21 September 2016, Sweetcrude, Abuja – The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has disclosed that it intends to push for the enactment of a specific law that would compel companies operating in the extractive industries to abide by strict Beneficial Ownership disclosure.
NEITI’s Director of Communications, Mr. Ogbonnaya Orji, who disclosed this while speaking at the Roundtable on Oil and Gas Reforms in Nigeria organized by African Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, in Abuja, stated that disclosing the real owners of companies operating in the extractive sector in Nigeria would expand the frontiers of transparency and accountability and yield other benefits to the country.
Orji lamented the absence of a legal framework that compels companies to disclose its real owners, stating that this had helped fueled corruption in the extractive sector.
According to him, due to the fact that there is no statutory obligation to disclose beneficial ownership, politically exposed persons and senior government officials use surrogates to front for them.
He said, “When government officials and politically connected individuals seek to profit from a country’s mineral assets, they do so using fronts and ownership structures that do not provide sufficient information about the true identities of the natural persons behind the title.
“The lack of transparency allows influential officials to use their positions to extract maximum rent from a country’s mineral resources with minimum or no benefit to the citizens. A case in point is OPL 245 and Malabu Oil.”
He further stated that full ownership disclosure would increase government revenues, build confidence between investors and their partner local companies; reduce the incidence of corruption and money laundering and cut off funding for drug lords and terrorists.
In his own remarks, Executive Director, ANEEJ, Mr. David Ugolor, commended NEITI for championing the issue of beneficial ownership, adding that ANEEJ is also interested in how to take the issues usually generated by NEITI audit reports forward.
Ugolor regretted that attempts by former and present administrations to pull through with the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, had been unsuccessful adding that while the current administration has equally started to do something about the bill, no significant progress had been made.