19 October 2017

Nigeria: How Nigeria Can Tackle Corruption Through Transparency in Property Ownership - Experts

Photo: This Day

The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, has proffered the introduction of a Property Verification Number, PVN, as a solution to improved transparency in property ownership in Nigeria

This solution was brought to the fore at the just concluded two days conference on tackling corruption through improved transparency in property ownership.

The event held in Abuja and ended on Wednesday.

Speaking at the conference, a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Law of the University of Abuja, Olanrewaju Aladeitan, said the PVN would be a good instrument to aid transparency, as every property owner would have a unique identification number that would reflect on every property the individual owns or purchases. According to him, this would reduce and aid exposure of property acquisition with laundered funds.

Another solution tendered was the public registration of beneficial ownership. The Director Legal Services of the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, NEITI, Peter Ogbobine, explained the concept and suggested that the government should adopt it into law.

‎"Beneficial ownership declaration in Nigeria at present is legal ownership. Legal ownership is where the promoters and incorporators registered with the company are not necessarily the owners of the company. Until we can explore deep into who owns the property and how he acquires it then we have a problem.

"Beneficial ownership refers to the person who has control over the payment piece from that property. I might put my son's name there, I might put a lawyer there but behind the lawyer, I control the property. How do you now establish beneficial ownership when it is not in law?

"In Ghana and Tanzania it is a law now but Nigeria has international obligations which requires us to have a register of all beneficial owners in the extractive sector and those that operate, invest or bid for licenses in the extractive sector.

"We have to create a public register where any Nigerian can go open the book and see who owns what and you see the names there. The civil society can now question where Mr. A got the money to purchase such property.

"He may have gotten it legitimately but the fact is that you can ask yourself that question and you'll find that a lot of civil servants and retired military personnel cannot explain the money and a lot of the time this beneficial ownership will expose all these illegal things," he said.

On security after declaring beneficial ownership, Mr. Ogbobine suggested that Nigeria could adopt the Ghana EITI beneficial ownership roadmap to fight corruption by keeping details of their contacts and addresses confidential and only accessible to peculiar agencies for security reasons.

Other suggestions made were for establishment of a national data bank, synergy between all anti-corruption agencies, an occupancy audit of the houses in the Federal Capital Territory, F.C.T, direct allocation of land for improved transparency, and for property recovered by the government to be declared.

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