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PEBEC’s story and a showcase of audacious innovation

PEBEC’s story and a showcase of audacious innovation

There is always the tendency to dismiss the office of the Vice President in the American-type arrangement after which Nigeria’s system is aptly modelled, as a Tokunbo spare parts shop – the type associated with Apo Mechanic village in Abuja, Ladipo in Lagos and other hubs for fairly used components — compared with accredited dealership outlets of major automobiles giants, such as the UTC, Leventis, Elizade, Coscharis, etc., that offer “tear-rubber” components.

However, every once in a while, there emerges a vice president who creates a performance-based identity. They elevate the image of spare parts traders they connote and gain global repute.

After his term as vice-president ended in 2001, Albert Arnold Gore Jr. remained prominent as an author and environmental activist, whose work in climate change activism earned him (jointly with the IPCC) the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. Atiku Abubakar was said to have been very powerful during the first term of the Obasanjo presidency, which may have ironically created for him problems that made him a marginal figure in the second term.

Economies that grow fastest and at more sustainable rates are those that actively promote trade and attract investment

Historians will have a big job assessing Professor Oluyemi Oluleke Osinbajo, SAN, GCON, the Vice President of Nigeria from May 29, 2015, to May 29, 2023. Was the law professor influential or not influential in government? Will he, like Al Gore, become more influential out of office? Historians’ verdict on him will depend on which yardsticks – mundane or profound — they apply in assessing his performance so far and where it places him in record books.

If they use the latter, more problematic, criterion, they should find a lot in Growth — Our PEBEC Story to make their judgment in favour of the man. Unapologetically, Prof. Osinbajo has been the least politically partisan vice president that Nigeria has had. He very early in the Buhari administration identified a niche – the need to make the business environment in Nigeria more friendly to investors at all levels to accelerate business and economic growth.

On May 29, 2015, three priority areas for the Buhari administration were improving security, rebuilding the economy and tackling corruption. By October of that year, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was assigned to chair the Economic Management Team focused on actualizing the priority pillar of the Administration – the economy.

“This set the context for policy discussions in the Office of the Vice President (OVP) on strategies for improving the Nigerian business environment as a formidable tool for enhancing productivity and competitiveness for economic growth and development,” recall the authors. In January 2016, the then Senior Special Assistant to the President on Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Jumoke Oduwole, and the Special Adviser to the then Honorable Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Bunmi Adeoye, were, according to the book, tasked with brainstorming and working out the modalities for a business climate reform intervention, “with help from a few friends from the private sector. There were a number of engagements and consultations that heralded the establishment of the Council.”

The Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), which is chaired by the Vice President, was inaugurated in July 2016. The clear mandate of the Council was to oversee reforms in Nigeria’s business environment; to remove bureaucratic constraints to doing business in the country; to make the country a progressively easier place to start and grow a business. The Council secretariat is staffed by young Nigerians from the public and private sectors with diverse backgrounds. They assist ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to implement the reform agenda of the Council in creative and innovative ways that has earned the PEEBC the attention of public, private and international stakeholders, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Gov/Tech Lab.

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 process issues,” says Dr. Oluwole. “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.”

On May 18, 2017, Prof. Osinbajo, then acting President, signed the 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.

Soon the Council had a life of its own, due largely to the singular passion-driven industry, resourcefulness and commitment of Dr. Oduwole, the international law scholar and expert, Special Adviser to the President on Ease of Doing Business and Executive Secretary to the PEBEC.

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 agencies across the public and private sectors who have made significant contributions to the initiatives over the past two years.

Indeed, more than the razmataz of the award ceremony, the PEBEC has a unique story to tell the world. This is contained in Growth — Our PEBEC Story. According to its authors, “This legacy book captures highlights of major lessons learnt over the lifespan of the project so far and distils the vital role stakeholder collaboration plays in the delivery of reforms.”

On the pages of the book are details of the thinking that went into the PEBEC, the nature of collaboration among motley ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of the government that are not often considered to be in the habit of working together, as well as statements from thinkers, philosophers, statesmen and intellectuals that resonate with those genuinely interested in, and committed to making the Nigerian environment supportive of investment.

In Growth — Our PEBEC Story the trajectory of the Council has been documented in a more poignant, visually appealing and reader-friendly format than is familiar in Nigeria. It is open to debate if any government-led intervention has told its story in such an innovative format. The format is perhaps the most unorthodox mode, reminiscent of the PEBEC Play – “The Future is Here” and a highly effective way to tell the story of a successful initiative of the Nigerian government.

With video clips via QR codes to bring the story to life, this legacy book uses iconic graphics and compelling photographs to make the point that “Economies that grow fastest and at more sustainable rates are those that actively promote trade and attract investment.” So, when PEBEC says “We are committed to creating an enabling environment and making Nigeria an attractive place for business and investment,” it’s difficult to differ.

In the 340-page book of seven chapters in which PEBEC tells its own story, the Council acknowledges the significance of President Muhammadu Buhari’s vision of establishing the inaugural cohort of members in 2016. They quoted the President as follows: “He then mandated us to solve a malignant problem.”

Indeed, the book is about “the problem” and how PEBEC went about confronting the problems related to “the problem”. “From the beginning, we were clear in our minds that it would be unrealistic to attempt to solve all the problems that we had identified in one fell swoop.”, says the authors of the book.

The seven chapters of the book have the following thematic titles: The Beginning, (of) Re-thinking, Our Ways, Across Regions, (with) Collaboration, From Within (to) Secure Tomorrow.

The compendium details the components of the problems, the strategies proffered and the range of collaborative efforts galvanized to solve them. One remarkable thing about the book is that its authors did not fail to detail the contributions of Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, inaugural Vice Chair of the PEBEC and the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment from 2015 to 2019, in tandem with the efforts of the immediate past Vice Chair, Otunba Niyi Adebayo.

The book captures how the PEBEC team led by Dr. Oduwole creatively designed and implemented a series of innovative reform initiatives at all arms and levels of government with measurable success. It highlights the tools used by the Council in response to Executive Order 001 on Transparency and Efficiency in the business environment, as well as ReportGov.NG, the Council’s feedback portal.

Read also: PEBEC: Honouring the deserving to sustain healthy competition towards national development

It contextualizes how the subnational ease of doing business program has been strengthened by various strategic communications initiatives, including the LITuation (a coinage for Listen, Implement and Track) tour and the biennial subnational ease of doing business survey released in March 2021and March 2023. The book also details the modalities for the implementation of the State Action for Business Enabling Reforms (SABER), a program jointly designed by the PEBEC and the World Bank to provide incentives to States for the deepening of ease of doing business (EoDB) reforms.

Needless to say, the current Administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has already taken a strong interest in the Ease of Doing Business legacy of the Buhari Administration as a basis for some campaign promises. The PEBEC is, therefore, poised to continue to deliver impactful reforms with Renewed Hope under the able leadership of His Excellency, Vice President Kashim Shettima, the Chair of the third iteration of the Council, which Nigerians eagerly await its inauguration in the near future.

Growth — Our PEBEC Story was written by the PEBEC secretariat’s editorial team led by Dr Oduwole (as Editor-in-Chief) and is available for download free of charge from the Business Made Easy website (www.businessmadeeasy.ng)