In a bid to improve the ease of doing business within Nigeria, The Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) a council inaugurated by the Federal government of Nigeria, chaired by Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, rolled out a 60-day plan which contained reforms that are supposed to improve the ease of which individuals will be able to do business in Nigeria.
The 60-day plan which was flagged off on the 21st of February 2016 contained short term and long term goals. The short term goals aiming at bringing the economy back on track after it had being battered by a recession in recent times.
The Vice president said that within the period, the council would focus on areas of the economy which would bring change to the small and medium scale enterprises in the nation and also boost the country's business environment.
During an interview, Osinbajo said, “we are trying to improve the business environment in three broad prospects; entry and exit of goods, entry, and exit of persons into Nigeria, and then general government transparency (transparency and efficiency in government agencies and parastatals).”
The 60-day plan was geared towards some key areas in the economy, amongst which were;
- Starting a business
- Dealing with construction permits
- Getting electricity
- Registering property
- Getting credit
- Trading across borders
- Entry and exit of people
- Paying taxes
On the 21st of April 2017, the ultimatum given by the PEBEC elapsed and thereafter there was a report card from the council on the progress made in improving the ease of business in Nigeria.
We examine these reforms differently and highlight their importance to the general public at the moment.
Starting a business
According to the report card from the council, the reform is 88% complete. The aim of the reform was to make it easier for SMEs to get a name for their companies; making it optional to have lawyers in the proceedings, bringing forth a single incorporation form thereby reducing the amount of paperwork that is needed to sign up a business.
Be the smartest in the room
Also, there was a review of the FIRS payment portal which is totally unnecessary as all costs can be remitted to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) which will then be transferred to the FIRS. The website which is the opening project should be the first point of contact.
If this was first solved (of which there are actually individuals who can design websites within the country) there'll be easier workflow on the website, there'll be assurance that the site won't be going down no matter the number of individuals on it.
Dealing with construction permits
According to the 60-day plan by the council, the government would find ways to generate e-planing platforms and also be able to have soil tests of specific sites, which would have open access to the public. meaning entrepreneurs would be able to check the available sites and have an idea of plans that could be developed on such sites.
This part of the reform is really not necessary for processing, instead of this, there could be an allocated amount of space for different sectors of the economy e.g the industries, technological environment, startups. This will bring back the possibility of a structuring in sectors of the economy based on location. Therefore allowing for easy distribution of power and other necessary resources. Instead of having laws published online.
The work of restructuring the point of building in the country should be left to the environmental agencies under the federal government, so as to have a clear distinction between the residential industrial and possibly a silicon valley in Nigeria.
The council in their list of reforms that will enhance the ease doing business in the country highlighted a problem of electricity. According to the result of the 60-day plan, the council has successfully reduced the number of procedures needed to connect to the electrical grid from 9 to 5. They've also been able to beat down the number of days before a new connection on the grid.
It must be noted that the grid that is being discussed by the government is one which as not been said to have increased in capacity over the years, but here they are, looking for ways to increase the capacity of individuals on it. The federal government should instead of reducing paperwork for getting individuals connected to the grid, find new ways by which the electricity can be generated. Many countries in the world have moved past turbines and dams. Therefore, the government should invest in newer ways of generating electricity and aim to generate electricity for those who are not on the grid.
There were plans to encourage the usage of the national collateral agency by the council, individuals could check a number of interests on movable assets through this medium.
Yes, SMEs need a lot of funding together business on the feet, but instead of establishing another branch out that will figurehead the giving and history of credit why not the government leave this to the commercial banks in the country. Rather than increase the cycle why not connect the cycle at that point. Proper record keeping and hand in hand work with the CAC will ensure that SMEs are able to get credit and the government can monitor what they are doing and ensure they are bringing for the results based on the agreements they have penned down.
This plan by the PEBEC, removed the need for individuals to present sworn affidavits before they can have their properties registered and also make the process of registration via the internet very easy.
Is there actually a need for this? If the Federal Government through one of its agencies give certificates of occupancy to property owners in the country, there wouldn't be a need to establish another board that will contend with registering of the property once again.
As the report card states, the council has been able to remove the need for individuals to bring forward a sworn affidavit before they can commence with the registration of properties. They've also been able to merge some processes together, which means the removal of a long and stressful registration which may be filled with bottlenecks trying to sabotage the already laid down procedure.
The government should make amends to allow individuals register their properties easily and also within the shortest possible time.
Trading across borders
A lot of emphases must be placed on the ease of importation and exportation in the country. On Trading across Borders, some of the completed reforms include palletization of imports, advanced cargo manifests, reduction in documentation requirements and scheduling of Joint Physical Examination by the Customs Service. The reforms, however, do not talk about improving on the equipment used on the ports. Nigerian ports are very busy as they are one of the most used avenues of importation and exportation. They should be beefed up with advanced equipment that will help docking and movement of imported goods on the ports.
It is necessary to work on the comfortability of foreigners to send goods and also ease of sales to other countries. This will be able to expose the country to other markets and improve purchases of domestically produced products.
Entry and exit of people
There have been a lot of complaints about the time frame for processing of Nigerian visa from outside of the country. Although this may be quite interesting to know that not everyone can come into the nation anyhow, it should also be highlighted that investors need these visas to come into the country.
Reforms on the entry and exit of people indicators include simplified visa-on-arrival processes, infrastructural improvements at the Abuja airport, and the new Immigration Regulation 2017.
It was a good move by the government to improve the infrastructure of the Nigerian airports although the Lagos airport is still in view.
Promoting the time frame for visa processing is also a plus in these reform as it will encourage more investors to apply for theirs.
By the look of the report card from the presidential enabling business environment, we could conclude that there is a plan to make all applications and interactions concerning business in the country occur online. This is possible but it really can't happen when the country still doesn't have a dedicated cloud database.