As a leader in the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Steering Committee, the federal government is taking critical steps to tackle corruption and money laundering by enhancing corporate accountability and transparency through a new registry disclosing persons with significant control of companies.
President Muhammadu Buhari signed the new beneficial ownership registry into law on Friday, August 7, as part of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020 (CAMA.)
According to the Financial Transparency Coalition, anonymous owners of company and property contribute to the nearly US$1 trillion illicitly leaving emerging economies. Out of that, an estimated US$15.7 billion of illicit financial flow is said to pass through the Nigerian financial system annually.
To meet this challenge head on, at the 2016 Anti-Corruption Summit hosted by the United Kingdom (UK), Nigeria committed to joining OGP and setting up a national public registry of beneficial ownership, which it included in its first and second OGP action plans.
Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba, sees the law as an important milestone and contends that the fight against corruption requires collaboration between government and partners to ensure that the needs of all citizens are met.
“Nigeria welcomes the support of OGP through the Multi-Donor Trust Fund for the development of an electronic register of beneficial owners.
I want to renew the commitment of Nigeria’s OGP Multi-Stakeholder Forum – National Steering Committee – to ensure full implementation of the register using this grant, and I look forward to working with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in the building of the register,” said Minister Agba.
The autonomous body responsible for the register, the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) of Nigeria has worked with OGP stakeholders to secure technical, policy and legislative capacities necessary for the creation and effective use of the register – in alignment with global best practices.
“The Corporate Affairs Commission and indeed Nigeria is really overwhelmed with the show of support, encouragement and solidarity by OGP throughout the process.
We vividly recall the several advocacy visits and useful interventions made by OGP leading to the incorporation of the legal framework on Beneficial Ownership disclosure in the new Companies Act,” said Registrar General of CAC, Alhaji Garba Abubakar.
OGP Deputy CEO Joe Powell welcomed the announcement and highlighted the work accomplished by civil society organizations and the government with support of the international community through the OGP Multi-Donor Trust Fund and partners like the UK Department For International Development (DFID).
“Reformers in Nigeria have taken a big step forward with this new law, which, if well implemented, will help reduce corruption and increase business credibility. This effective coalition of reformers in government, civil society, the private sector and the international community must now turn its attention to effective implementation.”
In a statement from Nigeria’s Transparency International chapter, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) also commended the Presidency of Nigeria for signing the CAMA Act 2020
“This is a step in fulfilling the desired anti-corruption reform in Nigeria. We urge governmental authorities to step up with establishing policies, tools and instruments, which will aid a speedy enactment of these provisions.”
Hamzat Lawal, Founder and Chief Executive of CODE, also welcomed the law and stressed that “people can no longer hide under the guise of nondisclosure to carry out financial crimes. The principles of the Open Government Partnership Nigeria signed up for are quite evident in the new CAMA 2020.”
On top of expressing interest in joining the Beneficial Ownership Leadership Group, the Nigerian government is also applying beneficial ownership requirements to any company holding a government contract, as part of its implementation of the Open Contracting Data Standard for its public procurement process and has produced a “road map” to require the public disclosure of beneficial owners of oil, gas, and mining companies in the country as part of their Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) commitment.