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Nigeria’s Journey into beneficial ownership disclosures – Part 2

By Orji Ogbonnaya Orji
28 September 2022   |   3:43 am
However, stringent measures are taken to protect legitimate rights, liberty and freedom of the asset owners in managing the disclosures and use of the information.

Executive Secretary of NEITI, Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji

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However, stringent measures are taken to protect legitimate rights, liberty and freedom of the asset owners in managing the disclosures and use of the information. Any intention to misuse this information for any purpose other than public interest is discouraged. Data gathering by NEITI on BO in the ongoing 2021 report is currently being managed under the new automated process that guarantees efficient data security and reliability. The 2021 Report is expected to be released by the end of 2022.

Nigeria’s leading roles within the global EITI in the implementation of BO were strengthened by two major factors. The first is the current government’s anticorruption agenda and support for anti-corruption institutions. This was conveyed publicly by President Muhammadu Buhari while addressing the London Anti-Corruption Summit in 2016 where he committed Nigeria to the establishment of a public register of Beneficial Owners. The President explained that the measure was a reaffirmation of the country’s commitment to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and the Open Government Partnership (OGP).

The second factor is the deployment of the BO portal which improved Nigeria’s significant ranking in the global EITI, strengthened stakeholders’confidence and has helped to shape the direction of the country’s multi-stakeholders engagements to deepen BO implementation as an integral part of EITI process in Nigeria. Of specific note is a success story of BO in Nigeria where Beneficial Ownership Transparency has already demonstrated its ability to be utilized as a tool for domestic resource mobilization and tax effectiveness with the declaration by the Mining Cadastral Office (MCO) that since it began using Beneficial Ownership data in its license renewal process, it has realized an over 100% increase in its revenue collection since 2019.

The national launch of Opening Extractives on the 9th of November last year and the establishment of Opening Extractives Network in Nigeria on the 21st of March this year with collaboration and partnership between NEITI, Open Ownership and BHP foundation, were designed to deepen the BO process, minimize risks and maximize opportunities in BO implementation in Nigeria.

 
The recent introduction of Opening Extractives to advance Beneficial Ownership implementation in EITI member countries is most timely and progressive, given the myriad of issues that BO implementation has thrown up in the developing countries. The first of these issues is mutual suspicion by governments, companies and even some sections of civil society that the real reasons for current global pressure on BO disclosure remain unknown. This suspicion may be closely linked to levels of institutional resistance to information and data disclosure, compliance apathy, disinformation and disinclination towards BO implementation and compliance as part of the EITI framework.

There are also the challenges of the skills gap in the ability of civil society and the media in most developing countries to assume independent leadership roles in the use of available BO information and data as tools for advocacy and accountability. On the part of the government, enlightenment and education of key state actors, bureaucratic and political institutions as well as relevant agencies is still a huge task. The enlightenment approach must be defined by comprehensive content that addresses the fears and concerns that frustrate access to BO information.

For the extractive companies, while the IOCs and other covered entities appear informed largely at the top echelon, the operators at the lower cadre most times feign ignorance, expecting orders from above.

To deal with the challenges, NEITI has established a companies’ forum and an inter-agency committee respectively on BO. These two platforms made of all relevant companies and government agencies covered by NEITI/EITI process are for purposes of enlightenment, education, information sharing and efficient feedback. On the side of government agencies, the NNPC, the regulatory institutions in the oil and gas industry, the Corporate Affairs Commission, the Federal Inland Revenues Service, the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Ministry of Justice, the Central Bank of Nigeria, and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation are members of the committee. These key agencies that either collect, maintain custody, or manage oil and gas revenues have designated roles to play in BO disclosure. NEITI-Companies Forum was also established to agree on templates for mandatory disclosure of BO information and data as part of EITI compliance requirements.

 
On its part, the NEITI civil society steering committee set up as part of the NEITI multi-stakeholders group continues to track progress, conduct monitoring and oversight on BO implementation by government agencies and companies. NEITI is currently providing support and training programmes to strengthen the capacity of civil society to carry out this role.

The Opening Extractives Network is composed of the Mining Cadastral Office, Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission and the Nigeria Mid-Stream and Down Stream Petroleum Regulatory Authority. Others are the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Federal Inland Revenue Service, the Corporate Affairs Commission and the Federal Ministry of Finance. While NEITI is the chair and the secretariat of this network, the two anti-corruption agencies – the ICPC and EFCC – are also members. Already, a peer learning program was held for the Open Extractive in Accra Ghana from the 5th – 7th of July 2022.

At the Accra Opening Extractives Workshop, these agencies interacted with other implementing countries from Ghana, Liberia and Zambia and reviewed the respective work plans on the implementation of BO under the Opening Extractives program. It was also a regional forum to share experiences and lessons learned to help participants define the way forward.

For Nigeria, NEITI has already commissioned a study on stakeholders’ preferences, roles and responsibilities mapping to drive an inclusive in-country comprehensive communication strategy on BO as a project.
Concluded
Dr. Orji is the executive secretary/CEO of Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) www.neiti.gov.ng @Drorjioorji. He wrote from Abuja.
 

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