Nigeria became the only country in Africa, Asia, and the Americas to join the elite club of United Kingdom, Netherland, Denmark, and Ukraine, to develop and unveil a publicly accessible ownership register for oil, gas and mining sectors.
The register on beneficial ownership was unveiled recently in Abuja by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) at an event attended by stakeholders from relevant government agencies, oil, gas and mining companies, civil society organizations, media, and development partners.
In in speech at the unveiling event, NEITI’s Executive Secretary said knowing who-owns-what, especially in a sector given to opacity, is a significant development. It is also a win-win. It is good for resource-rich countries like ours. It is good for the citizens of such countries. And it is good for legitimate businesses.
“Ownership transparency advances the frontiers of transparency and accountability in more than symbolic ways. It is a practical and potent tool that countries can use to tackle the potential ills that hidden ownership usually mask, such as tax evasion, corruption, conflict of interests, illicit financial flows, money laundering, and even drug and terrorism financing”, Adio stated.
The Executive Secretary explained that when these ills are reduced or eliminated, resource-rich countries will have more resources to invest in the welfare of their citizens and in physical infrastructure needed for individuals and businesses to thrive.
“Legitimate businesses, and most businesses also stand to benefit from knowing who they are doing business with, from reduced exposure to reputational risks, from having a level-playing field, and from improved trust in their operating environment”, Adio further explained.
Mr. Adio, however, noted that the beneficial ownership register developed and unveiled by NEITI will feed into the larger all-inclusive ownership registers of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) when it is ready.
Speaking at the event, Dr. Mike Uzoigwe, Programme Manager of DFID/FOSTER expressed delight and enthusiasm to be part of this landmark achievement by NEITI. He encouraged all the stakeholders to make the register relevant.
Also speaking at the event, Mr Kolawole Banwo, representative of civil society on the NEITI’s board, noted that the register is vital tool for transparency and accountability. He urged civil society and media to use the register for advancement for public good.
“I call on civil society and media to use the register and demand for transparency and accountability. As we seek information and data, don’t expose people and their businesses to undue danger, engage with the tool and use it to ensure that revenue from extractive industries makes meaningful impact on the society”, Banwo stated.
In his contribution, Vice Chairman of Companies forum, Alhaji Sani Shehu congratulated NEITI for the milestone achievement. He reinstated the forum’s willingness to work and support the process.
The representative of Department of Petroleum Resource (DPR), Mrs Chidera Onwuka also welcomed the unveiling of the register and described it as a positive development stating that Nigeria has keyed into the global best practice.
The development of beneficial ownership register was in fulfillment of Nigeria’s obligation to global EITI and Open Government Partnership (OGP). It was also in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitments at the London anti-corruption Summit held in May, 2016.
Nigeria’s journey to the unveiling of the ownership register for extractive industries commenced with development of a comprehensive road map on implementation of Beneficial Ownership by NEITI. Under the road map, NEITI worked closely with frontline agencies like the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Mining Cadastral Office (MCO) to achieve this feat.