The Federal Government has expressed its determination to end the culture of secret ownership of companies in Nigeria, saying secrecy surrounding the ownership of companies in the country was a threat to economic growth as it encourages money laundry and corruption.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed who disclosed this in Abuja, yesterday, at the official launch of ‘Opening Extractives in Nigeria’, said the government was determined to ensure openness in company ownership in Nigeria.
‘Opening Extractives’ is a 5-year programme by global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) to support 13 countries to implement reforms to disclose the ownership of extractive companies.
Mrs. Ahmed who was represented by Minister of State Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba noted that Nigeria has taken concrete steps through the opening of Beneficial Ownership Register by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives (NEITI) and the amendment to Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA).
She said: “Knowing the real owners of the companies that bid for, invest in and operate Nigeria’s extractive assets has practical implications for the economic growth, physical security and human development in our country. The Federal Government is aware and concerned that anonymous companies remain the major obstacle in the fight against money laundering and corruption.
“They enable corrupt and criminal actors, often with close political connections, to hide behind the chains of companies registered in multiple jurisdictions, to deny the Nigerian citizens of the benefits they should derive from their common wealth.
“Government believes that access to quality beneficial ownership information and data has the capacity to strengthen accountability and transparency which will invariably improve governance of the energy and mining revenues, support businesses, curtail corruption, stop illicit financial flows and help light insecurity”, she added.
Earlier, the Executive Secretary of NEITI, Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji had explained that while the agency would continue to work to ensure that the regime of ownership secrecy was brought down completely, it was important to underline that the campaign for beneficial ownership disclosure was not a zero-sum between government, society and business.
“This is because while governments and citizens benefit in the form of increased revenues and welfare, legitimate businesses also benefit from improved business climate, fair and open markets, level playing field, corporate accountability, increased profitability, return on investments, reduced reputational risks and improved trust and confidence between them and their host communities etc”, he stated.
In his remark, the Chief Executive, Nigeria Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), Engr. Gbenga Komolafe who backed government’s effort at ensuring transparency in the sector, said the Commission has opened a beneficial ownership register for companies operating in the petroleum industry.
“The NUPRC is committed to collaborating on maintaining information on beneficial ownership, maintain data on companies that owns extractive licences, creating a better and healthy business climate. The results of these is that citizens will be aware of who they are doing business with or competing against and will also encourage appropriate stakeholder engagement which is a part of Nigeria’s Open Government Action Plan”, he added.