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:
- The promotion of transparency and efficiency in the business environment, set to facilitate ease of doing business in Nigeria;
- Support for local content in public procurement by the government;
- 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.
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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
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 If there is any conflict between a published and an unpublished list of requirements, the published list shall prevail”.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:
“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.