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Ease of Doing Business: Tackling imminent challenges



At last year’s annual Nigerian Institute of Public Relations’ (NIPR) Presidential Award Dinner in Lagos, the issue of Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria was exhaustively discussed TAIWO HASSAN reports


It is saddening that over 50 years after independence, the Nigeria of today cannot be compared to that of 1960 in terms of attracting investment.
Then the country had selfless leaders who created the enabling environment for investment to thrive.
Different industrial estates were created across the country to bolster trade and industrialisation. For instance, Nigeria had Ikeja Industrial Estate in Lagos, Trans-Amadi Industrial Estate in Port-Harcourt, Enugu Industrial Estate, Kano and Kaduna Industrial Estate, Umuahia Aba and Onitsha Industrial Estate, among others.
Also, in the sixties and seventies, employers went round universities in search of talents.
Invariably, Nigeria demonstrated at the time that it had potential for growth and the capacity to raise the quality of life of its citizens.
Unfortunately, Nigeria could not sustain the thriving business environment created by the country’s selfless leaders for long.
President, Business Education Examinations Council (BEEC), Mazi Mike Okereke, said: “We took investors for granted. We felt that we were doing them a favour by allowing them operate in Nigeria. We harassed investors in our midst.”
In short, there was the first and second “enterprises promotion decrees,” which took over 40 per cent and then 60 per cent of the shareholding of foreign business.
Later, government then repelled the decrees but it was too late as the damage had been done already.
Indeed, Nigeria made the operating environment uncomfortable for them (foreigners) through kidnapping, poor infrastructure, corruption, erratic power supply, poor security of life and property, over taxation and high interest rates.
The resultant effect was the investors closing shops for good in search of greener pasture elsewhere.
Following the collapse of the past, discussions on recreating the business environment had dominated every forum.
With the Nigerian economy at crossroads, the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration was concerned with the deplorable state of the country’s economy.
Indeed, the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) has been advocating restructuring of the country’s economy through its numerous recommendations to the Federal Government.
The current administration heeded the call by implementing some of the recommendations made over the years.
Indeed, the Federal Government’s ease of doing business policy has become a solution to revamping the ailing economy.
Under the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council on ease of doing business in Nigeria, the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has worked to tackle the problems associated with investing in the country.
Global ranking
On the ease of doing business, Nigeria was ranked 125th by the World Bank on the 2017 and 2018 index out of 137 countries.
Nigeria only moved two steps-up to improve on its 2016-2017 ranking.
This means that more work is needed as measures taken so far by the Federal Government to improve ease of doing business in Nigeria is yet to make the desired impact.
According to the report, some countries such as Mauritius, Rwanda, South Africa and Botswana are occupying 45th, 58th, 61st and 63rd respectively.
Others are Namibia (90th), Kenya (91st) and Senegal (106th).
Action plan
For the organised private sector (OPC) to reposition Nigeria for prosperity, there is urgent need for government to incorporate in its planning and strategy, the following reforms:
Enabling environment for business, the private sector believes that the current global rating is unacceptable.
They said: “We must take immediate action to reposition and rebrand Nigeria; transform Nigeria into an investment friendly country.
“Take immediate step to invest, enhance and rebuild the country’s social and physical infrastructure, roads, airports and ports.
“Provide reliable power supply, it is the key to investors. Notably, the country’s industrial sector has virtually gone out of business.
Improve security and protect life and property.”
Other recommendations are creation of job opportunities for school learners, immediate enactment of the Petroleum Industry Bill, among others.
It also noted that state government should steer clear of corporate taxes except employee income tax as businesses are currently being harassed.
They said: “There is need for the country to learn from USA and other countries. Government should reduce drastically corporate taxes. Nigerian banks’ interest rate is the highest in the world.
“Most banks in Nigeria charge 26 per cent for loan to business. Britain six per cent and USA two per cent. Which business can make a profit after paying 26 per cent interest rate?”
Budgetary process
One of the key factors that is likely to hinder this year’s ease of doing business in Nigeria is the continued delay in passage of the 2018 appropriation bill.
For Nigeria to make impact on its ease of doing business programme, ensuring that the national budget is delivered on schedule and ready for implementation on every January 1 is important.
So, the country cannot be serious about instituting the ease of doing business policy when national budget, which is the engine for national growth, is five to six months late each year.
President, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Dr. Frank Udemba Jacobs, noted that “our budget, which should be operational on the first of January each year, is approved in May or June.
“Fund release are also delayed after approval of the budget.
“For example, funds released for capital project for 2017 was still being discussed in October 2017.
“Businesses attach a great deal of importance to government budget. It gives business the strategic direction of government. Budget delay gives a wrong signal to investors.
“It creates an impression that this is not a serious country to do business with. When government’s budget is delayed, business activity is also delayed. Most countries ensure that the budget approval and implementation take place on scheduled date.”
Last line
The ease of doing business will grow and prosper the business environment and the economy in general if only those in charge handle the process with the diligence it deserves.

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Dangote: Businesses, residents lose N86bn daily to Apapa gridlock




Businesses and residents are losing N86 billion to Apapa-Wharf road gridlock daily, Africa’s richest man and President/CEO, Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, has said.
He stated this in Lagos while condemning the challenges posed by traffic jam and heavy presence of different types of taskforce, including the Customs, on the major route leading to the nation’s largest port.
Dangote, who was on an inspection tour of the on-going reconstruction of N4.3 billion Apapa-Wharf road by AG Dangote recently, stated that businesses and residents are losing 20 times the project’s cost daily.
By calculation, N86 billion is being lost by business owners and residents on daily basis.

He said: “People don’t really understand how much money businesses are losing because of the gridlock here; if you quantify it in billions, it is 20 times the cost of this project every single day.”
Consequently, he urged the Federal Government to move the taskforce, including Customs, away from the route to ease traffic.
The reconstruction of the road that leads to Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports is being undertaken by Dangote Group, Nigerian Flour Mill Limited and the Nigeria Port Authority (NPA), which are together committing N4.34 billion to the project.

Justifying the involvement of his company in sponsoring the project, Managing Director, Flour Mills Limited, Paul Gbadedo, lamented that it has been difficult for businesses and residents of Apapa.
Noting that the economy of Apapa is very huge, he said that businesses cannot see the traffic and road deteriorating without doing something.
He stated that 75 to 80 per cent of imports passed through the Apapa ports, noting that the road is strategic.

Dangote stressed that it did not make any commercial sense for Customs to mount check points outside the wharf after they might have checked and certified goods at the ports.
“If there should be any more checkpoints, they should be at the toll gates, not here where they are obstructing traffic flow,” he said.

Africa’s richest man said he was impressed with the progress and quality of work being done by AG Dangote, the contractor handling the reconstruction of the road.
He also lauded the palliative work going on on Apapa Oshodi Expressway and the Trailer Park being constructed by government off the expressway, pointing out that these were efforts being made to ensure that the access roads to the ports are decongested.

“My impression of this road has changed because AG Dangote is doing a great and excellent work here. You can see the quality of work being done. This is quite impressive. Even in Germany, you cannot see this kind of quality of road. This road can last at least two generations in which case you will be talking about over 60 years. It is so solid that it can take any weight and any traffic,” Dangote said.
“I can assure you that we will double our efforts to complete the project on schedule, that is, latest by the end of June,” he said.

Chief Executive, AG Dangote, Ajif Juma, stated that the company is facing a lot of challenges, citing traffic and gas pipeline as major ones.
“But now we are working hard to ensure we finish on schedule with some of our workers on night shift,” he said.

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CBN to banks: Settle customers’ complaints within 2 weeks



Deposit Money Banks ( DMBs) and other financial Institutions have been directed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to settle customers’ complaints on issues of overcharge, unauthorised deductions and other matters within two weeks.

CBN Head of Complaints management Division, Mr Tajudeen Ahmed, conveyed the Apex Bank’s directive in Abuja. He said the regulator would ensure that bank customers receive redress on issues of excess charges or unauthorised withdrawal.

Ahmed reiterated the CBN’s commitment to eradicating the culture of excess and arbitrary charges. According to him, the CBN has since issued a circular,which could be found on the its website showing all legitimate bank charges. He explained that any charge outside what is contained in the circular was not allowed and should not be charged.

“The Consumer Protection Department issued guidelines to banks dated August 16, 2011, directing all banks and other financial institutions to resolve all customer complaints within two weeks of receipt of that complaint,” he said. “Before the expiration of that complaint, the financial institution is expected to be engaging the customer on a continuous basis to update him or her on the status of the complaint. “If it is not resolved within the deadline given, then such a person is encouraged to draw the attention of Central Bank of Nigeria to find solution to that complaint.”

Ahmed enjoined customers with unresolved complaints to contact the CBN by writing to the Director Consumer Protection Department. He also advised disgruntled bank customers to visit any branch of the CBN closest to them to lay their complaints.

“The CBN continually engages the banks to find out if their conducts and practices are fair to their customers in order to stimulate people’s confidence in the banking system. “Non-adherence to that normally results to regulatory sanctions as the case may be,” he said.

Ahmed faulted banks for setting a limit on ATM withdrawals to get customers to make several withdrawals to cash large sums. “I have also observed and noted this. Don’t forget that at the beginning, it wasn’t like this. Over time, we started having this problem.

“One of the reasons is that the quantum of N500 denomination is much more than that of N1,000 denomination,” he said. “When we approached the banks about these problems, they said that the machines become easily faulty when it is set to dispense up to N30, 000 to N40, 000 units.

“However, CBN has directed that the machines that allow payment of up to N30,000 to N50,000 should be installed. “This is still ongoing. The Banking and Payment Department of the CBN is championing it.” In her remarks, Head, Consumer Protection Department, Mrs Hadija Kasim, admonished bank customers to imbibe cashless policy.

“Let’s not forget that ATM cards can also be used on Point of Sale (POS) terminals. We are encouraging people that unless it is absolutely necessary, they should reduce the carriage of cash. Cashless transactions are more convenient, safer and you will avoid the problem of overcharges,” she said. She advised bank consumers to use bank transfer channels for transactions in cases where sellers do not have POS.

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DAAR Communications commends retired workers



The Management of DAAR Communications Plc has announced the retirement of some members of staff of the organization with effect from Feb 2018.
A statement made available to New Telegraph said those affected had served the organisation between 20 and 25 years.

According to the statement, the Chairman and the Board of the media outfit commended and appreciated the retirees’ pioneering efforts, the outstanding, remarkable contributions and all the personal efforts to the organisation right from inception in 1993/1996.

“They made their respective indelible marks in their respective departments, which cumulatively made the broadcast stations of the organisation not only household names but also a reference point in broadcasting in the Federal Republic of Nigeria and indeed the continent of Africa.
“As they gracefully move into another stage in their respective lives, we wish them the very best and a most successful future endeavor,” the statement added.

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