Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said the outgoing government of President Muhammadu Buhari has made significant efforts in improving the business environment in Nigeria through the implementation of ease of doing business reforms, but more needs to be done in the coming years to deliver a shared prosperity for all.
According to a statement by his media aid, Laolu Akande, Osinbajo made the assertion in his keynote speech on Wednesday as Special Guest of Honour at the 5th Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) Awards, which held at the Statehouse Banquet Hall, Abuja.
The Vice President is the Chair of PEBEC, an inter-Governmental and inter-Ministerial Council established by the President.
The VP recalled how President Muhammadu Buhari in 2016, established the Council, to improve the business environment in the country.
Highlighting the far-reaching reforms implemented by the PEBEC since its inception, Prof. Osinbajo noted that PEBEC “has achieved the delivery of over 180 reforms and completed 7 National Action Plans geared towards improving the Nigerian business environment.
“These successes are anchored on the collaboration among all stakeholders. And we must all appreciate the efforts of our tireless civil and public servants. What we have seen over the last five years is a pointer to the possibilities for a new Nigeria,” he stated.
Through PEBEC reforms, Nigeria has improved an aggregate of 39 places in the World Bank Doing Business index since 2016. The country was also twice named as one of the top 10 most improved economies in the world as a result of the activities of PEBEC.
Commending the Council for the successful implementation of reforms over the years, the VP noted that “we must all remember that success births success. While we must not rest on our oars tonight, let us take a moment to relish our accomplishments so far and leave here tonight renewed and reenergized for the work that lies ahead.”
The VP observed that “we knew from the on-set that attempting to effect some of the most comprehensive procedural and administrative reforms in our history was going to require time, strong political will and insistence on following the plan.
“We have certainly moved the needle, but the task going forward is to consolidate and advance. That would require in the coming years even greater commitment to following the plan, to departmental accountability for failure to deliver on reforms, and to unwavering excellence.”
Prof. Osinbajo further noted that improving the business environment in Nigeria was a continuous process because of “a challenging business and trading environment for domestic and foreign investors operating in Nigeria. And a difficult business environment always means fewer investors, fewer jobs and less opportunities for all.”
The VP, who conveyed President Muhammadu Buhari’s appreciation to members of the Council and every stakeholder that has made the PEBEC success story possible, recalled that the President had charged the Council “with positively impacting Nigeria’s business environment by removing the bureaucratic constraints being experienced by a large number of stakeholders.”
According to the VP, some of these challenges included removing bottlenecks and obstacles, while delivering the reorientation of regulatory authorities and civil servants who deal with businesses on a daily basis; as well as the significant trust deficit from the private sector towards the government, and correct the pervading negative perceptions, by ensuring that our policies and regulations are enablers to Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs).
“With the myriad of challenges at the time, we knew it was going to be onerous, yet not insurmountable. This task was essential to the shared prosperity of all. 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. An attempt to boil the ocean or eat an elephant whole was never part of the plan.
“With this in mind, we had to develop a strategy that would allow us to identify and implement bold, pragmatic reforms. This strategy was to prioritise the frontal pain points of MSMEs and install a systemic framework to resolve them. We did this by soliciting and obtaining the support of other arms and levels of Government with PEBEC representatives from the National Assembly and the Judiciary, as well as all subnational governments through the National Economic Council (NEC).”
Speaking further on the successes recorded by the PEBEC since inception, the Vice President recalled that in 2020, the PEBEC interventions were further expanded to include Local Governments through the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) which served as a pilot for interventions at the municipal level of government.
“Over the last seven years, our visionary team dominated by young Nigerians from both private and public sectors, led by Dr Jumoke Oduwole, have designed and implemented a series of reform initiatives at the federal level with measurable success. Among other tools and strategies, the team developed a homegrown 60-day accelerator – our National Action Plans (NAPs) – to implement priority reforms by select Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) for each annual reform cycle.
“The PEBEC Secretariat supports about 15 priority public-facing agencies and currently tracks over 53 MDAs. This is in support of Executive Order 001 on Transparency and Efficiency of public service delivery to the business environment as well as ReportGov.ng, the Council’s feedback mechanism.”
The Vice President also commended the private sector 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. But the work of PEBEC is far from done. We are yet to realize our target of becoming one of the top 10 nations globally for Ease of doing business,” he added.
Some of the awards presented at the event which was highlighted by music and dance performances included the Most Improved Agencies for 2022 Executive Order 01 Compliance, which was won by the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC). The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) came second and third respectively.
Similarly, the Nigeria Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) won the award for the Most Compliant Agencies for 2022 Executive Order 01 (compliance), with the Executive Secretary, Engr Simbi Wabote in attendance to receive the award. The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) came second and third respectively.
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) was honoured with the award for “the completion of the Enforcement of Order 172 on timeline to complete new connection to the grid,” while the World Bank Group (WBG) Nigeria Country Office, received the Impact Awards for Development Partner Institution.
At the presentation of Nigeria Subnational EoDB Awards, Gombe State won the 1st Position for Inaugural Report 2021, while Jigawa and Sokoto were second and third respectively.
Post Humous Award certificates were also presented to the Comptroller, Tariff & Trade, Nigeria Customs Service, Anthony Ayalogu; and the Deputy Director & Zonal Coordinator (Kebbi, Sokoto & Zamfara), Mr. Adamu Kudu.
Also at the event, the Vice President was presented with the inaugural PEBEC ‘The Catalyst’ Award, a new category of the PEBEC Awards given to the VP in recognition of being the most impactful, dedicated and consistent supporter of the implementation of the Ease of Doing Business reforms in Nigeria.
According to the Special Adviser to the President on Ease of Doing Business, Dr. Jumoke Oduwole, the award is given to the individual “who went over and above the call of duty in the course of supporting the delivery of reforms for MSMEs operating in Nigeria, making it an easier place to start and grow a business.”
Among other impactful steps by the VP, including supporting judicial reforms, Oduwole recalled that, “on May 18, 2017, tonight’s awardee (VP Osinbajo), then as Acting President, signed Executive Order 001, on promotion of transparency and efficiency in the business environment, the first executive order of this administration with directives on transparency, default approvals, One Government, ports operations and registration of businesses.”
Presenting the award to the VP on behalf of the PEBEC secretariat team and its alumni, Oduwole said, “Your Excellency, your outstanding leadership qualities are well known. We at the PEBEC secretariat are grateful for the consistent chairing of multiple PEBEC meetings for many years, for listening to our issues and taking time to engage with us, even with junior members of the team. You are a phenomenal boss, you are compassionate, and kind hearted. You are an ardent support of women in leadership. You are an exemplary role model, a father figure, a God-fearing man, a fine gentleman.”
Dignitaries at the event included the Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu, while the Gombe State Governor, Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya, was represented by his deputy, Manassah Daniel Jatau. Some members of the National Assembly also graced the event.
Also in attendance were the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr., Boss Mustapha; the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo; Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajia Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed; Minister of State for Science, Technology and Innovation, Chief Henry Ikechukwu Ikoh; Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, Mr. Ade Ipaye; the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan;
Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State was represented by his Special Adviser on Economy, Finance and Investments, Mr. Abdulkareem Siyaka.
Other dignitaries at the event included the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Mrs. Maryam Uwais; captains of industry, heads of government agencies and parastatals, members of the organised private sector, diplomatic corps; among other senior government officials.