By Lawal Abdullahi Habeeb
Even before the federal government signed the much talked about executive order which among other things, aimed to ensure ease of doing business in Nigeria, the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), has been in the forefront of strengthening ease of doing business through its plethora of initiatives including the Company Registration Portal (CRP).
Nigeria is arguably the most attractive market in Africa today considering its huge population of about 170 million people, the largest among the 54 countries on the continent. However, Nigeria has for decades consistently dawdled on the World Bank’s global ease of doing business scale with the latest ranking placing the country at 169th position out of 190 countries assessed late last year.
The nation’s low ranking can be attributed to various factors, among which is its huge infrastructure deficit. But much more frontally, businesses are encumbered in Nigeria by the intrinsic bureaucratic bottlenecks at various stages of economic facilitation especially within government establishments. For instance, the latest ease of doing business report titled Doing Business 2017: Equal Opportunity for All which was published by the World Bank in October 2016, revealed that Nigeria ranked 138th position in terms of Starting a Business, 174th position in terms of Getting Construction Permit, 180th position in terms of Getting electricity, 182nd position in terms of Registering Property, 44th position in terms of Getting Credit, 32nd position in terms of Protecting minority investors, 182nd position in terms of Paying Taxes, 181st position in terms of Trading Across Borders, 139th position in terms of Enforcing Contracts, and 140th position in terms of Resolving insolvency.
It is against this backdrop that the recent signing of three Executive Orders by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, as part of the Federal Government’s ease of doing business initiatives, is not only valuable but also significant in bolstering Nigeria’s business climate. The three orders provide for specific instructions on a number of policy issues affecting ease of doing business in the country, among others.
But even before the issuance of the three orders, the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) has been one of the few Federal Government agencies that have initiated various strategies to accelerate the growth of the Nigerian business environment. One of such initiatives of the Commission is the development of a registration software called the Companies Registration Portal (CRP). Since the launching of the CRP early in 2015, company registration activity has witnessed progressive increase. Worthy of note, is the fact that the feedback which the CAC gets from its customers and other stakeholders has over time helped to further enhance the workability of the on-line registration experience and operational needs required for a perfect registration process which the Commission is committed to provide.
Investigations have shown that the CRP is not only user-friendly, but that it also affords customers on-line real-time access to the services of the CAC from the comfort of their offices or homes, using different e-payment platforms such as inter-switch, e-transact, MasterCard, Verve card and Visa card to effect payments for their registration. This has made it possible for potential investors to register companies without necessarily hiring the services of a lawyer or lawyers. The CRP has also been found to have significantly impacted on the time cycle for company registration, thereby leading to the achievement of the Commission’s 24 hours registration target. This is undoubtedly a huge leap for Nigeria in terms of one of the key components of the World Bank’s ease of doing business assessment criteria: ‘Starting a Business’.
Beyond the CRP, however, the CAC’s current dynamic management led by Barr. Bello Mahmud had also envisioned other initiatives which have helped immensely towards ease of doing business in Nigeria. For some time now, the Commission has maintained a desk at the One-Stop Investment Centre (OSIC) being hosted by the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), which is a platform to carter for foreign investors coming to register and do business in Nigeria.
The CAC’s OSIC desk has been empowered to conclude company registration activities within 24 hours. Another laudable initiative by the Commission has been the creation of a public search window which allows members of the public to view all existing and approved names online free of charge before they choose names for reservation. Hitherto, this was only being done physically by lawyers on behalf of potential registrants after payment of a sum as search fees.
Equally invaluable to its clients, the CAC has established a 24/7 Call Centre which is domiciled in its Public Affairs Department, with four dedicated telephone lines and an email account, for the public to make enquiries and complaints resolution.
Also, as part of the Federal Government’s initiatives to ease doing business, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Okechukwu Enelama recently approved timelines and extended working hours for the Commission. The CAC now closes by 7pm to the public. These, among numerous other initiatives, are sure measures towards not only fast-tracking quick start of business in Nigeria, but also ensuring that the Commission evolves into a world class companies Registry.
– Habeeb wrote from Kado-kuchi area of Abuja.