TEXT OF A PRESS CONFERENCE ORGANISED BY CIVIL SOCIETY LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY CENTRE (CISLAC) TO CALL FOR PRESIDENTIAL ACTION ON CORPORATE AND ALLIED MATTERS ACT (REPEAL AND RE-ENACTMENT) BILL 2017
While we are excited about the commitment of the present administration to wage war against corruption, we are, however, concerned over the inability of the administration to efficiently fulfil its promises on anti-corruption at global and national forums.
This inefficiency is largely triggered by the delayed and assent into the enabling legal frameworks and instruments on anti-corruption by the National Assembly and Presidency.
A case in point is the failure of President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the Companies and Allied Matters Act (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill which was transmitted to his office on the 27th of May, 2019, after it was passed by the 8th National Assembly on the 14th of May, 2019.
The bill contains provisions that enhances the ability of anti-corruption agencies to detect and stop corruption, identify persons and companies involved in corruption and limit their ability to hide proceeds of corruption in companies registered in Nigeria and other jurisdictions. The process of developing the National Register of Beneficial Owners of Companies operating within our jurisdiction has been stalled as a result of the President’s inaction on the amendment of CAMA.
We are not unaware of the administration’s most recent anti-corruption commitments with reassurances to combat corruption, including the Vice President’s remarks at the opening plenary of the Opening Up Ownership Conference in Jakarta, where he said:
“I will be preaching to the converted if I say that hidden corporate ownership poses real and present danger to most countries, especially the developing ones such as ours. A report that will be frequently cited in this gathering is the one by the One Campaign, titled the “One Trillion Dollar Scandal.” The 2014 report claims that developing countries lose $1 trillion annually to corporate transgressions, most of it traceable to the activities of companies with secret ownership…. So for us in the developing world and especially in Africa, breaking the wall of secret corporate ownership is an existential matter. It is for us literally a matter of life and death. Masked or Hidden corporate ownership is deeply implicated in the sad story of our underdevelopment…… Even when the degree of exposure may differ, everyone in today’s world is at risk of the dangers posed by anonymous corporate ownership. If nothing else, the Panama Papers clearly illustrated the global scale and spread of this problem. So this is a global challenge and nothing less than a truly global approach will be needed to tackle it.”
We wonder the logicality behind Nigeria’s calls to other countries to institute a legal framework for disclosure of beneficial ownership while it lags in legalising same.
We further reiterate the Vice President’s Address which reads thus: “However, we must note that current legislative measures in the mentioned countries may need to go farther to effectively discourage or totally prohibit non-disclosure agreements by governments with big corporates, and to re-evaluate the use of secret trusts to hide beneficial ownership from the prying eyes of the law.”
We observed that failure to sign the Bill will result in dire consequences for Nigeria like:
- Inabilityto fulfill Nigeria’s 2016 London Anti-Corruption Summit Country Statement to build public central register of company beneficial ownership information.
- Lagging in Financial Action Task Force (FATF)requirements, whose efforts aim at promoting policies and standards that insulate global financial systems from acts of money laundering and the financing of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (Article 24 & 25)
We, therefore, urge the Presidency to fulfil its commitments to the anti-corruption fight by empowering relevant agencies with necessary legal operationalization tools to efficiently deliver on their mandates.
The president at this point should take action on this so that dispensation on this process can continue.
Auwal Ibrahim Musa
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre