The Nigerian government has commenced consultation on the implementation of the Beneficial Ownership Transparency which includes the implementation of Open Contracting, Whistle Blowers Policy and other transparency measures, as part of efforts towards fulfilling its Open Government Partnership (OGP) commitments.
This was disclosed in a keynote address delivered by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) at the first meeting of the Steering Committee which was held on March 14, 2017 in Abuja.
The AGF, who is also the Co-Chair of OGP Nigeria Steering Committee, noted that President Muhammadu Buhari has presented the Money Laundering Prevention and Prohibition Bill, 2016, which provides a clear path towards a beneficial ownership transparency regime in Nigeria, to the Nigerian Parliament.
According to him, the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) is also reviewing its laws to make it possible to disclose the beneficial owners of companies and to set up a public register of beneficial owners.
He also hinted that the Nigerian Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) is also working with the CAC to develop a register of beneficial owners of all companies operating in the Nigerian Extractive Industry and will soon make it public in line with global standards.
With this, according to the AGF, Nigeria will be among the countries that will initiate a consultation process involving a triangular framework – of government, business and civil society – towards the establishment of a public register of beneficial owners.
He further said that the NEITI would also be among the first to comply with the Extractive Industries transparency Initiative (EITI) requirement for the publication of beneficial owners operating in the oil and gas industry.
On open Contracting, the Minister said that the President recently approved Executive Orders to improve transparency in government contracting.
According to him, “All contract bids are published regardless of the threshold and aggrieved bidders have the opportunity to submit complaints to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) – the ombudsman on public procurement in Nigeria. The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) has adopted the Open Contracting Standards in its operations.”
The AGF also said that the Federal Ministry of Finance recently issued a Whistle Blowers Policy that will enable voluntary disclosure of stolen assets or reporting by those who are aware that assets have been stolen. The application of this policy, he said, will ensure that administrative sanctions can be applied when public officials misuse public funds.
Touching on the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, the AGF said the application of the FOI Act is becoming more robust and access to public information is increasing. He declared that the OGP Secretariat plans to train all relevant agencies to ensure effective application of the law. The Minister also declared that in the coming weeks, stakeholders (including himself), will work with the Federal Ministry of Justice to develop a circular that will be issued to all Ministries, Departments and Agencies regarding the effective implementation of the FOI Act within their organizations .
More interestingly, the Minister said state governments would also be involved in the OGP process.
According to him, “Plans are also underway to involve states in the signing of sub-national commitments. Some states have indicated interest and willingness in the Open Government Initiative. In this regard, the OGP Nigeria Secretariat plans to work closely with relevant states to support their application process.”
Just last month, he announced that the OGP Secretariat met with the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), a body set up to handle the affairs of the nine oil producing states in Nigeria.
The Minister also said that the Ministry of budget and National Planning, through the Budget Office, will soon launch a citizens’ portal where citizens can make enquiries, access budget documents and submit their feedback on projects and programmes. He said that there is intensified effort to integrate more citizen participation and oversight in the budget making process and across all the commitments in the National Action Plan.
Mr. Abubakar Malami expressed conviction that Nigeria’s participation in the OGP process will provide the requisite hub of coordination, information sharing, innovation and cross-fertilization of ideas within government and with international partners that will lead to better service delivery that Nigerians desire.