopting beneficial ownership disclosure in Nigeria. He has concerned 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

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