Friday, October 23, 2020

Nigeria unveils beneficial ownership register for oil blocks and solid minerals acreages owners

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The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has unveiled a beneficial ownership register, which holds the details of real owners of oil blocks and solid minerals acreages in Nigeria.

NEITI said thursday that the register had become a requirement in Nigeria’s compliance to the principles of the global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), adding that it also gives Nigerians an opportunity to know individuals who hold mining blocks and rights in the country.

However, details of the content of the register were not made available at the launch in Abuja as NEITI said it would upload it on its website later.

NEITI Executive Secretary, Mr. Waziri Adio, stated at the ceremony that the register contained 270 licences in the mining sector as well as the owners of 61 assets and 56 companies in the oil and gas sector.

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Adio explained that an all-inclusive beneficial ownership register would subsequently be unveiled by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Mining Cadastral Office (MCO), and Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

“In a short while, the beneficial ownership register for the extractive sector in Nigeria will go live. At the touch of a button, anyone with internet access can find out, for free, the owners and the ownership structure of extractive assets that are in production in Nigeria.

“These are the assets covered within the scope of the NEITI audits. In this free electronic register, you will find the owners of 270 licences in the mining sector, and the owners of 61 assets and 56 companies in the oil and gas sector.

“The register will continuously be updated as more information becomes available and will periodically be upgraded to allow for better user-interface. The BO (beneficial ownership) registers by DPR and MCO are in progress, and they will be more comprehensive because they will contain ownership information of all extractive assets (whether producing or not).

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“Also, in progress is the CAC BO register, which will have ownership information of all the companies operating in Nigeria. The NEITI BO register is a precursor to these larger registers that are still being built. The NEITI Register will feed and fold into these larger registers when they are ready,” Adio stated.

He noted that the register would enable transparent practices in Nigeria’s extractive sectors and not aimed at fighting businesses and interests in the sectors.

“Let me say this upfront: this beneficial ownership register is not against businesses. Rather, it is for the good of businesses as it is for the good of countries, and it is for the good of civil groups, the media, and individuals. So, there is nothing for anyone, especially anyone engaged in legitimate businesses, to be jittery about,” Adio added.

On the expected impacts of the register, Adio stated that it would make Nigeria’s oil sector known for its opacity to become open and as well as its operations to Nigerians.

“It is a pilot starting from a sector that is historically known for opacity and distrust, but also a sector that is increasingly opening up and is still the livewire of our economy.

“It is hard to think of a better place to start. And starting with the extractive sector has positive signaling effect: if Nigeria can enthrone ownership transparency in its extractive sector, it sure can in other sectors. Additionally, this pilot will allow us the strategic opportunity to learn, adapt, iterate, then go to scale,” he explained.

Adio added that as at today, very few countries have set up beneficial ownership registers that are operational and open.

He said: “Nigeria is thus joining the elite league of a handful of countries with open BO registers, such as the United Kingdom, Netherland, Denmark, and Ukraine.

“Nigeria is the only country that I know of in Africa, Asia, and the Americas to be in this league. This is thus a historic moment. The delicious irony of today’s event should not be lost on us: the country that is usually derided as the poster-country for corruption and opacity is now a trailblazer in openness. This is a moment all Nigerians should be proud of.”

Meanwhile, stakeholders in the country’s oil sector have called for coordinated security response, efficient governance structure, special courts and stringent sanction to secure oil assets and check crude oil theft in the country.

The stakeholders, according to a statement from the Director Communications at the NEITI, Dr. Orji Ogbonanya Orji, and sent to THISDAY, made this call a policy dialogue convened by the NEITI to proffer sustainable solutions to oil theft.

It said the dialogue followed NEITI’s recent policy brief, which showed that Nigeria lost $41.9 billion between 2009 and 2018 to crude oil theft and product losses, including other social and environmental challenges associated with illicit activities of oil thieves.

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It quoted Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, to have said that the oil industry must end the prevailing incentives that make it possible for crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism to flourish.

Obaseki, also the Chairman of the National Economic Council’s Committee (NEC) on Crude Oil Theft, Prevention and Control, said: “When breeches are reported, when products are lost, we just deal with the financial losses to the operators, but what happens to government? Nobody is ever held accountable; nobody is brought to order.”

He affirmed the commitment of the NEC to consider the resolutions at the dialogue as valued contributions solve the issue.

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