*VP insists on a conducive business environment in order to attract more foreign investments, create more jobs, opportunities for Nigerians
Going forward, there will be a more aggressive accountability audit of various Federal Government agencies, identifying bureaucratic bottlenecks and removing them in a renewed effort to further improve the country’s business environment and economy.
This will in turn encourage more local and foreign investments, create more jobs and opportunities for Nigerians, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.
Prof. Osinbajo made these observations on Wednesday night at the fifth anniversary celebration event of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), which held at the State House Banquet Hall, Abuja.
In improving the country’s business climate and making it more attractive for foreign and local investors, the Vice President noted that while creating jobs was government’s priority, the biggest job creator was the private sector, particularly small and medium enterprises.
“We must ensure that they are not hindered from doing business easily so they can produce the opportunities our nation needs,” he stated.
While noting that in some of the agencies, the heads “commit to change, but down the line the system either resists or is simply not well designed to function properly.”
In such situations the VP served notice that what must be done in the coming months, is for the FG to “work with the agencies to implement a more aggressive accountability audit.”
“Where we identify the specific bottlenecks in systems possibly down to the particular desks where these problems arise; we may then come for agencies and officials who have failed or resisted change,” he warned.
However, despite the challenges in some areas, the Vice President detailed how PEBEC’s reforms and efforts have been instrumental in improving Nigeria’s business environment in the last few years under the Buhari administration.
For instance, Prof. Osinbajo stated that since its inception, PEBEC has achieved the delivery of over 150 reforms and completed six National Action Plan (NAP).
“As a result, Nigeria has moved an aggregate of 39 places on the World Bank Doing Business index since 2016, and was twice named as one of the top 10 most improved economies in the world in the last three cycles. Nigeria was also named one of only two African countries to make this highly prestigious list in 2019.
“Similarly, the 2018 Subnational Doing Business report on Nigeria recorded unprecedented improvement, with 100% participation of States in the Right-of-Reply exercise. The World Economic Forum (WEF), in its 2018 Global Competitive Report, also recognized Nigeria’s business environment as one of the most entrepreneurial in the world, and highlighted Nigeria’s improved competitiveness in the enabling business environment,” the VP observed.
He affirmed that PEBEC’s reforms have “proved what is possible if we are hands-on and intentional in making it easy to do business in Nigeria.”
“We were fortunate to have a smart and visionary team led by Dr. Jumoke Oduwole (Special Adviser to the President on Ease of Doing Business), who, with her team of public and private sector members, designed the series of reform initiatives and internationally recognized homegrown National Action Plans (NAPs) – 60-day accelerators designed to coordinate the effective delivery of priority reforms of select Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) annually.
“At the federal level, the PEBEC secretariat also actively supports 15 priority public facing agencies and tracks 55 MDAs on the implementation of Executive Order 001 on Transparency and Efficiency of Pubic Service Delivery and the Council’s feedback mechanism – ReportGov.NG.”
According to the Vice President, with the implementation of more of such reforms, most of the systemic problems can be solved, because “these systems work elsewhere and can work in Nigeria.”
PEBEC, which is chaired by the VP, with the membership of several ministers and collaboration with the Legislative and Judicial arms of government, was established by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2016 to improve Nigeria’s business environment by removing the bottlenecks and obstacles.
According to the VP, the initiative was to solve the problem of a business and trading environment that many had noted was hostile and difficult both for local and foreign investors.
He added that PEBEC’s mandate include seeking “to change the orientation of regulatory authorities and public servants who interface with businesses seeking government licenses, approvals and other regulatory requirements.”
Prof. Osinbajo acknowledged challenges raised by some businesses such as complaints about import and export delays, long waiting periods for product approvals, and assured that these would resolved.
Nonetheless, the Vice President highlighted the collaborative efforts of several reform-minded heads of MDAs in driving PEBEC reforms and Plans, explaining that they were instrumental in their development and implementation.
“But most notable is the sustained collaboration across all arms and levels of government – the National Assembly, the Judiciary, and all sub-national governments through a partnership with the National Economic Council,” he stated.
Prof. Osinbajo disclosed how the work of PEBEC has been expanded to include Local Governments, with the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) serving as a pilot.
Then, the Vice President, on behalf of the President, appreciated the members of the Council, the PEBEC team, all MDAs, and State Governments “for the excellent collaboration that has produced the great successes in the last five years.”
While acknowledging that the work of PEBEC is still far from being fully achieved, the VP admonished that members of the Council, from both the private and public sectors, could “take a moment to relish our accomplishments and leave here tonight renewed and reenergized for the work that lies ahead.”
Also speaking, the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Ambassador Mariam Katagum, who presented PEBEC’s 5-year empirical impact assessment book and commemorative coffee book, said the books were “in keeping faith with the Council’s tradition in documenting its activities and to employ fact-based metrics to measure the impact of its reforms.”
The Minister stated that the empirical impact assessment “was commissioned to assess the impact of reforms outlined in our National Action Plans,” adding that the commemorative coffee table book will “encourage those coming after us that, with purposeful leadership, we can achieve great feats.”
In her remarks, highlighting the achievement of the Council to promote the ease of doing business in Nigeria, Dr. Oduwole noted that “institutional reforms in the public sector were major factors in jump-starting and sustaining economic growth and development.”
She stated that the current administration was the first to dedicate a stand-alone segment of a national development plan to such an intervention, under the competitive pillar of its Economic Recovery and Growth Plan of 2017-2020.
The colourful event was also attended by several dignitaries, including the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha; Minister of Information & Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite; Minister of State, Budget & National Planning, Clem Agba; and the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora.
Also present were the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Mrs. Maryam Uwais; Heads of Government Agencies and Parastatals; Members of the Diplomatic Corps; Development Partners; Captains of Industry, among others.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity
Office of the Vice President