The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, has said that plans are ongoing towards establishing registers of Beneficial Owners to bring to an end the era of anonymous company ownership that aids capital flight, illicit financial flows and tax evasion.
He made this known at a forum marking the commencement of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Week in Nigeria on Monday May 7, 2018 in Abuja.
The President represented by his Vice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, said that the Nigeria Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) is working closely with the government of the United Kingdom and the Open Ownership, to build an open global beneficial ownership register that will develop open ownership data standards to achieve the goal.
He also said that since Nigeria joined OGP, access to public information premised on the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act enacted in 2011 had improved significantly.
‘’I am told that at least 106 government institutions now have designated FOI Desk Officers to ensure speedy responses to information request in compliance with the(FOI) Act and commitments we have made under the Nigeria OGP National Action Plan (NAP)’’, he added.
The President further expressed, “our experience with OGP in Nigeria has proven that it is possible to build coalition like-minded reformers drawn from government and non-state actors. In addition to joining the OGP and developing a National Action Plan in 2016 ,the FG also established a Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA) house in the Federal Ministry of Finance, to clean up the Federal Payroll and Pensions Systems across MDA’s’’.
According to him, “PICA’s work in this regard has helped the FG save more than 200 billion naira by eliminating ghost workers. Like the TSA we are also aggressively expanding the rollout of the government Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) to ensure that the loopholes that enable payroll fraud are permanently blocked. PICA also oversees the Whistle blowing programme launched in December 2016. That programme had seen recoveries of N7.8billion, $378 million and 27,800 pounds sterling as at March 2018’’.
Commenting on the returned Abacha’s loot, he said,’’ I must acknowledge the role played by the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice(ANEEJ) in the negotiation of this agreement and leading of other CSO’s in monitoring the utilization of the fund.
The Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, and co- Chair OGP, in his welcome address said that OGP is a global platform of domestic reformers committed to making their government more open, accountable and responsive to the clarion calls of the citizens.
He added that, OGP aims at securing concrete commitments to promote transparency, fight corruption, empowers citizens and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.
He explained that OGP Week is a global week of action during which developers and implementers of issues of OGP would come together to share ideas, discuss challenges as well as solutions aimed at transforming how government serve their citizens. He explained that it is an opportunity to take stock of the achievements so far, and to take an inventory of challenges, brainstorming on how best to overcome them.
Malami expressing delight for groups, individual and international partners involved in OGP progress in Nigeria said, ‘’let me also appreciate everyone who has provided support to ensure that the OGP Secretariat meets international standard. In this regard, I wish to acknowledge our partners, the Civil Society groups, business and professional bodies who have stood with us in past one year. You have constructively provided government with lens and feedback mechanisms that had enabled us see and reflect as well as implement the priority policies of citizens in a more responsive and inclusive manner”.
The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Paul Arkwright, in his keynote address noted that transparency does not stop at national borders, adding that transparency revolution on the scale requires global efforts.
‘’Nigeria joining the OGP sends a signal that it sees an inherent value in openness, civil society and governments working together. This is also a strong national and global message on her commitment to tackling corruption’’, he said.
Arkwright, coming to terms with team play, further said, “The UK remains committed to leading the global transparency agenda. We recognize that we cannot do it alone. We will continue to support Nigeria in its efforts for an open government. It may take some time to reach the destination desired, but the journey has begun”.
Other speakers at the event were; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, US Ambassador to Nigeria Mr. W. Stuart Symington, Edetean Ojo represented by Dr. Tayo Aduloju, etc.
Highlights of the preliminary session of the OGP week was the presentation of the National Action Plan (NAP) developed in 2017.
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