By Michael Eboh & Grace Udofia
The Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, Monday, lamented that the true owners of some oil blocks and other oil and gas assets in Nigeria cannot be identified from the records of the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, as it accused owners of some of the assets of suppressing certain information and manipulating their records in the CAC, making it impossible to link them with the assets.
Acting Executive Secretary of NEITI, Mr. Ogbonnaya Orji, disclosed this in Abuja during a meeting with delegates from the global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, EITI, led by the incoming Chair, Mr. Fredrik Reinfeldt and Civil Society organizations.
According to Orji, the issue of beneficial ownership as contained in EITI’s standards, requires the identity of the true owners of oil blocks, adding that records of the companies in the CAC are shrouded in secrecy and do not provide correct information about the true owners.
He stated that this had been a challenge in implementing this specific requirement of EITI, while he appealed to EITI to understand the peculiarities in the Nigerian environment.
He said, “Beneficial ownership requires us to explain or provide information on the owners of certain oil blocks. But Nigeria is one kind of country; that is why I say nobody is going to suspend us; when you think we are going down, we tend to rise up and surpass expectations.
“One challenge is that we try to reflect this issue of beneficial ownership in our report, but the CAC is where you register legitimate companies doing business in Nigeria. If you go to CAC, the information that you find have no relationship with what you know. That is, those you know are the owners of this oil blocks.
“When you go to the CAC, the records are properly documented, but you will not see any information that in your honest view has any relationship with what obtains. It is a challenge and we have pleaded with the EITI that they should also be much more creative thinking so that we can get the kind of result that we need.” To this end, he called for inputs and advise from all stakeholders on how to review its template to capture this kind of information and other critical ones subsequently.
He assured that Nigeria would not be suspended by EITI for the delay in publishing the 2013 audit reports, declaring that the Federal Government had been working with NEITI and EITI and other stakeholders are aware that the reports are ready and is only waiting for the composition of the Board of NEITI by the presidency.
In his own remark, Reindfeldt, the Incoming Chair of EITI commended NEITI for its efforts at entrenching transparency in the extractive industry, adding that with some of its policy recommendations to the Federal Government, NEITI had been able to go further in its activities.
Speaking in the same vein, Deputy Head and Regional Director for Africa and Middle East of NEITI, Mr. Eddie Rich stated that the global body understands the challenges confronting NEITI, with regards to the reports.
He said efforts would be made to ensure that the EITI Board takes decision regarding Nigeria in an informed way, taking into cognizance the peculiarity of the country. He said EITI would only consider sanctioning Nigeria if the reports are not published six months after the due date and would be delisted from EITI’s membership list if the2013 reports are not published six months after the suspension.
He, however, noted that if the reports are published within six months of the EITI sanction, the suspension would automatically by lifted.