Nigeria yesterday emerged the overall best country at the Open Government Partnership (OGP) global awards taking place in Seoul, South Korea, for its recent reforms in the oil and gas industry.
Nigeria beat other countries in Africa and the Middle East that are implementing the OGP at the opening ceremony of the summit of member countries, for setting up a Beneficial Ownership (BO) registry to end anonymous companies in the country.
A statement by the Deputy Director/Head Communications & Advocacy of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Obiageli Onuorah, said the initiative led in terms of the implementation of beneficial ownership disclosures.
According to NEITI, the move was supported by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Ltd., the defunct Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and the Nigerian civil society representatives.
In picking Nigeria for the honour, NEITI said the summit considered the government’s overall commitment to reforms in the oil, gas and mining sectors and its support to NEITI to establish a beneficial ownership register of companies in business in Nigeria’s extractive sector.
Also considered were the broader reforms in beneficial ownership disclosure by the CAC through the amendment of the Companies And Allied Matters Act (CAMA) and the recent Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).
“The OGP summit in Seoul also recognised Nigeria’s commitment to integrate beneficial ownership information and use it as a tool to fight insecurity, illicit financial flows, tax evasion and money laundering,” NEITI stated.
Commenting on the feat, Executive Secretary of NEITI, Dr. Ogbonnaya Orji, expressed delight that the international community was beginning to assess Nigeria’s efforts at fighting corruption and deepening its democracy.
Orji described the award as impressive and encouraging, “considering the political will and enormous resources the government has deployed to reposition the extractive industry to benefit all Nigerians. “
He also complimented other sister agencies that worked with NEITI, the OGP national steering committee and the civil society for the collective success.
“This award is quite timely. We received the news here in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt venue of the ongoing Conference of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption with excitement.
“Nigeria is leading four other countries to introduce a resolution that will recognise and use beneficial ownership information and data as an empirical tool in the recovery of stolen assets from developing countries.
“The OGP award has strengthened our position as we prepare to submit the Nigeria-led draft resolution to the UN Conference of State Parties here in Egypt,” he stated
In December 2019, NEITI created a beneficial ownership register for extractive industries companies and became the first in Africa to have such a register, while in 2020, CAMA was amended and mandated the CAC to establish and collect information on the real owners of all companies in Nigeria.
In 2021, Nigeria enacted the PIA and made provisions for beneficial ownership disclosures and is also among the nine global EITI implementing countries of the Opening Extractives initiative.
Orji maintained that when beneficial ownership is fully mainstreamed into Nigeria’s governance culture, there will be public trust, citizen’s confidence, and increased revenue growth.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Dr. Zainab Ahmed, who also congratulated Nigeria on the award, noted that establishing a beneficial ownership register had helped Nigeria “Track, reduce and arrest corrupt practices that are undertaken either by companies or beneficial owners of companies.”
Ahmed pointed out that once people realise that the information will be public, it is a significant “deterrence to state capture.”
Chief Executive Officer of OGP, Sanjay Pradhan, affirmed that the platform seeks to ensure that governments and civil society commitments on specific reform programmes are turned into concrete actions.
Civil Society Activist, Auwal Rafsanjani, commended the OGP for considering Nigeria for the award, stating that the it has brought about the synergy between state and non-state actors to accelerate Nigeria’s development.
Besides Nigeria, other recipients were Tunisia and Ghana, which bagged the second and third places for the Right to Information and Open Data Initiative respectively.
NEITI said that over the past decade, 78 countries had engendered more than 4,500 reforms between governments and civil society, with 2,000 of these reviewed independently, out of which over 20 per cent were adjudged to have made governments significantly more open.