Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, has said the Buhari administration would continue to provide a conducive business environment for operators to achievie the government’s diversification agenda.

He pointed out that though significant milestones have already been recorded, the greatest effect would only be possible with the active collaboration of state and local governments.

Enelamah who spoke at the 10th meeting of the National Council on Industry, Trade and Investment, with the theme, “Ease of Doing Business: The Role of States and Local Governments”, which took place in Umuahia, Abia State, pointed out that President Muhammadu Buhari has shown strong political will by establishing and supporting the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) with an ambitious mandate of removing constraints and bottlenecks in doing business in Nigeria; and by signing the Executive Order 001, which promotes transparency, default approvals and one government.

The minister took stock of some of the successes recorded by the government so far in various sectors, noting for instance, that business registration in Nigeria can now be concluded within 48 hours with the automated platform by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

On trading across borders, Enelamah listed some of the completed reforms to include reduction in import documentation requirements from 14 to eight and export documents from 10 to seven; introduction of advance cargo manifests and scheduling of joint physical examination anchored by the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS).

Other reforms include the passage and signing into law of two bills to ease access to credit for MSMEs. “These two bills are the Secured Transactions in Movable Assets Act 2017 and the Credit Reporting Act 2017,” Enelamah said.

He stated that the Bank of Industry (BoI) has “reviewed its credit processes to customers with a view to reducing the turn-around time associated with loan applications and approvals. BoI has also reformed loan application process to provide clear and easily accessible information to the public on processes, timelines, fees and conditions.

“Technologies were deployed to improve service delivery in the ministries in the areas of SME platform, digitising and simplifying the provision of government services. Examples include Commercial Law Department in our Ministry, digitising One Stop Investment Centre and Pioneer Status Incentives Processes at the Nigeria Investment Promotion Council (NIPC),” he said.

Enelamah also disclosed that the Federal Government, last July, issued a directive compelling all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to comply with the Ease of Doing Business Reforms.

“These reforms are beginning to yield positive results on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking. The World Bank also ranked Nigeria during the first three years of President Buhari’s administration as one of the 10 most reforming and improved economies in the World,” he said.

The minister said the next frontier of these reforms can only work with the active collaboration of state and local governments that need to come up with relevant Doing Business reforms, knowing fully well that the real impact of the Enabling Environment and Ease of Doing Business Reforms must be felt on the ground at the state and local government levels.

“For instance, state governments should undertake reforms process of making land documentation and business registration seamless as resolved at the 9th Meeting of the National Council. Nigeria can only progress on the Ease of Doing Business initiative on the basis of collaboration among the key stakeholders, especially the state governments. States must therefore help put in place efficient and transparent rules and procedures at the local government levels. This would be the bedrock of a vibrant economy and true entrepreneurship environment,” he said.

He assured the state and local governments of the support of the Federal Government in their reform efforts. Present at the meeting in Umuahia were the deputy governor of Abia, Sir Ude Oko-Chukwu, Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Sunday Edet Akpan and the Hon. Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Abia State, Chief Charles Ogbonna.

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