Nigerian govt opening beneficial register to enhance fight against corruption – Minister

Finance minister, Zainab Ahmed. [PHOTO CREDIT: Daily Trust]
Finance minister, Zainab Ahmed. [PHOTO CREDIT: Daily Trust]

The Nigerian government says an open beneficial ownership register in the extractive industries will move the country one step closer to a credible and reliable data against corruption.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, said this on Thursday in Abuja.

As part of the efforts to achieve the development, she said the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has started requesting for beneficial ownership information from companies operating in the sector.

President Muhammadu Buhari had reacted to a publication by PREMIUM TIMES of 106 Nigerians and firms who own companies and assets in offshore tax havens by promising to ensure transparency in asset ownership in the country.

The publication is part of the biggest data leak in history now known as the PanamaPapers.

Mr Buhari said to enhance transparency in assets ownership, his administration would establish a public central register of beneficial owners of companies.

The global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) had urged implementing African countries to adopt the beneficial ownership disclosures in their reporting and governance processes as part of the effort to fight corruption in the management of extractive industries.

READ MORE: NNPC to begin publishing details of fuel supplies

“The information collected through this process is being used to develop a sector beneficial ownership register in collaboration with CAC and the Mining Cadastral Office (MCO),” Mrs Ahmed said.

Also, Mrs Ahmed noted that CAC revised its annual returns form to require annual disclosure of beneficial ownership information.

“The revised form will become mandatory for companies as soon as the regulatory framework is signed by the government,” she said.

“The World Bank also awarded a grant of $500,000 to Nigeria through CAC to support the implementation of the beneficial ownership register,” she said.

Towards a multi-country commitment on beneficial ownership transparency, she said there is a need for a global coordinated policy reform agenda.

Challenges

Lack of transparency has been a recurrent issue in the global extractive industry.

Speaking at the Roundtable on Beneficial Ownership Register, Mrs Ahmed said the opaqueness mostly occurs in anonymous companies (companies with hidden beneficial owners).

She said these anonymous companies have been used to enable corruption, tax evasion, money laundering and other illegal factors of the sector.

The minister confirmed that the mismanagement in the sector has led to revenue loss, security challenges and eroding public trust.


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