-By Felix Douglas
Speaking at a one day dialogue on Beneficial Ownership (BO) transparency organised by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), in collaboration with Strengthening Civic Advocacy and Local Engagement (SCALE), Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim, explained that individuals that are involved in corruption are to be investigated and prosecuted.
He made it known that some of them who are public officials refused to declare their ill-gotten wealth to Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), hence they are involved in crime. “If the money is legitimate as a public officer it should have been declared to CCB.”
Ibrahim advocated that the government should be serious in its anti-corruption war by not shielding perpetrators due to party affiliation. Therefore, politically exposed persons who connived to siphon tax payers’ money should account for it.
Thus: “Such huge amount of money cannot be in the coffers of individuals when there is deficit in finance. The government is borrowing money to finance its budget and subsidy.”
The CISLAC boss bemoaned lack in education and infrastructure deficit across the country. “No nation can progress without good healthcare and education. Government at all levels should pay attention to significant aspects of development while those who are determined to destroy the future and common good of the country must be made to face the wrath.”
The Nigerian government made commitments to strengthen anti-corruption reforms and joined the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in July 2016 in a bid to deepen institutional and policy reforms. One of the commitments within the anti-corruption agenda in the consolidation of existing and new reforms, was the establishment of a Public Central Register of Beneficial Owners of companies.
According to Ibrahim: “Six years after this bold commitment, we stand before the Nigerian public and international community to say that we have crossed the first bridge which is having the CAMA amended to support the beneficial ownership registry establishment. Kudos to all and sundry who worked tirelessly to have this law amended, particularly the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) for making commendable efforts in establishing an extractive sector register.
While legitimate corporate businesses have an integral role in national development, the involvement of Politically Exposed Persons who conceal corruptly acquired wealth through the complex networks of companies deliberately created to hide their identities has further increased the risks they pose to non-fortified economies. The Siemens, Halliburton and Malabu oil scandals, to cite a few high-profile cases, had a net impact on revenue leakages that was unbearable for the country’s finances and the citizens’ economic well-being.”
He defined BO through the following indexes:
Financial Action Task Force (FATF) whose efforts aim at promoting policies and standards that insulate global financial systems from acts of money laundering and the financing of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. (Article 24 & 25)
Nigeria’s obligation under the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and other international anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism instruments to improve the transparency of legal entities and other arrangements.
The global Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) implementation of the beneficial ownership standards in this sector.
Already, there are some sanctions from the European Union for the nonexistence of anti-money laundering legislations; while there is prosecutions of individuals and entities involved in the #panamapapers leaks and the #wikileaks among others, there seem to be no legal framework that enables the convictions of all that was involved from Nigeria; aside the fear of the international community, it is worthy of note here that Concealing of the beneficial owners’ costs lives of our fellow countrymen as terrorists use international financial systems to sustain their operations; Without transparent ownership of Nigerian and international companies operating within the Nigerian jurisdiction, will not be able to stop the bleeding through illicit financial outflows which is perpetually on a geometric progressive increase year on year, which costs us annually around 17 billion US dollars, with special emphasis on the backbone of our economy, the oil and gas industry.
As long as wrong incentives and dysfunctional supervision dominate national financial systems, consequences in the form of terrorism financing, trans-national organized crime, tax evasion and illegal enrichment of politically exposed persons will prevail.
The position of CISLAC is that these points as raised above alongside other beneficial aspects of the amended CAMA is basis for engagement in this context. It believes that a collaborative partnership by relevant stakeholders in the beneficial ownership campaign will help give a voice to this simple but strategic endeavour that will help curb corruption in financial, procurement and other strategic sectors and contribute effectively to domestic revenue mobilisation for financing development of critical sectors of the economy.
Notwithstanding, collaborative partnership by relevant stakeholders will assist to address the issues of corruption in the country while CCB should always investigate asset own by politically exposed persons.
The role of the civil society is to complement the efforts of various anti-corruption agencies to fight corruption which has undermine development in the country.
CISLAC and other civil society organisations will continue to ensure that corruption is eradicated because it has undermined the safety of the country.
Stakeholders expressed the fact that efforts have been made to nip issues around corruption in the bud. For instance, it is no longer business as usual for anyone to site a business entity with fictitious names. Checks have been put in place to address this aspect.
No public official can hide under any guise to embezzle public funds without being answerable to such crime as seen with the positive strides of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to tackle such infraction.
NEITI on its part has been giving vivid details about the extractive sector in Nigeria.
Although, most of its figures are sometimes disputed by relevant agencies but its exposition shows the agency has been playing the role of a watch dog to monitor happenings in Nigeria oil and gas industry which is the country’s main stay.