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NEITI Unveils Beneficial Ownership Register to Strengthen Transparency, Accountability in the Extractive Industry

-By Kehinde Folarin

In furtherance of the quest to ensure transparency and accountability in the Extractive Industry, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) penultimate Thursday unveiled the Beneficial Ownership Register (BOR) to further strengthen her mandate.

The Executive Secretary, NEITI, Mr. Adio Waziri speaking in Abuja at the unveiling ceremony noted that the initiative which is currently a global trend is a win-win opportunity which is good for oil rich country like Nigeria and Nigerian businesses.

Mr. Adio posits that ownership transparency advances the frontiers of transparency and accountability in symbolic ways, a practical and potent tool that countries can use to tackle potential ills in the extractive and mining industry such as tax evasion, corruption, conflict of interest, illicit financial flows, money laundering, drug and terrorisms financing.

He added that when these ills are reduced and eliminated, oil rich countries will have the resources to invest in their citizens and expand physical infrastructure needed for businesses to thrive.

“Legitimate businesses and most businesses also stand to benefit and know who they are doing business with from the due exposure to risk from having a level playing field and full trust in their operating environment.”

Mr. Waziri Adio

Meanwhile, Mr. Adio noted that the BOR is not aimed at witch-hunting anyone rather it is good for businesses and countries, civil societies, media and Individuals, “so there is nothing for anyone especially those engaged in legitimate businesses to fear,” he added.

Also, Mr. Adio said the BOR which is at its pilot stage from a sector that is historically known for opacity and distrust but also increasingly open up however assured that if Nigeria can enthrone ownership transparency in its extractive sector it sure can in other sectors as well.

Lauding the initiative, Mr. Adio said as at today, only few countries have BOR that are open, so the idea of BOR is to have a register that anyone can access from anywhere and what that does is that millions of eye balls will be looking at this register and they will be able to find out if something is wrong or not.

“Nigeria is now joining the league of handful of countries with open registers such as UK, Netherlands, Denmark and Ukraine.

“Nigeria is the only country that I know of in Africa that is in this special league, this is very historic moment, the delightful and delicious irony of this moment should not be lost to all of us, the country that is always known as poster of corruption and opacity is now a trailblazer for openness.

“This is a moment for all Nigerians and a moment that we should be proud of,” he said.

Accordingly, Mr. Adio said the register aligns with the mandate of the President Muhammadu Buhari led Administration, also with the open treasury portal unveiled by the President few days ago, also the fulfilments of President Buhari at the London anti corruption summit in 2016 and fulfilments of the open government partnership of the EITI,

He thereby advised that even as Nigeria celebrates the milestone, we need to keep pushing the frontiers and raising the bars,

“We cannot afford a roll back, our country actually needs openness not less, we should also know that having a BOR is not the destination, but just a significant milestone on the journey of transparency and accountability,

“We need to stay steady and steadfast in this important journey by continuously improving the register, ensuring that citizens are sensitized about the importance to use it,

“Also ensure that enforcement and accountability have the capacity to effectively interrogate the register by ensuring that the logic of having an open register of beneficial owner go beyond a theoretical construct but by making sure that the register really counts,” he said.

The Director, Legal Services, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) Mrs. Chidera Onhuka on her part stated that the initiative is laudable.

According to Mrs Onhuka, “ in order to ensure compliance, DPR is pleased to see this platform in public domain, we want this to thrive so that more investors can patronize us, all stakeholders are therefore advised to key in” she stated.