By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja

Following the fight against corruption, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, Thursday, called for presidential action on the Corporate and Allied Matters Act (Repeal and Reenactment) Bill 2017.

This was stated by the Executive Director, CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Rafsanjani, demanding that President Muhammadu Buhari should revisit and resubmit the bill to the 9th Assembly to tackle hidden corporate identities used in siphoning the nation’s resources and stockpiling them abroad, therefore creating artificial poverty.

He said: “We are calling on President Muhammadu Buhari, to take urgent presidential action regarding the Corporate and Allied Matters Act Repeal and Reenactment Bill 2017.

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“This Bill has been passed by the 8th Assembly since May it has been sent to Mr. President. This has been lingering and as a matter of fact, it is even impossible for the President to sign this bill that is why we are calling for presidential action to start the process resubmitting this bill because we have lost the 30 days allowed by our law for the President to assent. There is no explanation from the President.

“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 present administration to efficiently fulfill its promises on anti-corruption at a global and national forum.

“There are so many commitments made by the government and commits are followed by action through policy, legal framework, legislative as well as compliance. It is not enough to say you will do this and that but nothing is done three to four years down the line.

“This inefficiency is largely triggered by the delayed 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 14th of May, 2019.

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“The bill contains provisions that enhance 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 is now hinged on presidential assent into the bill.

“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, Indonesia, where he said; “I will be preaching to the converted if OI says 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 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 danger 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.’

“If the President and Vice President made all these remarks, and remember that the President made the first commitment in 2016 at a conference organised by Transparency International with the British Government to have the Beneficial Ownership registered, and we are making this statement on Beneficial Ownership Register because some government officials using their position in government to siphon public funds.

“We, therefore, urge the presidency to fulfill its commitments to the anti-corruption fight by empowering relevant agencies with necessary legal operationalization tools to efficiently deliver on their mandate.”

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He also stated that those who use companies with no clear ownership identification inject public funds into their companies at the expression of critical sectors that have direct bearing with the living standards of the citizens.

“In fact, they use to get what is called federal government intervention fund, and they use public money to inject their companies and yet they don’t want to use government money to inject the health, education sectors, and because they have ownership in those companies they get tax holiday, tax waiver and when the tax holiday elapses they change name so that they can reapply another one.

He also alleged that “Construction, oil and gas, communication, and so many other companies are involved, particularly banks are involved in hiding all these and making it safe and safer for the corrupt people in Nigeria.

“The implication is that those other countries where they are going to keep these assets don’t even have access to those assets. Those countries cease money. This is really barbaric.

“This is the reason why CISLAC has decided to expand its international advocacy to the UK and USA, where a lot of Nigerian assets are there. We are working with similar organizations in Europe, America and United Kingdom to trace Nigerian assets because when they steal these things they abandon it, with the relationship we have these organizations in various countries now they are putting pressure on their government making sure they key into Beneficial Ownership and return of assets ton Nigeria.

“So there is no way we can succeed in the fight against corruption if we do not have Beneficial Ownership Register to expose those behind these companies they are using their government gown to siphon public funds”, he said.



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