Nigeria on Wednesday beat all other countries in Africa and the Middle East to emerge the top implementing country for open government partnership (OGP).
Nigeria beat Tunisia and Ghana to the second and third positions respectively for the Right to Information and Open Data Initiative categories.
Following an independent review of a series of reforms embarked upon by all the implementing countries as part of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Global Awards, Nigeria was adjudged the best in the assessment report announced in Seoul, South Korea, at the opening ceremony of the OGP Global Summit of member countries.
Organisers of the awards said the review tracked and assessed key milestones achieved by the Nigerian government, particularly in setting up a Beneficial Ownership registry to end anonymous companies from operating in the country’s extractive industries.
The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), the agency responsible for the promotion of transparency and accountability in the extractive industries, led the Extractive Industries Thematic Group that spearheaded the implementation of the Beneficial Ownership disclosures as part of President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s commitment to Open Government Partnership.
Other agencies that worked with NEITI in promoting beneficial ownership principle included the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, the defunct Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), and the Nigerian Civil Society representatives.
In picking Nigeria for the global honour, the global summit said it took into consideration the Buhari administration’s overall commitment to reforms in the oil, gas and mining sectors of the economy and the government’s support to NEITI to establish a beneficial ownership register of Companies in business in Nigeria’s extractive sector.
Other considerations by the Summit included the broader reforms in beneficial ownership disclosure by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) through the amendment of the Companies And Allied Matters Act and the recent enactment of the Petroleum Industry Act, which made specific provisions for Beneficial Ownership transparency.
The OGP Summit in Seoul also recognized Nigeria’s commitment to integrate Beneficial Ownership Information and use it as a tool to fight insecurity, illicit financial flows, tax evasion and money laundering.
In his congratulatory message to Nigeria, Executive Secretary of NEITI, Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, expressed delight that the international community was beginning to assess Nigeria’s efforts at fighting corruption and deepening its democracy.
Orji described the Award as impressive and most encouraging, considering the political will and enormous resources the government has deployed to reposition the extractive industry to benefit all Nigerians.
He He also complimented other sister agencies that worked with NEITI, the OGP National Steering Committee and the civil society for the collective success achieved through the award.
“This Award is quite timely. We received the news here in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt, venue of the ongoing Conference of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, with excitement,” the NEITI Executive Secretary said.
He said Nigeria was leading four other countries to introduce a Resolution that would recognize and use Beneficial Ownership information and data as an empirical tool in the recovery of stolen assets from developing countries.
The OGP Award, he said, has strengthened Nigeria’s position as the country prepares to submit Nigeria-led draft resolution to the UN Conference of State Parties in Egypt.
Nigeria’s journey to beneficial ownership disclosure, Orji said, followed a trajectory, starting December 2019, when NEITI created a Beneficial Ownership Register for extractive industries companies, making Nigeria the first country in Africa to have such a register.
In 2020, he said the Companies and Allied Matters Act was amended and mandated the CAC to establish and collect information on the real owners of all companies in a business in Nigeria.
In 2021, he said Nigeria enacted the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) and made copious provisions for beneficial ownership disclosures.
Nigeria is also among nine of the global EITI implementing countries of the Opening Extractives initiative.
“When Beneficial Ownership is fully mainstreamed into Nigeria’s governance culture, there will be public trust, citizen’s confidence, and increased revenue growth,” Orji said.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, has also congratulated Nigeria for bagging the first position award at the Summit.
Ahmed noted that establishing a beneficial ownership register has helped Nigeria “track, reduce and arrest corrupt practices undertaken either by companies or beneficial owners of companies.”
She pointed out that once people realize that the information would be made public, it serves as a significant deterrent to state actors.
The Chief Executive Officer of Open Government Partnership, Sanjay Pradhan, affirmed that the OGP platform seeks to ensure that governments and civil society commitments on specific reform programmes were turned into concrete actions.
Civil Society Activist and Execitive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani commended the OGP for considering Nigeria for the awards.
He said the OGP has brought about the synergy between state and non-state actors, accelerating Nigeria’s development.
The OGP is celebrating its 10th anniversary, showcasing how government and civil society partnerships have brought ambitious reforms and more robust results in the development of the society.
Over the past decade, 78 countries have engendered more than 4,500 reforms between governments and civil society.
About 2,000 of these reforms were reviewed independently, out of which over 20 percent were adjudged to have made governments significantly more open.
Among the reforms that the OGP considered was Nigeria’s Beneficial Ownership Transparency programme, which came tops.