As the Alaghodaro Investment Summit got underway on Friday in Benin City, the Edo State capital, investment experts and heads of federal government regulatory agencies proffered solutions to the bureaucratic bottlenecks in government that are hindering the growth of businesses in Nigeria.
At a plenary session on Institutional Reforms tilted Doing Things Differently, Professor Oladapo Afolabi, former Head of Service of the Federation, stressed that for any reform to yield the desired result, the buy-in of the political class and the common people must be secured and sustained over time.
“To sustain this reform, there must be the buy-in of the political class and members of the public. This will ensure that the reform is placed in the heart of the people,” Prof Afolabi said.
He urged the state government to be responsive to new demands and be ready to carry the civil service along in its reform programmes to ensure their success.
According to Prof Afolabi, “the state government must continuously adapt to the forces of change in ensuring institutional reforms to drive its vision of achieving economic growth.
“The reforms should focus on areas that will mostly impact on the wellbeing of the people, as sustainable institutional reform is people-driven. The state government must have an implementation plan as previous reforms embarked by governments in Nigeria failed because they were not structured, and had no implementation plan.”
In her remark, former Executive Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and Partner, Compliance Professionals Limited, Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru, who moderated the session, declared that with the investment summit, Edo State is ready for business and called for a synergy among stakeholders to achieve the desired goal.
In her submission, the Executive Secretary of Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), Yewande Sadiku, said that the inclusion of investment promotion in the reform programme will help the state in her investment drive.
“Investment promotion should be proactive and focus on telling the investors how conducive the environment is and how attractive the returns are, amongst other incentives.
She advised that a state investment promotion agency should be created to drive the promotion of investments, adding, “The agency should be the eye of investors inside government because they understand the needs of investors. The agency must also buy-in into the need to drive investment and be given full access to govt information.”
Professor Julius Ihonvbere, the Chairman, Organising Committee on Alaghodaro Investment Summit and Chairman, Strategic Planning Team, Edo State Government, explained that the Obaseki-led administration has done a lot in institutional reforms.
“We have put our house in order, which is critical to driving investment as the state is among the few states with a strategic document stating how the government intends to drive policy implementation,” he added.
We also have in place a monitoring committee on the ease of doing business to monitor activities of ministries and agencies of government to ensure they all comply to the standard.”
We are not just interested in attracting investors but also focusing on driving the small and medium enterprises as we are collaborating with the Bank of Industry (BOI) in this regard.”
Uyi Akpata of PriceWaterhouseCoopers, commended Governor Godwin Obaseki for his investment drive and commitment to reforming institutions that are critical to economic growth.
“The civil service must be repositioned to key into the institutional reforms ongoing in the state and there should be incentive for civil servants to support the reform,” he advised.
The Managing Director, Rural Electrification Agency (REA) Damilola Ogunbiyi, called for the support of the ongoing decentralisation of power supply in the country through its off-grid and stand-alone systems.
“Stable power supply is part of institutional reforms we need to support economic growth and progress,” she said.
She assured that Edo State has a lot to gain from the new power supply initiative as talks were ongoing to supply electricity to some markets in the state and government offices.