The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has said that the signing into law of the amended Company and Allied Matters Act by President Muhammadu Buhari will enhance the fight against corruption in the country
Addressing Assembly Correspondents on Wednesday, Executive Director of the group, Auwal Ibrahim Musa said the law enforcement and anti-corruption agencies have often failed to identify the real owners profiting from strategic Nigerian-registered business entities active in the oil and gas sector, defence, construction and others.
He said the absence of the enactment of the CAMA made it impossible to act on establishing a publicly available register of beneficial owners, adding that financing the Nigerian fight against corruption and poverty is sabotaged continuously by financial secrecy, which erodes national sovereignty.
He said “we want to use this medium to commend the Presidency for signing the Companies and Allied Matters (Repeal and Re-Enactment) Act 2020. This is a step in fulfilling the desired anti-corruption reform in Nigeria. This legislation has the potential to be one of the most significant laws in decades.
“Important anti-corruption and business commitments made by the President and the Government at different occasions can finally be put in motion. Recall that since joining the Open Government Partnership movement and since making important public commitments in the 2016 Anti-Corruption Summit in London in 2016, beneficial ownership disclosure and a public register of companies is one of the most important, but outstanding commitments still not fulfilled.
“It is widely accepted that law enforcement and anti-corruption agencies fail to identify real owners profiting from strategic Nigerian-registered business entities active in the oil and gas sector, defence, construction and others.
“Leak after leak in Panama papers, Paradise documents and many local investigations have confirmed what Nigerian citizens have long suspected. Actions and identities are hidden behind obstructive and fake business ownerships to loot state resources and reduce contributions to the Nigerian tax base.
“Until now, the absence of the enactment of the CAMA made it impossible to act on establishing a publicly available register of beneficial owners. Financing the Nigerian fight against corruption and poverty is sabotaged continuously by financial secrecy, which erodes national sovereignty.
“Instead of funding ourselves from taxing business activity, we borrow money abroad and bankroll our budgets at unfavourable and unsustainable terms.
“With the provision regarding the disclosure of persons with significant control in companies, CAMA introduces transparency provision with an obligation for entities to disclose capacity in which shares are held, either as a beneficial owner or as a nominee of an interested person.
“If achieved, we will be able to edge closer to curbing discretionary practices that fuel corruption within the system. Let us recall that Nigeria loses an estimate of $17billion on illicit financial outflows through tax evasion, theft, laundering of corrupt proceeds and other crimes through companies with unclear ownership structures.
“When implemented, Nigerian treasury can profit from windfall of tax revenues and other revenues’ leakages. In the context of the shattered economy after the global pandemic, this instrument can single-handily help alleviating millions of Nigerians out of abject poverty.
“CISLAC at different occasions called out both the Legislature and the Executive on the importance of this law, and we are thankful that we have it now. We want to extend our appreciation to the National assembly who speedily passed this law in the early days of the 9th assembly after suffering non-assent by the president in the 8th assembly. We also want to thank the media and concerned stakeholders who have at one time or the other received awareness from our engagement on this and joined the crusade for the actualization of this feat.
“We urge governmental authorities to step up with establishing policies, tools and instruments, which will aid a speedy enactment of these provisions. It is important that this conduct is executed with political impartiality and professionalism. We commit that the civil society will monitor the implementation and will continue highlighting gaps and deficiencies.
“Sadly, we witness that many anti-corruption laws and policies are legally sound but are not complied with. This must not be the case for this legal provision! We will continue working with the National Assembly to ensure that proper civilian oversight and monitoring of this law is conducted.
“With passing CAMA, we joined the elite club in Africa next to Botswana, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, the Seychelles and Tunisia. Together with Nigeria, these countries introduced some kind of beneficial ownership-friendly legislation.”