The World Economic Forum for Africa (WEFA) recently hosted by Nigeria in Abuja has undoubtedly opened a new vista for foreign direct investments (FDIs) into the country.
For instance, China alone is boosting the nation’s housing sector with $4 billion investments. This is just a fraction of the $68 billion Africa is projected to attract in investments as a direct consequence of the WEFA.
According to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) Africa Director, Elsie Kanza, a Nigerian company would invest about $16 billion over the next four years, which will create 180,000 jobs.
Another company will invest $1 billion over the next 10 years and 20,000 jobs will be created. A total of $2 billion from donor agencies has been committed to improve electricity supply across Nigeria, and $700 million to the immunization programme, she said.
Besides, many more participants at the WEFA have offered to bring in billions more in dollars as investments in various sectors of the Nigerian economy. However, one key area of challenge is the bureaucratic bottlenecks associated with doing business with many governmental agencies in the country.
But one federal government establishment that stood out in significantly enhancing the present administration’s transformation drive is the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), an organ of government that has consistently been working to ensure that the business environment in the country, which hitherto was beclouded by unnecessary delays, is dramatically altered for good.
The CAC, as a key agency of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, shouldered with the responsibility of registering business formations in the country, has its eyes fixed on the goal of achieving speedy service delivery.
The Commission’s main target is to provide all its services electronically on-line to its customers via the web, thereby ensuring fast and efficient delivery of those services without the customer having to travel to any of its offices physically.
To achieve this target, the Registrar-General of the Commission, Malam Bello Mahmud recently launched a 4-point reform agenda to further reposition the Commission. Part of the goals of the agenda include, “Enhanced ICT Infrastructure, Decentralization of Operations, Sensitization of the Public and Development of Human Resource”.
The unveiled reform agenda was in line with the agency’s goal of ensuring timely filing of annual returns and other statutory filings by all registered companies, Business Names and Incorporated Trustees. Already, the Commission’s robust ICT infrastructure, we learnt, has significantly improved its network availability, and is expected to enhance the establishment of an effective E-payment system.
However, to boost customer confidence in its drive towards efficiency, the CAC, in the first quarter of this year, deployed a new software, which further reduced the registration period of companies to a maximum of three hours, in some of its offices across the country. These include its head office and a Wuse Zone 5 office both in Abuja, its offices in Kaduna, Kano, Enugu, as well as its Lagos offices in Yaba and Alausa.
Our independent investigations have shown that three-hour registration scheme, officially launched by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, was not merely a wishful project. Numerous lawyers and even individual business operators who engage with the CAC on registration matters have given it a resounding applause in meeting customer expectations in that regard.
For instance, one of the lawyers who spoke to us, Barrister Okpeh Ibrahim Shaibu said: “It takes me less than four hours to do search of names of old companies and less than 24 hours for new companies”.
Another lawyer who did not want his name mentioned said “the 24 hours service is still effective though occasionally faced with server challenges”.
There are, no doubt, occasional hiccups resulting from unavoidable challenges to Nigeria’s information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure. This periodically inhibit the agency from meeting the 24hr registration target in the designated offices. Notwithstanding, the occasional hiccups are too inconsequential to frustrate the Commission’s teeming customers in the respective regions.
To further boost customer confidence, the CAC chief executive declared emphatically recently that the Commission would take practical steps to decentralize its operations in order to make the zonal offices more functional and at par with the head office. The move, he said, would even empower the zonal offices sited at strategic geographical locations in the country to print registration certificates.
It would be recalled that early this year, CAC was presented with ISO 9001:2008 certificate following remarkable progress made during a Revalidation Audit assessment conducted by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON).
Presenting the certificate at a formal ceremony in Abuja, the Director General, SON, Dr. Joseph Odumodu praised the internal processes of the CAC, saying it was commendable, and an indication that the Commission has maintained a solid system in quality management. He reiterated that the CAC is a flagship ahead of other government agencies in the country in terms of service delivery, which explains why it came top among government agencies during the previous SERVICOM assessment. Dr. Odumodu charged