SOME stakeholders in the country
have urged the Federal Government
to implement its policy to expose
Nigerian politicians who hide their
identities to conceal corruptlyacquired
wealth.
They made the call on Wednesday in
Abuja, at a multi-stakeholder dialogue
on “Supporting Beneficial Ownership
Transport Champions in Nigeria”
organised by Civil Society Legislative
Advocacy Centre (CISLAC).
“Beneficial Ownership’’ is a legal
term for specific property rights
which include use and titles in equity
belonging to a person even though
legal title of the property belongs to
another person.
A stakeholder, Dr Dauda Garuba,
said politically-exposed persons
deliberately created network of
companies to hide their identities
toward acquired wealth which further
increased the risk of corruption in
non-fortified economies.
He cited the example of the Malabu
Oil scandal involving the award of
Nigeria’s richest oil bloc by a sitting
minister of petroleum resources to a
company belonging to him.
Garuba said that the award was at
a grossly undervalued fee because the
real company’s ownership was not
disclosed.
“This concept is a growing interest
across local and international scenes for corporate beneficial ownership
information disclosure.
“This interest, beyond seeking to
expose conflict of interest among
public office holders, also derives
from the need to trace criminals who
hide their identities behind corporate
structures to defraud the country.
“This can be done through
corruption, tax evasion, undue
favouritism, money laundering and
illicit financial flows.
“The unprecedented revelations
in the `Panama Papers’ involving
many politicians around the world
and Nigeria with offshore companies
in tax havens, have reinforced global
attention on the potential and real
dangers of anonymous companies,’’
he said.
Garuba explained that the new
concept aimed at driving corporate
business transparency and
accountability to boost Nigeria’s
economy and strengthen its integrity
and reputation by pro-actively dealing
with perceived challenges.
Mr Uche Igwe, a Consultant to
the Open Government Partnership
(OGP) Nigeria Secretariat, said that
the government needed to do more to
tackle the issue of fraud among public
servants.
Igwe said that there was hardly
a politician without a fraud history,
adding that most civil servants had
companies in disguise without their
real names as the owners.
He said that most times, the public
officers use their companies to award
government contracts to themselves,
and that only few of them connected
with what they did legitimately.
He said the beneficial ownership
transparency when fully applied
in Nigeria, would serve as a tool
for strengthening the fight against
illicit wealth, tax evasion, money
laundering and terrorism financing.
Igwe stated that the policy would
also provide a level-playing field
for businesses, reduce corruption,
increase revenue generation and
lift the veil of obscurity that clogged
accountability chain.
“Openness is the biggest antidote to
opacity; we need to open our system
as to do away with corruption,’’ he
said.
On his part, Executive Director
of CISLAC, Mr Auwal Rafsanjani,
who was represented by Mr Adesina
Oke, Director, Legal Services of the
group, said the meeting was aimed
at making a case for transparency in
Nigeria.
This, he said, would rebuild
confidence of foreign investors and
improve Nigeria’s reputation as a
reference point for transparency and
accountability in business, among
other things.


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