How the new Executive Orders will affect tech-enabled businesses in Nigeria

by | May 22, 2017

Exercising presidential authority, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, signed three executive orders last Thursday. Quickly, executive orders are issued by the Nigerian President and directed towards officers and agencies of the federal government. The three executive orders signed by the Acting President are:

  1. The promotion of transparency and efficiency in the business environment, set to facilitate ease of doing business in Nigeria;
  2. Support for local content in public procurement by the government;
  3. Timely submission of annual budgetary estimates by all statutory and non-statutory agencies”.

However, of the three, the one I will be considering in this context is that which concerns the promotion of transparency and efficiency in the business environment, aimed at facilitating ease of doing business in Nigeria.

In my years of providing legal, training, and business support for the tech-enabled businesses, two things amidst others, can be important. The first is the intellectual property of the technology idea, innovation, or invention. The second is the incorporation or registration of the technology business.


Suggested Read: Eazyhire vs Easyhire: A sad case of Nigerian startup plagiarism?

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Intellectual property refers to safeguarding your idea, brand, innovation, invention, or proposals. This could be done through copyright, trademarks, or patenting — you can read more on this through my interview with Ibukun at the Guardian.

In addition to intellectual property, in order to do a business in Nigeria, incorporation or registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) is important and necessary.

So how do the executive orders affect patenting, copyrighting, trademarking of tech ideas, innovation or products, and how does it affect business registration and incorporation? To get to this, I will state the exact orders relevant to this discussion.

Dissecting the Executive Orders

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According to section 1 of The Order, all Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) of the federal government shall publish a complete list of requirements (including fees) on their websites. They shall also paste same list in a conspicuous place in their premises within 21 days of the issuance of the order.

In addition, according section 1 and section 2, “it shall be the responsibility of the head of the relevant MDA to ensure that the list is verified and kept up-to-date at all times. If there is any conflict between a published and an unpublished list of requirements, the published list shall prevail”. In the published list, the relevant agency will state the stipulated time in getting an approval.

Section 6 states, “there shall be at least two (2) modes of communication of acceptance or rejection of applications to the applicants by the relevant MDAs before the expiration of the stipulated time, including letters, emails and publications on MDA websites.”

Finally, according to section 3, any application for permits, registration or licenses not approved or rejected within the stipulated time will be deemed approved:

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“Where the relevant agency or official fails to communicate approval or rejection of an application within the timeline stipulated in the published list, all applications for business registrations, certification, waivers, licenses or permits not concluded within the stipulated time shall be deemed approved and granted.”

An applicant whose application is deemed granted under this directive may, for the time being, apply to the minister in charge of the application for the issuance of any document or certificate in evidence of the grant within 14 days of lapse of the MDA’s stipulated timeline for the application.

Please note that these sections affect the over 105 MDAs in Nigeria – see a list of them here.

MDAs mostly connected to the tech business community include the Corporate Affairs Commission, Nigeria Copyright Commission, Nigerian Communications Commission, National Information Technology Development Agency, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Central Bank of Nigeria and the National Broadcasting Commission.

Now, a particular order is quite clear about the dealings of the Corporate Affairs Commission. The order makes provision for an online payment platform as thus, “the Registrar-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) shall within 14 days of the issuance of this order ensure that all registration processes at the CAC are fully automated through the CAC website from the start of an application process to completion, including ensuring the availability of an online payment platform where necessary.”

What all this means for tech-enabled business

Let me contextualise all these sections with a recent experience. Recently, we helped a client copyright her technology-based proposal; it took almost forever. Now, with the combined effect of the above executive order, this implies that the Copyright Commission, or the Trademark and Patent Office, would have to state clearly when a patent, copyright, or trademark is supposed to be out. They will also have to publish how much it would cost — no arbitrary fees. This also implies that if they fail to approve or reject your patent, copyright, or trademark within the stipulated time, it is deemed approved after that time.

The days when you cannot clearly state when your patent, trademark, or copyright would be out and how much it would cost may be completely over. The implication is a reduction in the arbitrary cost of getting these simple things done. In addition, the days of overcrowded queues at the CAC as if it’s the ‘pre-Fashola Oshodi (Lagos)’ may soon be over. Thanks to Mr. Acting President.

Timi Olagunju
Timi Olagunju

Timi Olagunju is a tech lawyer and policy consultant. He can be reached via: timithelaw@gmail.com or on Twitter @timithelaw.

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Meshack Okezi
Meshack Okezi
4 years ago

Thanks for this. I hope there would be a part two though to dissect tbe order even further.

I have two questions though? First is what exactly do you mean by copyrighting a technology based proposal? My knowledge of copyrights in nigeria is that copyright vests on yhe author of a fixed work and even if not registered anywhere its still enforceable; may you please clarify. Secondly with the MDAs relating to the tech space what approvals would apply to a tech startup? Apart from cac and NCC, are there any approvals to be obtainef from NITDA, CBN, etc?

#Accountapreneur
#Accountapreneur
Reply to  Meshack Okezi
4 years ago

Thanks for your questions – I hope you can set time out to provide the part two to dissect even further. This particular one focuses on that connected to the ease of doing business. As to your first question, if you have a proposal of a technology based solution on paper or electronic form, you can Copyright it. Yes, without registering, it is enforceable but equitably enforceable – that means you will have a lot to prove, unlike if you register to get clear legal enforce-ability. To your second question, for example CBN would need to grant you certain licenses if you are into a technology solution for financial inclusion or crowdfunding etc. As for NITDA, two of their many roles include: To serve as a clearing house for all IT procurement and services in the public sector and to ensure Internet governance and supervision of the management of the country code top-level domain (cctld.ng). Time would fail me to dissect each, moreover, you could further check the MDAs and their website and see what they offer in connection to this.

anioko1
anioko1
4 years ago

It is one thing to set a strategy at the top, it is another thing to ensure that it is implemented according to the vision. I’d be happier to hear the whole processes that will be changed and the policies and laws that’ll enforce the change.

#Accountapreneur
#Accountapreneur
Reply to  anioko1
4 years ago

Instead of hearing the whole process, why not be part of that process that leads to change. We have the information about this policy drive, and we can use it by helping demand it as #TheOfficeOfTheCitizen. Enough of sit down look.

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