Efforts of the Federal Government to ease the business environment through the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) seem to have yielded very few results, as businesses still suffer hiccups in carrying out operations in the country.
Business owners have particularly flagged tax multiplicity among various levels of government and regulatory agencies as well as irregular processes at the Apapa ports as burdens on business activities that limit productivity and profitability.
This was discussed during the roundtable discussion on the Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria hosted by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI).
Toki Mabogunje, president of, LCCI said Nigeria’s improved ranking on the World Bank’s ease of doing business report partly reflects the Federal Government’s efforts through the PEBEC in eliminating constraints and bottlenecks to doing business in the country.
“However, on the flip-side, the improved ranking has not cascaded in a material improvement in the business environment as businesses and investors are still faced with several structural and regulatory challenges, which has kept the cost of doing business elevated,” she said
She highlighted other challenges like limited access to financing opportunities, worsening public infrastructure, heightening security situation, and unfavourable regulations.
Mabogunje noted that beyond affecting businesses, it is also weakening investors’ confidence in the country as there is a strong correlation between ease of doing business and private investment flows.
“A supportive and conducive environment is needed to accelerate the pace of economic recovery, regain investor confidence, attract fresh investments, and generate employment opportunities,” she said.
Muda Yusuf, the director-general of LCCI said the submissions of international organisations like the World Bank fail to reflect the reality of situations as they exclude crucial metrics like infrastructure availability, security, transparency, regulatory activities, etc.
He highlighted the issue of multiple taxations which is prevalent among regulatory agencies as well as the state and local levels of government.
Yusuf added that many business owners need to pay dues or levies some of which are undocumented to engage with these agencies.
He also “It is not easy to drive reform in an unfriendly environment also we do not have too many reformed people in the government because a lot of them are benefitting from the status quo,” he said
Varkey Verghese, CEO, Jawa International Ltd, a manufacturing conglomerate raised the issue of delayed productions due to the uncanny activities at the port.
“Delay at the ports slows the production process as raw material availability is delayed, eventually when some of these materials arrive, they have either expired or are no longer fit for production purpose,” he said
He also mentioned the unavailable electronic process which he says is not accessible hence business owners are forced to engage with agencies through the traditional method which is slow and tortuous.
Making reference to the Ease of Doing Business subnational baseline survey, Jumoke Oduwole, special adviser to the president on Ease of Doing Business, said major issues affecting business operations include issues around infrastructure and security, transparency and access to information, the regulatory environment and skills and labour workforce readiness.
Oduwole, who doubles as the secretary of PEBEC said that the council was making intentional efforts along with the various levels of government to create suitable frameworks that would be implemented for the benefit of the business environment
She added that although efforts have been ongoing as to how to resolve issues pertaining to the port, the issues never seem to end and are being met with resistance.
“We have been trying to remove all forms of human contact in the port process and replace it with technology but it has been met with some resistance, the system is also bedevilled with various challenges particularly corruption,” she added.