News, People

Building an enabling business environment a journey of national transformation – VP Osinbajo

*Says PEBEC 2018 EO1 report shows Buhari administration’s commitment to improving economy

“Now this success is a testament to the importance of the Executive Order as a blueprint for fundamental government reform and demonstrates how quickly impact can be made with systemic intervention and unwavering government commitment. But perhaps most importantly, our successes so far demonstrate the game-changing effect of executive legislative and judicial cooperation, as well as collaboration between us (Federal government), state governments and, of course, the private sector. So, today significant legislative and judicial reforms have been achieved working closely with the National Assembly and the Judiciary.

“What is most important is that we are on this journey of building an enabling business environment. It is perhaps even more a journey of national transformation, because what we are talking about is changing attitudes that have long been entrenched. We are talking about changing mindsets. Because it is not just about putting in place systems, it is more about changing the way people think.

“If people have, for years thought that, “when I am in a position in a regulator, it means that this is also a position where I can bully people and make money for myself and all of that.” If people have and have had that impression for years, it would take a while, and those who they deal with also believe that, yes, perhaps they have a right to actually do what they are doing. So, it takes a while to be able to change that. And part of it, of course, is ensuring that there is consequence for misbehaviour. And this is one of the issues that the President himself has asked that we take a good look at. He believes very strongly that we must look at how it is that those who do not comply with instructions and orders, that are found to be misbehaving in one way or the other, should be sanctioned appropriately.” – Vice President

REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT THE LAUNCH OF THE 2018 EXECUTIVE ORDER (EO1) REPORT OF THE PRESIDENTIAL ENABLING BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT COUNCIL (PEBEC) AT THE BANQUET HALL, STATE HOUSE, ABUJA, ON MONDAY, 25TH JUNE, 2018.

PROTOCOLS

First let me thank you very much for making the time to come today, especially to spend a bit of time looking at some of the issues around the implementation of all of our plans around an enabling environment for business in Nigeria.

The Executive Order 001 was the very first executive order of this administration, and this, of course, as you know underscores the importance of its content to our overall economic strategy as a government. When fully implemented, we expect that the Executive Order will transform the way that the Federal Government and its Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) serve the business community and the public at large.

You have already heard that there were six directives that address limitations identified in the civil and public service systems, which we try to address in the Executive Order: transparency; default Approval, which has to do with efficiency; One Government, which also is an efficiency issue; the Entry Experience of Visitors and Travels; Port Operations and Registration of Businesses.

The combination of the accelerator programmes implemented by the PEBEC since July 2016, that is the NAP-60, that is the 60-days, National Action Plan, and the release of the Executive Order in 2017, turned the tide for Nigeria; and the country’s rise in the World Bank rankings. And as you know, we keep repeating the story so that nobody forgets how we rose up 24th place from 169th position to 145, you will think that we are number one already the way we repeat this story. But we don’t want anyone to forget, especially all of those who are pessimistic about the way that this is going. For the first time, Nigeria was acknowledged as one of the top-10 most improved economies especially In terms of the business climate of the country.

Now this success is a testament to the importance of the Executive Order as a blueprint for fundamental government reform and demonstrates how quickly impact can be made with systemic intervention and unwavering government commitment. But perhaps most importantly, our successes so far demonstrate the game-changing effect of executive legislative and judicial cooperation, as well as collaboration between us (Federal government), state governments and, of course, the private sector. So, today significant legislative and judicial reforms have been achieved working closely with the National Assembly and the Judiciary.

In 2017, PEBEC in collaboration with the National Assembly delivered two Acts, which, of course, you have already heard about them, which enable access to credit, and this of course is a vital requirement for the SMEs. This year, the Companies and Allied Matters Bill has been repealed and re-enacted by the Senate, and is currently awaiting passage by the House of Representatives.

The Judiciary has also been a very strong partner in reforming the whole dispute resolution landscape and this, again, is a key factor for investors.
The Lagos State in April 2018 commissioned the small claims courts to handle commercial claims (liquidated money demands) of N5 million and below. Adjudication of cases before the Small Courts up to Judgement is expected to take a maximum of 60 days. And Kano State also recently passed the new Magistrates Courts Law, which also designates small claims and courts in the State. This, of course, follows some of what we are already seeing happening in Lagos State.

I think it is so important to again just thank the State Governments that are doing so well, especially with respect to the small claims courts that have just been put in place. Now these courts are very important, especially for SMEs and some of the non-litigation options as well, the ADR options that they have, in Lagos, in Kano, here also in Abuja, and several other states, are also very commendable indeed, and we think that they would help to improve the business environment, especially for small businesses.

The Federal government also, working with both Lagos and Kano States, have managed to reduce the costs and delays in registration of title to land and obtaining building permits. The governors have also agreed to adopt, as you heard, the PEBEC model at the state level.

In the coming months, as we tackle regulatory challenges and bureaucratic complaints, we continue to lean on the private sector, because this is really about how government works with the private sector, and the reforms, of course, have to do with private sector satisfaction in the business environment. So, if this works, the private sector should be complaining far less. And we are paying attention to that and I hope that this event is also one that helped us, especially those of us in the government side, to better understand some of what are the concerns of the private sector. And truly we cannot be naïve, and no one is naive, I believe, about how this changes need to take place, and how quickly they need to take place.

But we also recognize that we are dealing here with systemic problems that have taken a while to entrench themselves, and so we need some patience and time to be able to surmount some of the challenges that we have seen and experienced.

I think that anyone who has worked in our environment for any length of time will probably understand that what we are seeing is really quite significant. I was just listening to what Mr. Muda Yusuf had to say, and the several sectors that still need to be addressed. I think it is important that we bear in mind that this is a journey and it is one that is bound to take a while. But I found that quite instructive.

If you look at the Customs, yes, we have significant problems in the Customs Service, and you are absolutely right that many are still complaining about how long it takes, the arbitrariness sometimes that we experience there. This is the same for the oil and gas sector, perhaps even worse, especially with some of the problems around contracting and how long it takes to contract and all that.

The interesting thing, though, is that some of the frustrations that you experienced, we also experienced. And the good thing is that we are committed to ensuring that there is a change.

The Minister for Finance, the Minister for Trade and Industry know how long we spent with the NNPC, the Customs and some of the other agencies, to ensure that they understand that this is not just about revenues or earnings, but it is first about trying to do things right and in a manner that works for everyone, especially for the private sector, who are the investors in this environment. With the NNPC, it is an ongoing reform process. But you can be sure that we are not unmindful of all of the various problems, and we spend time. In fact, I think it was last week, we held a meeting on the NNPC from about 10 to about 2.30am in the morning, because we felt there are issues that needed to be dealt with. You can be sure of what I said that we are working very hard on these issues and that we will see a turn around.

What is most important is that we are on this journey of building an enabling business environment. It is perhaps even more a journey of national transformation, because what we are talking about is changing attitudes that have long been entrenched. We are talking about changing mindsets. Because it is not just about putting in place systems, it is more about changing the way people think.

If people have, for years thought that, “when I am in a position in a regulator, it means that this is also a position where I can bully people and make money for myself and all of that.” If people have and have had that impression for years, it would take a while, and those who they deal with also believe that, yes, perhaps they have a right to actually do what they are doing. So, it takes a while to be able to change that. And part of it, of course, is ensuring that there is consequence for misbehaviour. And this is one of the issues that the President himself has asked that we take a good look at. He believes very strongly that we must look at how it is that those who do not comply with instructions and orders, that are found to be misbehaving in one way or the other, should be sanctioned appropriately.

So, I think that the combination of this reorientation, as well as sanctions, would greatly help in changing our business environment, but more importantly in changing some of the bad habits that have been imbibed over the years.

Just to say thank you very much again to everyone who has been here, especially our friends and colleagues from the private sector, and also the heads of agencies of governments that are here. We are in this business together and we are going to make sure that, in so far as it lies within our power, we would do our best to make sure that we are able to create a better environment and a better nation for ourselves.

Thank you very much.

Released by:

Laolu Akande
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity
Office of the Vice President

Related Stories:

Comments

comments

About the Author