Bashir Hassan presents the Presidential enabling business environment council
For a long time, it was international development agencies, such as The World Bank, UNDP, Transparency International, and the likes that took the lead in setting criteria for assessing and tracking the empirical performance of government agencies in Nigeria.
That order has changed. Recently, the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) released its latest in a long line of periodic reports since its inception in 2016. The Presidential Executive Order 001 (EO1) on the Promotion of Transparency and Efficiency in the Business Environment, which was issued on May 18, 2017, and this report is in line with the PEBEC’s promise to continuously track and keep the business community updated on compliance with the Executive Order on Transparency and Efficiency in the Nigerian Business Environment.
According to the report, the top five performing MDAs are:
One, the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) which emerged first at 81.11%; two, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) (78.68%); third, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Council (FCCPC) ( 68.37%); fourth, Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) (4th, 64.59%); and Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) (5th, 63.68%).
In releasing the report, Dr Jumoke Oduwole, the Special Adviser to the President on Ease of Doing Business, stated that “the codification of EO1 directives in the Business Facilitation Act 2022 is a major development in the efforts to entrench EO1 in the psyche of the civil service for the benefit of the economy. It is expected that the legal provisions will serve as a stimulus for a more transparent and efficient public service delivery in Nigeria.”
Dr. Oduwole is already widely recognised as one of the high fliers in the Buhari administration for her work as the pioneer Executive Secretary of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), Chaired by the Vice President, where policies aimed at supporting small and medium-sized enterprises are facilitated. PEBEC generates policies aimed at supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, facilitated to make Nigeria a progressively easier place to do business in collaboration with all arms and levels of government as well as the private sector.
The Executive Order was issued in 2017, the first one of this administration, to address transparency and efficiency of public service delivery as antidotes to bureaucracy and corruption. It focused on Customs, Immigration, Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), and other core agencies which interface daily with the business public.
On the progress that has been made since 2016, she says: “We have moved up 39 places in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking. We were recognised twice in the top 10 leaders in the world reform in a three-year period. In those three years, we passed an unprecedented amount of legislations through the National Assembly, including the Secured Transactions in Movable Property Act 2017 and the Credit Reporting Act 2017, both of which facilitate access to credit for MSMEs.
“We also coordinated the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) re-enactment. There was a 30-years hiatus during which agencies tried to collaborate and they needed a coordinator to bring all the stakeholders together. So we worked with CAC, which is the anchor agency, and with a number of private sector organizations, SEC, the Stock Exchange and other stakeholders, including leading law firms and the Ministry of Justice’s legal drafting team. We also worked on the Omnibus (Business Facilitation) Bill since 2018. I’m on the committee that produces the annual Finance Bills, with my team also sitting on its subcommittees.”
EO1 gives full executive support for reforms intended to foster an environment that is conducive for business by entrenching policies and practices that encourage transparency and efficiency in public service delivery.
Since June 2017, the PEBEC Secretariat, in collaboration with the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Service Compact (SEVICOM) Office, has trained, tracked and evaluated ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) on their compliance with EO1 to date. The underlining key objectives of the Order are to:
• Deepen the impact of completed reforms in the frontline offices that engage with the public; foster collaboration between MDAs in their service delivery; institutionalize systemic change sustainably.
The drive for increased economic development needed to be championed at the highest political level. This led to the establishment of PEBEC in July of 2016. “It is put at the presidential level because you need a high level so that there can be proper synergy,” she explained. “The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment is the Vice Chair of the Council. It has the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, as well as a number of relevant ministers on it. It is a convening power to pull together all the decision makers and all the influencers to work hand in hand to deliver an enabling environment for the private sector, because no ministry can deliver it alone, they need each other. The agencies and parastatals under the ministries need to be coordinated as their mandates sometimes overlap, causing strain on small businesses to meet burdensome regulatory compliance.”
The PEBEC-led efforts to entrench EO1 in the psyche of the Civil Service of the Federation for the benefit of MSMEs received a major boost with the signing into law of the Business Facilitation (Miscellaneous Provision) Act, 2022 by President Muhammadu Buhari on February 8, 2023. The Act is a legislative intervention by the PEBEC which codifies E01, and amends 21 business related laws, to remove bureaucratic constraints to doing business in Nigeria.
Over the years, there has been increased awareness on the objectives of the EO1. From analyses of the EO1 reports progress is being recorded on the efficiency and transparency directives. From our assessment, most MDAs now have functional websites while 25 out of the MDAs tracked have adopted an online process for citizen application for services. In the same vein, the report reveals that specific MDAs continue to deliver consistent performance due to adherence to their SLAs and also in driving a flexible service delivery approach.
In a recent interview with a national newspaper, Dr Oduwole recalled what the Buhari administration met on ground in the economic development terrain:
“When the administration came into office in 2015, what was met on ground was the private sector agitating for a friendlier business climate. The private sector always wants more and deserves to have more. I wouldn’t say that there was nothing going on before 2015, but there was a lack of coordination. So you might have one ministry working on a reform, another ministry or agency working on another reform. There was also a big trust deficit between the private sector and government, so we did some fact-finding, engaged with private sector, looked at international best practice, and the World Bank had this ease of doing business programme.”
In 2021, the PEBEC released its inaugural baseline survey Ease of Doing Business Report on Nigeria as part of its collaboration with the National Economic Council (NEC) on ease of doing business. The PEBEC Secretariat has also supported many states in setting up active ease of doing business councils chaired by the governor (eg Nasarawa, Ekiti) or the deputy governor (eg Kaduna) or Secretary to the Government (eg Anambra), the commissioner of finance (eg Edo) or other high-ranking government official. In each state, a reform champion works with a PEBEC template and replicates the model. A World Bank $750 million three-year facility has been secured for Nigeria and under the SABER program and each state that meets certain ease of doing business requirements will be eligible to obtain soft loans, administered on a performance for results basis.
The council has also worked closely with some state judiciaries in the establishment of the first small claims court in Lagos in 2018, which, by the end of 2022, had handled over 4000 cases. Similar courts have been established in Kano and seven other states, Jigawa, Ekiti, Ogun, and Edo, the latest being Rivers, with Bayelsa and others expected to join shortly.
Hassan is a business and economy analyst based in Abuja.