Osinbajo calls for action against corporate secrecy

osinbajo

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has again called for an intensified global action against vices associated with  corporate secrecy stating that “breaking the wall of secret corporate ownership is an existential matter.’’

Speaking at the opening of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) Beneficial Ownership Conference today in Jakarta, Prof. Osinbajo said, “it is for us literarily a matter of life and death. Masked or Hidden corporate ownership is deeply implicated in the sad story of our underdevelopment.’’

According to him, “we know that anonymous companies are not always illegal or are not always designed to harm. But we also know that secrecy provides a convenient cover for the criminal and the corrupt. And we are not just operating from the theoretical or hypothetical standpoint.’’

He said the dangers of corporate secrecy are evident across the world and does not separate developed societies from the underdeveloped ones.

He said: “Our lived experience has shown clearly that anonymous corporate ownership could serve as vehicles for masking conflicts of interest, corruption, tax evasion, money laundering, and even terrorism financing.

“But this is not just a developing world’s problem.  We live in a more inter-connected world, and anonymous companies have footprints and tentacles that do not respect the developed/developing divide.’’

According to Osinbajo, “Opacity in one section of the globe undermines openness in the other. We need to break down this wall together as we are all at risk of the evil effects of opacity in business ownership.’’

The Vice President commended the efforts of the governments of the United Kingdom, Norway, Netherlands and Denmark for leading the way in establishing public registers of the real, human owners of companies in their countries and call on other G8 and G20 countries to follow suit.

He however noted that the challenges ahead transcends establishing registers of beneficial ownership to making such registers effective in achieving the objectives for which they were all established.

According to him, “Making the register count will take a lot of work. It will be important to develop mechanisms to verify the data disclosed and to build the capacities of tax authorities, law enforcement agencies, media and civic groups and even citizens to wade through, interrogate, make sense of and use the data in the registers.’’

“We also need to move away from the illusion of a magic bullet. In fact, there are no magic bullets in the quest for openness and governance reforms. Those who profit from opaqueness will not roll over. They do not have the incentives to do so,’’ he added.

He advocated for a set of legislative measures that would “effectively discourage or totally prohibit non-disclosure agreements by governments with big corporates, and to re-evaluate the use of secret trusts to hide beneficial ownership from the prying eyes of the law.’’

He mentioned some of the measures taken by the Buhari administration in the global campaign against corporate secrecy as, “Nigeria’s membership of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and government’s commitment to the National Action Plan that prioritises the establishment of this all-encompassing and publicly accessible register.’’

Another effort worth mentioning, the Vice President noted include, “the proposal for a draft Money Laundering Prevention and Prohibition Bill to the National Assembly in 2016.’’

NAN

Insurance claims: Poly lecturers petition ICPC

Four aggrieved academic staff of the Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro have written a petition to the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) alleging deliberate delay in the settlement of their matured claims with the A & G insurance company.
In the petition, jointly signed by the foursome – Engr. Olufemi Adewale osore, Dr. Oladipo oludare Okege, Mr. Olaogun John Akande and Adelusi Abosede Ifeoluwa – and made available to journalists in Ibadan at the weekend, the petitioners accused the management of the insurance company of breach of contract agreements.
According to them, they had life insurance policies with the company, spanning fifteen years. They alleged that months after the maturity of the policy, the company had been tossing them around instead of paying them their dues.
They then sought the intervention of the ICPC in securing payment of the claims by the company.
“We undertook life insurance policies with A & G insurance company for a period of fifteen years (15 years); and our policies have matured for the past four months and above. Management of the company did not deem it fit to correspond with us individually on this matter. Efforts by us to reach the management of the company have met with hostility or at best gross display of nonchalant attitude.
“We invested with A & G Insurance Company through thick and thin and utmost good faith for fifteen (15) unbroken years.
“Sir, the nonchalant attitude of A & G insurance management over this matter is giving us serious concern about the future of our country, Nigeria. And since it is within your purview to check blatant abuse of office of this nature, we find it imperative to solicit your prompt and positive intervention on this matter,” the petition read.
But, while reacting to the petition, the company’s Director of Special Duties, Abiola Ajibowo, said they never intended to deny them their payment.
He said the company needed to follow due process which would involve some verifications to forestall irregular payment, pleading for patience from the affected dons.