The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) and Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) have indicated their plans to publish a comprehensive register of beneficiaries of oil, gas and mining licences in the country by December 31, 2019.

The Executive Secretary, NEITI, Dr Waziri Adio, gave this hint in Abuja at a one-day stakeholders’ engagement meeting on the implementation of the beneficial ownership roadmap in extractive industries in Nigeria.

Adio, explained that the move would help entrench transparency and accountability in the extractive sector as with such information, Nigerians would begin to know the real persons having significant influence directly or indirectly in the nation’s extractive sectors.

He explained: “We are going to have the register of all the companies operating in Nigeria by December 31, 2019. A lot of discussions have been going on both at the level of the EITI and at the level of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). We have had a lot of discussions. We need to stop talking; we need to start acting.”

The transparency advocate explained further that hidden ownership could be used for the purposes of terrorism financing, money laundering, and drug financing, pointing out that such act could benefit only the minority elite in the country and deny the citizens the socio-economic benefits that would have accrued if transparent ownership is promoted.

He expatiated: “We know that hidden ownership can be used as a mast for conflict of interest; it can be used as a mast for abuse of office; it can also be used to facilitate corruption; it can be used to facilitate tax evasion, it can also be used to perpetrate money laundering, drug financing and terrorism financing.”

The NEITI boss expressed concerns about the challenges of adopting beneficial ownership disclosure in Nigeria given the fact that there is lack of legislation on beneficial ownership disclosure; low level of awareness on the issue, and lack of capacity and readiness to comply with the disclosure of beneficial owners.

In his remarks at the forum, the Director, Legal and Compliance, Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Alhaji Garba Abubakar, pointed out that the fact that Nigeria had no register of beneficial owners does not mean that the laws do not allude to it.

According to him, there are sections of the Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) that compel businessmen to disclose their shareholders and the capacity of ownership of the shareholders.

Abubakar hinted that the commission was considering a law that would make it mandatory for companies to disclose their beneficial owners, adding that currently the agency has already designed the beneficial owners’ form register.”

According to him, the register which might have some challenges based on the coincidence of name, would require the date of birth differentiating the owners of the companies throughout country.