Osinbajo Accuses Some Govt Agencies of Frustrating Small Businesses

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Tobi Soniyi in Abuja

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo tuesday accused some government agencies of hindering the development of businesses in Nigeria and frustrating the federal government’s desire to ease the process of doing business.

Osinbajo, who spoke at the media launch of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises Clinics at the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, however did not mention the names of the agencies.

He said urgent steps must be taken to change the orientation of these agencies so that they would see themselves first as facilitators of business and not merely revenue-generating bodies.

He said when he toured the country in his capacity as the head of the Economic Management Team, he received many complaints of how difficult it was for businesses to get government’s approval on virtually everything. According to him, some small manufacturers after hiring consultants to take them through approval processes, still took a year to get approval for them from some agencies.

He said, “Just yesterday (Monday) at the quarterly business forum with the organised private sector, one of the participants again complained very loudly about the near impossibility of getting approvals for manufacturing.
“The complaint was so loud that everybody in the room agreed with this lady.

“This was for me a very disturbing finding and very disturbing development because it meant that our agencies were yet to buy into our major plan of economic recovery which is to make it easier to do business in Nigeria. “It is also an indication that we need to do something to change the orientation of our various agencies.

“Instead of being merely revenue-generating, the various agencies must see themselves as facilitators of business first.

“An agency of government that is meant to grant approval must see this first and foremost as its primary objective, if not we have lost focus completely. Then we are no longer active participants in the economic plans and goals of the nation but we have set ourselves up as something else, we have become obstacles.” In order to address the challenges, Osinbajo said his office in conjunction with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment came up with the idea of MSMEs Clinics.

He said the idea was to bring together key federal government this agencies with which the MSMEs interact in one place at a time to enable small businesses consult with them directly and obtain solutions on the spot.

The vice president said the clinics would also serve as a one-stop shop for dealing with various business concerns, approval issues among others and to give opportunity to the MSMEs to interact directly with regulators.
To achieve the desired purposes, he said the MSMEs clinic must go round the states ading that the Federal Government had brought together state governments to participate in the programme.

According to him, this would also help to give the regulatory agencies a better understanding and also enable the state governments play a key role in assisting with facilitating MSME businesses.

He said: “We also expect the state government agencies to also imbibe and contribute in achieving the attitudinal change in supporting small businesses instead of making life difficult for them.

“We are counting on state governors to help mobilise MSMEs to take advantage of the clinics when it comes to their respective states.

“It is important to stress that this is a Federal Government project, it is a commitment that the President has made to ensure that difference is made in the way we do pre-investment approvals. This has the full backing of Mr. President and he is extremely passionate.

“I must stress that our interest in achieving this result is one that we must all work towards. It is important to us and we must deliver on these things.”

Osinbajo said the performance of agencies would be tracked by the number of solutions provided to MSMEs who visit their stands and what the solutions were.

“In other words, its the MSMES themselves that will give us a feedback on whether or not they got they desired assistance or not,” he said.

The Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, described the government’s step as a healthy development.
He said, “The gap between the people that these agencies are supposed to serve and the recipients of such services are so huge that our medium and small enterprises do not even understand why and what these agencies stand for.
“I think is a healthy development that one can have the opportunity to sit one-on-one with agencies like Standard Organisation of Nigeria, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, Inland Review Service and Cooperate Affairs Commission with those people whom they are supposed to serve and solve their problems.

“There is a lot of dislocation between policies and implementation.”
The Kwara State Governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, said the MSMEs Clinics would serve as a major platform for facilitating all the various agencies that are supposed to serve as support providers to ensuring that people who require services are able to access them.

He said, “They are actually supposed to be solution providers but you find out that a lot of the institutions are held back by bureaucracy and have never had the impact of really serving the people.

“So this is going to be a platform to articulate all platforms that will serve entrepreneurs in a better platform.
”This is one of the best things to happen to MSMEs because for the first time, we are sitting together to bridge the gaps.”

Under the first phase, workshops would be held in 21 cities across the country begining from Abia State on Thursday and