As calls for accountability in the oil and gassector mounts, oil host communities in the Niger Delta have been called upon tosupport moves by the federal government to enforce the disclosure of beneficialowners of oil blocks in the country.
Mrs Obiageli Onuorah, assistant director in the Nigeria Extractive Industry Initiative, NEITI made the call while making a presentation on Beneficial Ownership Disclosure to Niger Delta community women in Port Harcourt, at a training organized by Kebetkache Women Resource and Development Center.
She said the world is moving towards theregistration of beneficial owners who are the natural persons who, ultimatelyown, control or benefit from legal persons stressing that not doing so gives room to a lot of secrecythat sometimes shields fraudulent acts.
Mrs. Onuorah said disclosure of owners of oil blocks is the trend globally and Nigeria will do better by joining the train.
“Group 20 assented to BO registration in 2014, European Union in 2015. The United Kingdom is committed to online registry while Ukraine, Afghanistan, France, have also joined. President Muhammadu Buhari committed Nigeria to BO registration at a London anti-corruption summit in 2016”, se enumerated.
The NEITI official stated that BO registration willhelp track sources of funding for terrorism, drug trafficking, as well aspromote transparency in the extractive industry thus stemming fraud.
According a NEITI policy brief, Nigeria and otherdeveloping countries lose about $1trillion (N3.6 trillion) every year throughsecret company ownership. Africa is reported to be losing a lot of moneythrough the non-disclosure of beneficial owners of oil blocks.
According to her, disclosure will improvetransparency ad control crime.
“BeneficialOwnership Disclosure will increase financial transparency. Public registrationof BOs are the only way to prevent criminals from hiding behind opaquestructures and nominees from engaging in tax evasion, money laundering, fraudand other forms of corruption including the financing of terrorism”.
With disclosure she added, proper taxes would bepaid and the urge to acquire numerous state of the art multi-million cars andmansions would be curbed.
In addition, investor confidence would improve asneeded information would be readily available for market regulators andplayers. “It is a pre-requisite for the smooth functioning of markets byproviding basic information for market participants and regulators so they knowwho is doing business where, as well as for the wider understanding of patternsof national and international economic activity. It will also strengthen theextractive industries governance.”
Obiageli said NEITI which operates on a tripodplatform consisting of the government,private and civil society sectors, iscommitted to ensuring that communities in the country benefit from resources intheir soil.
Pushing for accountability from public actors shecharged, “You need to be interested in the use of disbursed funds coming fromnatural resources. NEITI has the potential to drive extractive sector reform,encourage civil society to promote good governance and the end result isprosperity for all Nigerians. You have legitimacy to demand answers from yourrepresentatives as citizens of Nigeria.”