Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) is clamouring for enactment of new legislation in order to compel corporations operating in the extractive industries to abide by strict Beneficial Ownership disclosure.
At the Roundtable on Oil and Gas Reforms in Nigeria, a programme organized by African Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, (ANEEJ), the Director of Communications at NEITI, Mr. Ogbonnaya Orji, 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 the country benefits.
According to Director Orji, “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 lamented the absence of legal framework that compels companies to disclose its real owners, contributing to corruption in the extractive sector.
He stated that due to the fact that there is no statutory obligation to disclose beneficial ownership, politicians and insider government officials use surrogates as fronts.
He further explained that such compellable 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.
Also speaking at the roundtable, Executive Director of ANEEJ, Mr. David Ugolor has expressed displeasure concerning the unsuccessful attempts by former and present administrations to push the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), adding that while the current administration has equally started to do something about the bill, no significant progress had been made.
Ugolor commended NEITI for championing the issue of beneficial ownership and disclosure, adding that ANEEJ is also interested in how to take the issues forward.