I am sure that by now you may have heard of the three executive orders signed by the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. I have had the opportunity of going through the text of the executive orders and for the very first time, I have the feeling that the Federal Government is directly addressing the core problems afflicting Nigeria rather than running around in circles.
The three executive orders are very important and timely but for the purpose of this post I will be commenting on the executive order in respect of doing business in Nigeria. It is no secret that one of the problems hindering the development of the Nigerian economy is the difficulty in doing business in Nigeria. The world bank has over the years consistently ranked Nigeria very low on the ease of doing business index.
One of the major constraints in the Nigerian business environment, which the executive order seeks to remedy, is the uncertainty in dealing with Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Nigerian Government. There is a lack of predictability with regards to the procedures, requirements and timelines for obtaining services (usually approvals, licenses, consents etc) from the MDAs. There is also the problem of lack of competence on the part of some officials of MDAs and the issue of lackadaisical approach towards work.
Often the stipulated procedures, requirements and timelines for obtaining services (where they exist) are usually different from what is obtainable in practice. In fact, there are situations where officers of the same agency would give different requirements and timelines for the same service. There are also instances where officers would just refuse or neglect to do their job for no reason at all. This state of confusion makes it impossible for lawyers to advise clients who require services from these MDAs with accuracy and also makes it difficult for businesses to adequately make plans and/or projections.
The executive order is very instructive and a giant step in the right direction if implemented fully. With the issuance of the new executive order, we hope to see a remarkable improvement in dealing with the MDAs. It is expected that the issuance of this executive order will make MDAs and their officials to wake up from their slumber and realise that their actions and inactions directly affects the development of the Nigerian economy to a very large extent. There is no doubt the Acting President made the executive order from an informed standpoint being a distinguished lawyer and having actively practiced law before his election as the Vice President.
Whilst the entire content of the executive order is revolutionary when put side by side with the current business environment, I find the provision on Default Approvals very interesting. The provision is to the effect that where an agency fails to communicate approval or rejection of an application within the stipulated timeline, such an application would be deemed approved and granted. When implemented, this provision in a nutshell would ensure that the officers of MDAs would take stipulated timelines very seriously and nobody would be made to wait for approvals endlessly.
In conclusion, the importance of this executive order to the Nigerian business environment and the economy by extension cannot be over emphasized. The importance was in fact aptly summarized by the Acting President himself in his tweet on the 18th day of May, 2017 10:41 pm which states and I quote “Every time, a public servant is an obstacle to anyone seeking approvals or licenses, he/she attacks the Nigerian economy and our future”.
I do hope that the State Governors will take a cue from the Acting President and replicate the executive order at the state level.
The full text of the executive order can be found here: https://medium.com/@TheAsoVilla/acting-president-osinbajo-signs-executive-order-on-the-promotion-of-transparency-and-efficiency-in-55c626ce6cfa