In a bid to ensure that corruption is drastically defeated in Nigerian public space, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has recommended a Beneficial Ownership Register (BOR) as an antidote to curbing lingering cases of corruption in Nigeria.
The organisation made the call at a briefing themed “The Anti-Corruption Potential of The Beneficial Ownership Register”, held at the Citi Heights Hotel, Lagos.
Leading the conversation, the executive director, CISLAC, Auwal Rafsanjani, noted that transparency of ownership and control of companies, partnerships, trusts and other legal entities that can hold assets and open bank accounts is critical to the ability to determine where illicit funds are moving to and who is moving them.
According to him, “the Nigerian government has marked significant progress in the implementation of the beneficial ownership transparency as indicated by the signing of the Companies and Allied Matters (Amendment) Act 2020 and ongoing process towards the establishment of a central register for disclosure of all corporate entities in the country that would subsume and complement the beneficial ownership register for extractive sector companies already established by the NEITI in December, 2019.”
Rafsanjani said while the rapid uptake of beneficial ownership is significant, the quality, accuracy and utility of the data for its intended purpose of curbing Illicit.
Financial Flows (IFFs) are dependent on the right legislative framework being in place and the data conforming to the beneficial open data standards (BODS).
He said the capacity of the tax and customs authorities, policing and prosecution authorities, mandatory clause on beneficial ownership information to be provided when companies are incorporated or trusts registered, and the presence of a mandate to ensure that information provided by any entity is periodically updated and on a regular basis among others, have the capacity to hamper the effective implementation of this initiative regardless of how good it looks.
He also identified “enforcement ability to ensure that information is placed on the publicly accessible platform and modalities to verify declared information and false declarations, which should result in robust penalties,” as other challenges.
“Let us be clear that beneficial ownership and the more general issue of money laundering is not only a Nigerian or African problem. But as long as inefficiency and the lack of political will to sanitize our systems persist, consequences in the form of terrorism financing, trans-national organized crime, tax evasion and illegal enrichment of politically exposed persons will prevail.”