On 18 May 2017, the Acting President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo SAN, GCON signed three executive orders aimed at facilitating the ease of doing business in Nigeria, promoting local content in federal government procurement processes and fast-tracking budget submissions. These executive orders will trigger a paradigm shift in the conduct of business with a consequential positive effect on the general national economic and business climate. We have set out below, brief highlights of the executive orders, which we believe will impact on the way you conduct your businesses in Nigeria:
A. The promotion of transparency and efficiency in the business environment designed to facilitate the ease of doing business in Nigeria
All registration processes at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) are now to be fully automated through the CAC website, and will include an online payment platform where necessary. This will eradicate the delays occasioned by manual company registration processes currently employed at the CAC.
To eliminate the uncertainties associated with the conditions, requirements and timelines for obtaining permits/licenses from Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the government (MDAs), every MDA is now required to publish a comprehensive list of requirements (including relevant fees and timelines) for obtaining licenses/permits/waivers or for transacting with it within its scope of responsibility. These lists are to be published, in print and on relevant MDA websites, within 21 days from the date of the executive orders, and must subsequently be verified and updated regularly.
To prevent arbitrary treatment of applications, MDAs are required to communicate approvals or rejections within the periods prescribed in the published lists and where no communication is given within the prescribed period, the application is deemed approved. All rejections must be accompanied with the reasons therefore.
Considering the onerous verification requirements previously placed on applicants, the responsibility for inter-MDA verification and certification now rests on the MDAs themselves. Consequently, any MDA requiring documentation from another MDA before it can attend to an applicant may only request a photocopy of such document from the applicant. The requesting MDA will have the burden of seeking verification or certification of the applicant’s documents from the issuing MDA.
For foreigners conducting businesses in Nigeria, the executive orders specifically require that a comprehensive and updated list of all requirements, timelines and procedures for obtaining visas on arrival on all immigration-related websites in Nigeria and abroad, and at all Embassies, High Commissions, and all ports of entry into Nigeria be published. Ordinary tourist and business entry visas to Nigeria are now required to be issued or rejected (with reasons) within forty- eight (48) hours of the receipt of a valid application. The processing and issuance of visas shall be carried out in a transparent manner and visas on arrival shall be granted at the Nigerian ports of entry once all published requirements have been fulfilled by the applicant.
MDAs at the airports are to merge their respective departure and arrival interfaces into a single customer interface, while MDAs at the ports are to harmonize their operations into a single interface station domiciled in one location at the port and implemented by a single joint task force. These are to be done without prejudice to backend procedures. This interface shall track and record information on all goods arriving and departing from Nigeria. The import/export data is to be remitted to the National Bureau of Statistics weekly.
In addition, the Apapa Port is now required to resume 24 -hour operations, and to prevent touting at Nigerian Ports, authentic staff of the relevant MDAs are now required to be properly identified, and stringent disciplinary sanctions are imposed for the solicitation and receipt of bribes from passengers and other port users. More particularly, agricultural products shall now enjoy dedicated export terminals as each port is now required to assign and dedicate an existing export terminal to the exportation of agricultural products.
B. Support for local content in public procurement by the federal government;
To promote local content development in Nigeria, all MDAs are now required to prefer local manufacturers of goods and service providers in their procurement processes, as is already in practice in the oil and gas industry. Further, in the procurement of the following items, made-in-Nigeria products shall be given preference and shall comprise at least 40% of the procurement expenditure: uniforms and footwear, food and beverages, furniture and fittings, stationery, motor vehicles, pharmaceuticals, construction materials, and information and communication technology.
C. Timely submission of annual budgetary estimates by all statutory and non-statutory MDAs, including companies owned by the federal government.
To forestall the delayed passage of internal budgets, all MDAs are now required to prepare and submit their schedule of revenue and expenditure estimates for the next three financial years and their annual budget estimates (to be derived from the estimates of revenue and expenditure as projected in their three-year schedule) to the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Budget and National Planning before the end of May and July respectively, in each year.
To promote financial prudence, where the revenue or other funds of an MDA exceeds its budgeted and expended amount, such excess shall accrue to the consolidated revenue fund of the federal government.
In our view, the market can expect a more efficient business environment following the implementation of these executive orders.