Anonymous ownership of oil firms threat to national security – NEITI

*An offshore oil platform.

*An offshore oil platform.

Oscarline Onwuemenyi

18 May 2016, Sweetcrude, Abuja – The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, has stressed the need for the Federal Government to entrench transparency in the nation’s oil, gas and solid minerals sectors through establishing full disclosure of beneficial owners of oil and gas companies in the country.

A statement from the Director of Communications, NEITI, Mr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji noted that the expectations are high that the Federal Government would ensure a full disclosure of beneficial owners of companies doing business in Nigeria’s extractive industry.

Orji referenced President Muhammadu Buhari’s pronouncement at the anti-corruption summit in London last week, adding that it is in line with the position of NEITI as contained in its maiden Policy Brief on Beneficial Ownership Disclosure released in Abuja a few days to the London Summit.

According to Orji, the NEITI Policy Brief identified the presence of anonymous companies as a threat to Nigeria’s economy and national security.

“NEITI called on President Buhari to champion policies and laws mandating public disclosure of the real owners of companies operating in all sectors in Nigeria, especially those in the extractive sector,” he noted.

He said the Presidential commitment at the London summit will no doubt strengthen the on-going reforms in the oil, gas and mining industry.

“President Buhari had said Nigeria will establish a transparent central register of foreign companies bidding on public contracts and buying property. We welcome the proposal by developed countries to work together to improve the access of developing countries to beneficial ownership information for use in public contracting,” NEITI added.

The statement added that NEITI views this development, which was earlier canvassed in its policy brief as a major step in the right direction. This is because such a register will provide valid information and crucial facts on beneficial owners of companies involved in exploration, production, trading, import, export, and provision of other services in the extractive sector.

Apart from its immense benefits to the economy and national security, NEITI has argued that Beneficial Ownership disclosure has practical implication for increasing government revenues, reducing the incidences of corruption, money laundering and cutting off funding from drug lords and terrorists.

“Even when not always illegal or misused, secret companies are hardly in the interests of developing countries, anonymous companies are used to deny countries of valuable revenues through tax avoidance, and sometimes outright tax evasion. Then, the shroud of secrecy around them is used not only to mask possible corrupt relationships with government officials but also to obscure probable links to money laundering, drug trafficking,” NEITI added.

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