Chris Steven, Abuja
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has reiterated the Federal Government’s commitment to improving Nigeria’s ranking in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index, saying the current ranking of 169 out of 190 countries is unacceptable.
The Minister, who gave the pledge in Abuja on Thursday when he received Dr. Jumoke Oduwole, the Coordinator and Secretary to the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) on a courtesy visit to his office, lauded the various initiatives being implemented by the Council to move Nigeria 20 steps upwards in the index.
“It’s unsatisfactory that today we are ranked 169 out of 190. That is not very good and the things that we don’t take seriously, like a file staying for 14 days on somebody’s desk, add to this poor ranking.
People don’t seem to appreciate how the poor attitude to work impacts negatively on the image of Nigeria and the ease of doing business. This is what this Council has been working on since last year and I am proud to say that this Council has been working slowly and steadily but they are actually achieving results,” he said.
Citing the example of Georgia, which was ranked in the 160s a few years ago but currently occupies the 5th position in the global index on the Ease of Doing Business, Alhaji Mohammed said though the task of moving Nigeria up the ladder is daunting, there is the abundance of the political will on the part of government to achieve such improvement.
The Minister, who is also a member of PEBEC, said one priority area for by the Council is to prune the number of agencies operating at the air and sea ports from 15 to 6 to make it possible for people to clear their goods within 24 or 48 hours.
He said the government has also made significant improvement in easing the bureaucracy associated with the registration of companies, which can now be done online within a short time.
The Minister also spoke on the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Clinic being organised by the Council across the states of the federation, which aims at addressing the challenges confronting the MSMEs on the spot.
Briefing the Minister earlier, Dr. Oduwole said the 2017 priority areas for business reform include Starting a Business, Getting Credit, Trading Across the Border, Paying Taxes, Construction Permits and Registering Property.
She said three areas prioritized based on engagement with the private sector are Entry and Exit of Goods, Entry and Exit of People and Government Transparency.
“The Visa-on-Arrival Programme has been updated to include e-submission. Before people had to go to the Immigration Office to submit in person so that the Comptroller General of Immigration could give his assent, but now you can submit and they is also a dedicated desk and you don’t have to go physically anymore,” she said.
Dr. Oduwole disclosed that the Council has harmonised the Entry and Exit Forms being managed by different agencies of government at our airports and today, instead of filling four different forms to exit you fill only one and the number of questions on that one single form has now been reduced from 23 to 15.
Also, she said the authorities at the ports have been mandated to install the iCheck Security Solution Technology, which will phase out the Entry and Exit Forms in due course.
She also disclosed that 11 bills are currently before the National Assembly, which will tremendously enhance the ease of doing business in Nigeria when they are eventually enacted into law.