The global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) has urged implementing African countries to adopt the beneficial ownership disclosures in their reporting and governance processes as part of effort to fight corruption in the management of the extractive industries.
This was part of the resolution at the regional workshop on beneficial ownership hosted by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, in Abuja.
The workshop also resolved to develop responsive road maps on the implementation of Beneficial Ownership on or by January, 2017.
The workshop was attended by EITI implementing countries in nine Anglophone and Lusophone speaking countries in Africa, including Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, Ethiopia, Sao Tome en Principe and Nigeria.
The Chairman of the NEITI Board, Kayode Fayemi, told delegates the workshop was a forum to share ideas on the development of beneficial ownership disclosures, which aligns with President Muhammadu Buhari’s three point agenda of fighting corruption, growing the economy and tackling insecurity.
Mr. Fayemi, who is also the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, said it was in Nigeria’s interest and those of other EITI implementing countries to subscribe to beneficial ownership disclosures.
This, he explained, had a direct connection to reforms in the extractive sector, to remove the dangers associated with anonymous companies and the global attention the issue has attracted.
The minister restated President Buhari’s commitment to the implementation of the initiative based on his conviction that public register of beneficial owners of extractive companies would limit abuses and myriad of social and economic crimes perpetrated through use of anonymous companies.
At the recent anti-corruption summit in London, the president had said Nigeria would establish a transparent central register of companies bidding for all public contracts and buying property.
The minister assured that NEITI would continue to provide leadership and work with other stakeholders and the global EITI to ensure that Nigeria’s pronouncements on beneficial ownership disclosures and other obligations under the EITI Standard translated into concrete actions with desired results.
He said this would be realized through the provision of adequate policies and legal frameworks considered at the workshop.
The Head of the Department for International Development (DFID) office in Nigeria and sponsor of the programme, Ben Mellor, underlined the importance of the workshop, saying it was an opportunity for Nigeria to make progress on the governance issues plaguing the country.
“The challenge NEITI now faces is a slightly different one than before. With the NNPC (Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation) now accepting the need to stop the bleeding and shine the light, how does NEITI help Nigeria to follow through on these commitments and to take good governance to the next levels? Mr Mellor asked.
He advised delegates to seize opportunities to take on the big corruption issues that have held countries back, to make change happen in the system.
The Deputy Head of the EITI Secretariat, Eddie Rich, applauded NEITI’s role in highlighting transparency and accountability issues as the bane of Nigeria’s extractive sector.
He said recommendations in the NEITI audit reports these past years have led to reforms in the extractive sector, saving the country millions of dollars which could be channelled to other development programmes.
NEITI Executive Secretary, Waziri Adio, said NEITI’s newly introduced policy briefs, quarterly reviews and renewed partnerships with development partners, donors, influencers as well as civil society would enable it remain relevant and shape the discourse on resource governance.
Issues discussed at the workshop included existing challenges in beneficial ownership disclosures in the extractive sector, the draft validation reports of countries under-going validation, and EITI open data and dissemination.
The delegates also looked at NEITI’s process of turning its audit reports to policy reforms as a model in the extractive sector.