Nigeria calls for greater accountability and transparency of beneficial ownership at 9th Conference of State Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption

Abuja, 15 December 2021-The world’s anti-corruption conference began in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt with 152 countries (including Nigeria) meeting to advance action through the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and strengthen integrity responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Panama and Pandora Papers by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) are testimony to the use of safe heavens, shadow financial system and shell companies by the corrupt to divert needed resources for development, particularly developing countries like Africa. In addition, secrecy associated with corruption and stolen wealth remains a nagging challenge in holding perpetrators to account.

In his opening statement at the Conference, the Honorable Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, remarked: “Proceed of corruption and illicit financial flows constitute a huge chunk of resources needed for sustainable development and their return to their States of origin is a fundamental principle of Article 51 of the Convention”.

In a bid to addressing this challenge Nigeria has rallied a coalition of countries including Pakistan, The State of Palestine, Kenya, Peru and Saudi Arabia to propose the first ever draft resolution on, “Enhancing access and use of beneficial ownership information to facilitate the identification, recovery, and return of stolen assets”. The draft resolution calls on Member States to establish and populate a register of beneficial owners of assets and make the respective information accessible to other states with a view to aiding corruption and asset recovery related investigations.

Mr. Emmanuel Akomaye, UNODC Consultant and Anticorruption Expert who participated in one the more than 60 side events commented: “There is great wisdom in breaking the opaque shell of corruption. Cross border corruption is greatly facilitated by beneficial ownership arrangement. To break the shell countries must effectively cooperate. The regulations of the professional enablers of beneficial ownership lawyers, accountants, estate agents etc. is largely opaque with very little enhanced due diligence conducted on them. Hidden wealth in whatever guise must be exposed, its perpetrators and conspirators prosecuted, and the assets recovered for the benefit of the citizens.”

Seven other draft resolutions and two draft decisions are also being considered at the ninth session of the conference of state parties to UNCAC. They include resolutions addressing issues on prevention, the role of supreme audit institutions, asset recovery, education and law enforcement.

Nigeria has been a State Party to the United Nations Convention against Corruption since 2004. This year Nigeria’s delegation is led by the Honorable Attorney General of the Federation and comprises representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Code of Conduct Bureau, the Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-Corruption Reforms, the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit, the Federal Inland Revenue Service, the Corporate Affairs Commission, the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, as well as the Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes.