The Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, has received the Cost of Compliance Report, which exposes major pitfalls in operations of some Federal Government regulatory agencies.

Osinbajo’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, in a statement on Wednesday in Abuja, said that the council resolved that heads of the affected Federal Government regulatory agencies be presented with the outcome of the recent survey.

The Cost of Compliance Report was presented to the PEBEC at its first virtual meeting of the year recently.

The report revealed persistent corruption, the duplicity of functions, poor service orientation, and several anti-business dispositions in some of the regulatory agencies. Osinbajo directed that heads of such government regulatory agencies involved should be presented with the outcomes, while interaction should take place regarding some of the worrying disclosures in the report of the survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

The vice president said the report revealed human issues that were not unavoidable. He acknowledged the important roles regulatory agencies played in ensuring that businesses thrived seamlessly.

According to him, doing otherwise will only jeopardise the government’s efforts in creating a conducive business environment. “If the environment on account of regulatory authorities is so difficult or expensive, such that people are discouraged or it doesn’t make sense for people to do business, then we are shooting ourselves in the foot in a manner we can only blame ourselves.

“These are human issues and we must do something very serious about these issues. “I am in full support of holding our chief executive officers to account because they, in turn, must hold their staff to account. “ If there are systemic corruption, bribery and extortion, and nobody is held to account, there is a problem.”

Osinbajo said that the Federal Government’s plans in growing the economy and changing the lives and livelihood of Nigerians for the better were largely dependent on the business environment in which they operated.

He said that every plan around sustaining economic growth, improving job creation and opportunities, making life better for the citizens, among others depended entirely on the environment in which people have to do business.

“It determines whether they will invest their resources, expand their businesses, and it just determines practically everything,” he said. Others present at the PEBEC meeting included Niyi Adebayo, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment and Vice Chairman of PEBEC and Hajia Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning. Mr Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, Rauf Aregbesola, Minister of Interior and Clem Agba, Minister of State for Budget and National Planning participated in the meeting. Dr Jumoke Oduwole, Special Adviser to the President on Ease of Doing Business, Sen. Aishatu Ahmed, representing the National Assembly, among other top government officials and representatives from PwC were also at the meeting.

President Muhammadu Buhari in August 2016 approved the Constitution of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC). The council is chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. According to the council, the body will improve ease of doing business in Nigeria, with the following steps:

  1. Improving the entry and exit of goods

This would mean improving the Nigerian customs service and removing some sanctions of imports needed by the Nigerian people. It will also mean improving exportation and transport services throughout the country.

  1. Improving the entry and exit of people

Legal immigration and emigration will be allowed by the Nigerian government and the PEBEC will see to it that the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) runs efficiently and without any corrupt practices that would jeopardize international relations.

  1. Government transparency

The war on corruption by the Buhari-led federal government will also spread to businesses, both in the private and public sector, to ensure transparency and a dearth of harmful or fraudulent business practices.

  1. Improving government procurement process for small businesses

Many believe that Small and Medium-scale Enterprises (SMEs) will be the driving force to bring the Nigerian economy out of recession, and so the government aims to make it easier for these businesses to access loans and make the procurement processes easier for them. The President also approved the establishment of the Enabling Business Environment Secretariat (EBES) as the operational arm of PEBEC. EBES will be domiciled in the Nigerian Investment Promotion Council-NIPC.

According to President Buhari, these are challenging times for the Nigerian economy. The problems had accumulated.    Over a long period, from the 1970s, the economy had become dependent on oil receipts and the rent from oil.  In 2014, the commodity market collapsed. Oil receipts declined by over 60%.   The economy experienced a systemic shock.    We are undergoing a necessary and overdue process of painful adjustment.  Vital lessons have been drawn.    We have a plan that is work in progress, across all sectors of the economy, based on coherence between monetary, fiscal and structural policies to improve productivity and competitiveness and sustained long-term growth.  In response to the current challenges, domestic structural reforms are underway for a  modernized, integrated and diversified 21st  Century Nigerian market economy that is pro-competition,  wealth-creating,  regulated for the benefits of private and public interests and,  re-balanced to insulate it from external and domestic shocks.  As President, I believe that leaders must neither surrender nor backload the challenge of institutional domestic policy reforms to diversify and lay the foundations for such an economy.  The Government of Nigeria accepts this responsibility.

Such an economy would promote inclusiveness.    In the on-going implementation of the  Plan for  Diversification and  Reform by the  Ministry of Industry,  Trade and  Investment,  several areas are the priority in the objective to achieve diversification, inclusiveness and foster growth.  These are:

  • Creating an enabling environment for business;

  • Agriculture;

  • Infrastructure development;

  • Industrialization;

  • Attraction of investment;

  • Building a platform for the digital economy;

  • Support for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs); and,

  • Expanded market access for  Nigerian manufacturers and service providers into regional and global value chains,    through ambitiously negotiated  Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).

An enabling environment for business will level the playing field through reduction of costs, elimination of bottlenecks and inefficiencies. Transparency will be improved and inclusiveness for all promoted.  This is critical.  The Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) has been established.     Institutionally,    the    Enabling    Business    Environment Secretariat (EBES) is being set-up.    Immediate work in this area includes entry process for issuance of visas upon arrival in Nigeria; expedited business registration to spur growth and reduce the propensity for informal businesses;  elimination of domestic restrictions;  trading across borders –to help improve the ability of Nigeria businesses to export more easily;   land registration reforms –to increase access to capital and promote growth and development;   and, transparency and digitization to simplify processes and create efficiency for both foreign and domestic investors.  In the overall Plan, Investments are being made in the sectors of agriculture and infrastructure.

An industrial plan is being implemented.  Agriculture remains the largest employer of labour.   It holds the key to employment, poverty reduction,   food security, reducing inequality and inclusion in the first stage of the market economy.  Efficient infrastructure for power, roads, railways, ports, transportation and telecommunications are the foundations for a modernized and inclusive economy.

Without any doubt, the thinking of the government in this area is a right step, in the right direction, as this will swiftly galvanize the country to greater heights with the shortest time possible.

Ayobolu is a public affairs analyst

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