Business

Corruption: FG begins verification of real owners of companies, businesses

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In line with the anti-corruption crusade of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has revealed plans to introduce companies register that will show the real owners of investments and businesses in the country.

His Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Comrade Salihu Othman Isah revealed this in a statement in Abuja yesterday.

Isah said the AGF made the disclosure at the National Consultative Session by the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Working Group Planning Meeting on Beneficial Ownership hosted by the Federal Ministry of Justice and sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Abuja.

Malami expressed the strong commitment by the Federal Government to ensure transparency and accountability in the business environment in Nigeria, using the Open Government Partnership (OGP) mechanism.

He added that, during the London Anti-Corruption Summit that held on 12th May 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari made commitments to strengthen the capacity of institutions to combat corruption as well as improve the legal framework on beneficial ownership principles.

According to him, the commitment was borne out of the awareness that the lack of transparency in the business environment provides opportunity for corruption to thrive.

Malami informed participants that in the light of the 2016 Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index which places Nigeria at a lower rank of 136 out of 176 countries with a score of 28/100 and with Nigeria currently ranked as 169th in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index for 2017, it has become imperative for the government to take every possible step to address the use of corporate

entities in rent seeking and corruption through the establishment of beneficial ownership transparency initiative.

Malami also hinted that Nigeria is already collating some of this information through the Extractive Industry initiative process and would extend it to the other sectors. It will also establish a transparent central register of foreign companies bidding on public contract and buying public property.

He also listed the commitment to welcome the proposal by developed countries to work together to improve the access of developing countries to beneficial ownership information for use in public contracting and to restrict the ability of those involved in grand corruption to travel, invest and do business overseas and lastly to join the pilot initiative for automatic exchange of beneficial information.

Malami pointed out that most of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, as well as Civil Society Organisations who are members of the National Steering Committee are fully represented in the OGP process.

“My expectation is to receive the work plans developed by the OGP working groups over the past two days and the policy recommendations towards the effective implementation of the beneficial ownership registers in Nigeria,” he stated.

Speaking at the occasion, the Executive Secretary, Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Mr. Waziri Adio opined that beneficial ownership register is very important as it is a ‘game changer’, adding that knowing who owns what company is very critical to achieving transparency in the business environment and if investors should be encourage to come into the country.

According to him, beneficial ownership disclosure would discourage those he described as ‘disgruntled elements’ from committing financial impropriety.

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