Sequel to attempts at easing the bottlenecks and constraints to doing business in Nigeria, members of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) have detailed specific reforms to be implemented within the next 60 days.
The gestation period, having started February 21, lapses April 21.
Seven key reform areas are targeted and they include starting a business, getting credit, trading across borders and getting electricity. Others are dealing with construction permits, paying taxes and registering property.
“I want us to make improving the ease of doing business the legacy of this administration and we must get to work immediately and see to it that we don’t lose any day starting now,” said Okechukwu Enelamah, minister of trade and investment and vice chair of PEBEC, as he solicited for the collaboration of the private sector in achieving the set goals.
“I am challenging the private sector to see this as a public/ private project,” Enelamah said at the “Stakeholders’ Forum on Ease of Doing Business” conference held in Lagos, Friday, Feb. 24.
Bogged down by poor scores on the aforementioned reform areas, Nigeria ranked 169 of 190 countries in the 2017 doing business index compiled by the World Bank, for the second consecutive year.
PEBEC was introduced by President Muhammadu Buhari in July 2016 to implement reforms which will move Nigeria 20 places up in the next doing business ranking and further up to within the top 100 in two years.
“The target is achievable, after all we ranked 94 in 2006,” said Jumoke Oduwole, senior special assistant to the President on Industry, Trade and Investment . Oduwole is also secretary to PEBEC.
“The purpose of setting a 60-day timeline is to be held accountable by the public if nothing changes in the short term,” Oduwole told BusinessDay on the sidelines of the stakeholders’ conference.
Government ministries, departments and agencies whose purview correlates with the seven reform areas had representatives at the conference and they all itemised on-going initiatives in alignment with the 60-day timeline set by PEBEC.
As it concerned starting a business, where Nigeria ranked 169 in 2017 which is 32 spots down, compared to 2016, Garba Abubakar, special adviser to the registrar-general, Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), said the commission launched the CAC 1.1 form which eliminates the need to submit original documents for processing.
“It was launched yesterday and by next week or upper Monday, it will be fully deployed,” Abubakar said.
“We also plan to expand our branch offices to 21 within one month, so that more people can register their businesses without visiting Abuja,” Abubakar added.
Despite moving 16 spots to 44 in 2017 from 60 a year ago, more efforts are still being put in increasing credit to the Micro, Small and Medium-scale Enterprises (MSMEs).
The council said it would be passing important bills like the National Collateral Registry Bill and the Credit Bureau Services Bill to improve credit access.
Mainasara Muhammad, registrar, National Collateral Registry (NCR) also spoke of on-going technological innovations to bridge the demand and supply constraints to MSME lending in Nigeria.
“We registered N62 billion worth of movable collateral between November and now,” Muhammad said. “It shows the enormous potential in the sector, so we are striving to help more businesses get what they want with what they have,” he added.
The National Collateral Registry of Nigeria is an initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria (with support from IFC) to improve access to finance particularly for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).
It facilitates the use of movable and personal assets as collateral that remain in possession or control of the borrowers and thereby improves access to secured finance.
Sanusi Garba, vice chairman, Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), spoke to power constraints in the country which generates less than a third of power generated in South-Africa.
“We have given the Discos certain steps to take to improve power supply and a timeline,” Garba said. “For public feedback, we created a robust forum office where customers are able to lodge their complaints on power outages or constraints so that we stay on top of their needs.”
Dealing with construction permits is also a drag on doing business in Nigeria, but the Enabling Business Environment Secretariat of the council is collaborating with the states (like Lagos and Kano) to make the process of issuing permits faster, easier and cheaper.
Yetunde Onabule, special adviser to Lagos state governor on urban development, said it now takes 10 days to get results on property inquiries.
“By the end of March, manual submissions will no longer be allowed. It will be replaced by the electronic planning permit.
“We have also partnered with Thompson Reuters for a land information system, which will enable people sit in the convenience of their homes to get relevant data on properties and their owners.”
The process of issuing a certificate of occupancy is now less than 30 days because we have put the necessary infrastructure in place,” Onabule added.
To improve trading across borders, the council will simplify arrivals and departure by ensuring simple and single arrival and departure forms for visitors to fill.
Assistant Comptroller-General Binga of the tariff and trade department of the Nigeria Customs Service, said efforts are on-going to bolster inter-agency synergy which would help the agencies be more effective and efficient.
“We are working on a programme called NICIS, which would foster information sharing with key government agencies,” Binga said.
Speaking of the milestones attained so far, since July, the council members itemised a few.
These include improved ease of business name registration. The Corporate Affairs Commission online portal is now active and helps drastically shorten the time taken to reserve a business name.
VISA is now granted within 48 hours, as the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) now offers 48-hour visa processing and visa on arrival (VOA) services to prospective visitors.
There also tax reforms which have led to E-filing of taxes and payments on the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) ITAS e-filing platform.
Website transparency, with agencies from the NIS to CAC, having their process and documentation requirements clearly spelt out online, was also stated. This is coupled with the fact that the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria is working to improve ambience in Abuja and Lagos international airports; fixing the dirty toilets, broken-down escalators and cooling systems.