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Nigeria records significant progress in improving ease of doing business reforms, says Osinbajo

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By Samuel Bankole

Nigeria has made significant efforts in improving the business environment through the implementation of the ease-of-doing-business reforms, but more needs to be done in the coming years to deliver shared prosperity for all, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

In his keynote speech late Wednesday at the 5th Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) Awards in Abuja, Osinbajo said President Muhammadu Buhari in 2016 established the Council to improve the business environment in the country.

The Vice President is the Chair of PEBEC, an inter-Governmental and inter-Ministerial Council established by the President.

Osinbajo noted that PEBEC “has achieved the delivery of over 180 reforms and completed 7 National Action Plans geared towards improving the Nigerian business environment.

“These successes are anchored on the collaboration among all stakeholders. And we must all appreciate the efforts of our tireless civil and public servants. What we have seen over the last five years is a pointer to the possibilities for a new Nigeria,” he stated.

Through PEBEC reforms, Nigeria has improved an aggregate of 39 places in the World Bank Doing Business index since 2016. The country was also twice named as one of the top 10 most improved economies in the world as a result of the activities of PEBEC.

Commending the Council for the successful implementation of reforms over the years, the VP noted that “we must all remember that success births success.” “While we must not rest on our oars tonight, let us take a moment to relish our accomplishments so far and leave here tonight renewed and reenergized for the work that lies ahead.”

The VP observed that “we knew from the onset that attempting to effect some of the most comprehensive procedural and administrative reforms in our history was going to require time, strong political will, and insistence on following the plan.

“We have certainly moved the needle, but the task going forward is to consolidate and advance.” That would require in the coming years even greater commitment to following the plan, to departmental accountability for failure to deliver on reforms, and to unwavering excellence.

Osinbajo further noted that improving the business environment in Nigeria was a continuous process because of “a challenging business and trading environment for domestic and foreign investors operating in Nigeria. And a difficult business environment always means fewer investors, fewer jobs, and fewer opportunities for all.”

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The VP, who conveyed President Muhammadu Buhari’s appreciation to members of the Council and every stakeholder that has made the PEBEC success story possible, recalled that the President had charged the Council with “positively impacting Nigeria’s business environment by removing the bureaucratic constraints being experienced by a large number of stakeholders.”

According to the VP, some of these challenges included removing bottlenecks and obstacles while delivering the reorientation of regulatory authorities and civil servants who deal with businesses on a daily basis, as well as addressing the significant trust deficit from the private sector towards the government and correcting the pervasive negative perceptions by ensuring that our policies and regulations are enablers for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).

“With the myriad of challenges at the time, we knew it was going to be onerous yet not insurmountable. This task was essential to the shared prosperity of all. From the beginning, we were clear in our minds that it would be unrealistic to attempt to solve all the problems that we had identified in one fell swoop. An attempt to boil the ocean or eat an elephant whole was never part of the plan.

“With this in mind, we had to develop a strategy that would allow us to identify and implement bold, pragmatic reforms. This strategy was to prioritize the frontal pain points of MSMEs and install a systemic framework to resolve them. We did this by soliciting and obtaining the support of other arms and levels of government with PEBEC representatives from the National Assembly and the Judiciary, as well as all sub-national governments through the National Economic Council (NEC).”

Speaking further on the successes recorded by the PEBEC since its inception, the Vice President recalled that in 2020, the PEBEC interventions were further expanded to include local governments through the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), which served as a pilot for interventions at the municipal level of government.

“Over the last seven years, our visionary team, dominated by young Nigerians from both the private and public sectors, led by Dr. Jumoke Oduwole, has designed and implemented a series of reform initiatives at the federal level with measurable success. Among other tools and strategies, the team developed a homegrown 60-day accelerator—our National Action Plans (NAPs)—to implement priority reforms by select Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) for each annual reform cycle.

“The PEBEC Secretariat supports about 15 priority public-facing agencies and currently tracks over 53 MDAs. This is in support of Executive Order 001 on Transparency and Efficiency of Public Service Delivery to the Business Environment as well as ReportGov.ng, the Council’s feedback mechanism.”

The Vice President also commended the private sector for “its commitment and collaboration, especially their contributions in technical support and capacity building.

“They take much of the credit for the quality output of the EBES, especially through the first three years of the project. But the work of PEBEC is far from done. We are yet to realize our target of becoming one of the top 10 nations globally for ease of doing business,” he added.

Some of the awards presented at the event, which was highlighted by music and dance performances, included the Most Improved Agencies for 2022 Executive Order 01 Compliance, which was won by the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC). The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) came in second and third, respectively.

Similarly, the Nigeria Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) won the Most Compliant Agencies Award for 2022 Executive Order 01 (compliance), with the Executive Secretary, Engr. Simbi Wabote, in attendance to receive the award. The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) came in second and third, respectively.

The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) was honored with the award for “the completion of the enforcement of Order 172 on timeline to complete new connections to the grid,” while the World Bank Group (WBG) Nigeria Country Office received the Impact Awards for Development Partner Institution.

At the presentation of the Nigeria Subnational EoDB Awards, Gombe State won the first position for the Inaugural Subnational Report 2021, while Jigawa and Sokoto were second and third, respectively.

Posthumous Award certificates were also presented to the Comptroller, Tariff and Trade, Nigeria Customs Service, Anthony Ayalogu, and the Deputy Director and Zonal Coordinator (Kebbi, Sokoto, and Zamfara), Mr. Adamu Kudu.

Also at the event, the Vice President was presented with the inaugural PEBEC ‘The Catalyst’ Award, given to the VP in recognition of being the most impactful, dedicated, and consistent supporter of the implementation of the Ease of Doing Business reforms in Nigeria.

According to the Special Adviser to the President on Ease of Doing Business, Dr. Jumoke Oduwole, the award is given to the individual “who went over and above the call of duty in the course of supporting the delivery of reforms for MSMEs operating in Nigeria, making it an easier place to start and grow a business.”

Among other impactful steps by the VP, including supporting judicial reforms, Oduwole recalled that, “on May 18, 2017, tonight’s awardee (VP Osinbajo), then as Acting President, signed Executive Order 001, on promotion of transparency and efficiency in the business environment, the first executive order of this administration with directives on transparency, default approvals, One Government, port operations, and registration of businesses.”

Presenting the award to the VP on behalf of the PEBEC secretariat team and its alumni, Oduwole said, “Your Excellency, your outstanding leadership qualities are well known. We at the PEBEC secretariat are grateful for the consistent chairing of multiple PEBEC meetings for many years, for listening to our issues, and for taking time to engage with us, even with junior members of the team. You are a phenomenal boss; you are compassionate and kind-hearted. You are an ardent supporter of women in leadership. You are an exemplary role model, a father figure, a God-fearing man, and a fine gentleman.”

(omayowa@globalfinancialdigest.com; Newsroom: +234 8033 964 138)

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