Anonymous companies, threat to Nigeria’s economy, security – NEITI

It, therefore, stressed the need for public disclosure of the real owners of companies operating in all sectors in Nigeria, especially those in the extractive sector

The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to champion policies and laws mandating public disclosure of real owners of companies.
NEITI’s advice was contained in its maiden Policy Brief, entitled: “The Need to Know Who Owns What in Nigeria’s Extractive Sector.”
The eight-page report identified the presence of anonymous companies as a threat to Nigeria’s economy and security.
It, therefore, stressed the need for public disclosure of the real owners of companies operating in all sectors in Nigeria, especially those in the extractive sector.
The report said: “The report is coming on the heels of three important developments that have put the danger of secret companies on the front burner.
“The Panama papers’ leak which has revealed some of the prominent business executives and politicians (including Nigerians), behind some offshore companies.
“The London Anti-Corruption Summit on May 12, 2016 where world leaders, including President Buhari, will gather to make commitments on stronger partnership for fighting corruption, including how to end the prevalence of secret companies.”
NEITI said all EITI-implementing countries such as Nigeria must have a public register of the real owners of all extractive companies operating in their jurisdictions by January 2020.
It held that even when not always illegal or misused, secret companies were hardly in the interests of developing countries.
The report said: “Anonymous companies are used to deny countries of valuable revenues through tax avoidance, and sometimes outright tax evasion.
“The shroud of secrecy around them is used not only to mask possible corrupt relationships with government officials but also to obscure probable links to money laundering, drug trafficking, and terrorism financing.”
NEITI recalled that it piloted reporting of the owners of companies in the oil, gas and solid minerals sectors in its 2012 reports.
It urged the Federal Government to lead the charge of the growing global campaign against the use of secret companies.
It said: “Full ownership disclosure has practical implication for increasing government revenues, reducing the incidence of corruption and money laundering, and cutting off funding for drug lords and terrorists.
“It is therefore important for President Buhari’s administration to prioritise and champion policy and legal frameworks for lifting the veil of secrecy on ownership of companies in the extractive sector in Nigeria.”
NEITI stated in the report that the disclosure of ownership of companies was imperative as Nigeria was seen to be in the vanguard of a global movement against corruption.
It said: “The promotion, expansion and deepening of ownership disclosure of all companies that operate in Nigeria’s oil, gas and solid minerals sector align with the change agenda and the ongoing oil sector reforms of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.”
NEITI recalled that all EITI-implementing countries were expected to publish their roadmaps for reporting the real owners of extractive companies by January 2017 and create publicly accessible registers of beneficial owners of extractive companies by January 2020.
It stated that world leaders attending the Anti-Corruption Summit in London were expected to commit to having a public registry of the beneficial owners of all companies operating within their territories.