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Beneficial ownership: NFIU, NDLEA, IDEA move to deepen utilization to check financial crimes

Nigeria’s fight against financial crimes might be taking a significant leap in the right direction with the implementation of beneficial ownership information. This is according…

Nigeria’s fight against financial crimes might be taking a significant leap in the right direction with the implementation of beneficial ownership information.

This is according to stakeholders who maintained that Nigeria is closer to meeting the threshold required by international authorities on global practice on beneficial ownership.

They revealed this during training session for competent authorities on the use of Beneficial Ownership Information organized by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) funded by the European Union under the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) Programme Phase II in Abuja, Wednesday.

Nigerian authorities are mandating every registered company and corporate entity in the country to provide information about the persons who actually own and control them.

This they said is a critical step towards lifting the veil to revealing the true identities of a company’s beneficial owner.

For the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), the concept of beneficial ownership, though relatively new in Nigeria can be strengthened through synergy and collaboration.

Associate Director, Intelligence and Investigation Support, NFIU, Biola Shotunde, said Nigeria is not far behind in ensuring that the veils on the real owners of companies operating in the country are lifted.

She said: “I don’t think we’re far behind. I think we’re just right on track. But we can still do more. Yes, the company registry is hosting that very large BO (beneficial ownership) data that we’re looking out for, but there will be pockets of them here and there. This BO thing is our collective responsibility. And wherever we find ourselves, we should be thinking of how we’re going to make our own BO data to fuse with all the other layers of data that are available in the country.

Assistant Commander, Asset and Financial Investigation, NDLEA, Ahmed Yero, said the agency is now able to identify the main players of drug trafficking and other related offences.

He lamented that powerful individuals were sponsoring drug trafficking through syndicate companies, adding that full implementation of BO will ensure that those responsible for the crimes are arrested.

“A lot of people are making serious money from these things and so usually investigations will not be able to get to the main players except you utilize the beneficial ownership information. We work closely with all the agencies that have been identified to hold that beneficial ownership in Nigeria.

“For example, the Corporate Affairs Commission, which is the primary agency that is responsible for the registration of all legal entities of Nigeria, has granted us an online access. So it means we can stay in our office and have access to their data, which has been a game changer for us. It has helped us a lot in identifying the people that are behind some of this trafficking,” Yero said.

Anti corruption program manager, International IDEA, Emmanuel Uche, said the BO register might not necessarily be a magic wand that would eradicate all the anti corruption issues in the country.

Uche however, said the effective implementation of the BO is a very critical step to lift the veil off real owners of corporate entities.

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