Inside the Banquet Hall of the State House on 26 April, 2023, it was colour and glitz when the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) organized its 5th awards ceremony to appreciate the efforts of individuals and agencies in both public and private sectors who have made significant contributions to the initiatives over the past two years.
PEBEC is chaired by the Vice President, with the minister of Industry, Trade & Investment as Vice Chair. It consists of 13 key ministers, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Head of Civil Service of the Federation and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. PEBEC also has representations from the National Assembly and the Judiciary, as well as State Governments (Lagos and Kano), Local Governments (AMAC) and the private sector.
Among the important dignitaries at the event were the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha; Ministers of Finance, Budget and National Planning (Zainab Ahmed); Trade, Industry and Investment (Niyi Adebayo); as well as Heads and personnel of international development finance institutions, including The World Bank, African Development Bank (AfDB), Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM); among others.
The first session on the night’s programme was on “The PEBEC Experience”, which started at 4 p.m. It featured interactive sessions at which attendees engaged with PEBEC’s partners and learnt about their various interventions aimed at improving the business environment in Nigeria.
This was followed by the Awards Ceremony and Dinner from 6 p.m., where deserving awardees were honoured for their outstanding contributions to the efforts to improve ease of doing business in Nigeria.
The awards included the Executive Order 001 Award for the Top 5 most improved ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs); the Impact Awards to recognize the support of journalists, development partner institutions and individuals; the NAP 7.0 Award to recognize the achievements of specific MDAs and individuals to the 7th PEBEC National Action Plan reform cycle; the Judiciary Award, where Special Recognition Awards were given to State Judiciaries which have distinguished themselves in the operations and performance of the Small Claims Courts in their respective jurisdictions; Legislative Awards for stakeholders who collaborated to implement legislative reforms; and Subnational EoDB Ranking Awards to honour States with the highest scores based on empirical data from micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in the 2021 and 2023 subnational EoDB Ranking conducted by the PEBEC.
At the ceremony, it was not the fact that, in the last seven years, the Council delivered over 180 reforms to enable the nation’s business environment that underscored its accomplishments but, rather, the sheer number of stakeholder organizations that it has brought together to achieve the common purpose of making the system work for medium, small and micro enterprises (MSMEs).
The whole atmosphere was a spectacle. To start with, participants in the event were ushered into a section of the hall and acquainted with a simulation of the way things were in Nigeria before PEBEC. Images were invoked of a business environment that crippled investments by both foreign and local investors – derelict infrastructure, cumbersome procedures and a general unattractive setting for investment.
Shortly after, visitors were led into a hall adorned with banners announcing, indeed brandishing the PEBEC era and the reforms at different levels – national and subnational – and business types that have lifted Nigeria to the top league of nations that have created vastly enhanced environments for businesses to be established by different calibres of investors, nurtured and thrive.
The second segment of the evening’s program was the presentation of awards. The stage was enlivened by the use of a mixture of music (old Nigerian highlife and contemporary pop tunes) and dance to arrest the attention of the large audience made up of representatives of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of the federal and state governments.
The event was officiated by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who highlighted the strides that Nigeria has made since the advent of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), of which he is chairman.
In addition to the delivery of about 180 reforms, he said that PEBEC has also developed homegrown National Action Plans (NAPs) to implement priority reforms by select Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) for each annual reform cycle.
He further elaborated on the achievements of the Council since its inception in 2016, the Vice President said: “What we have seen over the last five years is a pointer to the possibilities for a new Nigeria. The private sector also deserves our heartfelt gratitude and commendation for its commitment and collaboration, especially their contributions in technical support and capacity building. They take much of the credit for the quality output of the EBES, especially through the first three years of the project.”
In conveying the appreciation of President Muhammadu Buhari to members of the Council and to every stakeholder that has made the PEBEC success possible, he said: “But we must all remember that success births success.”
At the event, the Vice President was himself honored with “The PEBEC Catalyst Award”, a new category of award “reserved for the most impactful, dedicated and consistent supporter of the implementation of ease of doing business reforms,” according to the citation, which also credited the Vice President with going “over and above the call of duty in the course of supporting the delivery of reforms for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises operating in Nigeria, making it an easier place to start and grow a business.”
The reforms inspired by PEBEC are primarily targeted at reducing the cost and time of doing business, with enhanced transparency
On May 18, 2017, Prof. Osinbajo, then acting President, signed Executive Order 001 (EO1) on Promotion of Transparency and Efficiency in the Business Environment, the first executive order of the Buhari administration, which gave directives on Transparency, Default Approval, One Government, Port Operations, and Registration of Businesses.
At the event, Gombe state was adjudged the best state in Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria and presented with an award for the category by the Vice President, having emerged the highest score based on empirical data from micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in the 2021 and 2023 sub-national ease of doing business. The award was received by Deputy Governor of Gombe state, Dr. Manassah Daniel Jatau. Recently, in the Sub-national Ease of Doing Business Report for 2023, Gombe State won the highest points, leading the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
The award for the best Development Partner Institution went to The World Bank Group (WBG) Nigeria Country Office, which was received by Mr Shubham Chaudhuri- Statuette, its Representative.
The PEBEC prime mover is unquestionably Dr. Jumoke Oduwole, an international law scholar, who is the Secretary of PEBEC and Special Adviser to the President on Ease of Doing Business,. In her welcome statement, she said, “This evening is about the power of ONE idea – the journey of how a single thought on how to improve the ease of doing business in Nigeria was incubated, and from ideation, birthed as a Presidential Council on the onset of this Administration.
“This idea grew into a homegrown, internationally recognized, national intervention by Nigerians for all Nigerians. An idea whose time has come.”
Speaking on the functions and workings of the Council, Dr. Jumoke Oduwole, said “the PEBEC model draws on collaboration and much-needed high-level political buy-in across all arms and levels of government, as well as the private sector.”
PEBEC was established in July 2016 to oversee Nigeria’s business environment reform mandate of removing bureaucratic constraints to doing business in Nigeria and to make the country a progressively easier place to start and grow a business. Its secretariat is staffed by young Nigerians from the public and private sectors with diverse backgrounds. They assist ministries, departments and agencies to implement the reform agenda of the Council in creative and innovative ways that has earned us the attention of and formal collaboration with the likes of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Gov/Tech Lab.
Its activities have led to Nigeria’s rise in the World Bank Doing Business rankings, Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum or periodic independent empirical impact assessment which have adjudged these reforms as impactful in terms of reduction in time, cost and procedures of doing business, tracing some of its contributions to the GDP of Nigeria.
The reforms inspired by PEBEC are primarily targeted at reducing the cost and time of doing business, with enhanced transparency. “We prioritize soft Infrastructure – people and processes issues,” says Dr. Oduwole. “While there still remains a lot of work to be done, we are grateful to have recorded notable strides in regulatory reform, with particular emphasis on the deployment of technology, legislative reforms, judicial reforms and subnational reforms.”