Commissioning Of The Abuja Chamber Of Commerce & Industry Convention Centre

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This event is particularly important, not just because of the sheer size of the edifice that we are about to commission—and I must say that I was most pleasantly taken aback by the size of it. For some reason, I’ve never noticed this building until today, going up and down this route, but I was quite shocked frankly to see that such an incredibly sized building could have been done essentially purely by voluntary private-sector effort, which is why in my opinion this is a very important event because it underscores the strength and dynamism of our private sector, which is a crucial component of our economic development.

As a matter of fact, I think, we are all generally in agreement that there are at least three trends that will determine our economic development. The first of course is government policy; the second is private sector investment, and the third is what part of the private sector.

I think Prince Kayode has mentioned it, the SME sector. I think that those three will definitely determine the way our economic trajectory proceeds in this country.

With respect to government policy; of course, you are aware that the government position is that we must continue on an incremental basis to prescribe for ourselves and to provide for ourselves a properly enabling business environment in every respect, which is why we have PEBEC, which focuses on trying to improve the business environment.

But I think that one of the drawbacks that we have had in improving the business environment is really with respect to how we regulate small businesses. So, for example in Abuja, I hear very frequently, small businesses who talk about the kind of problems that they experience, either with fumigation licenses, or one license or the other. All manner of constraints, which ideally should not occur. I know that the Minister of the FCT is actively working with the PEBEC and the Minister of Trade and Investment have all been concerned about making this work. But Abuja is just one example of how generally speaking all over the country we need to take a second look at how we regulate small businesses.

As part of government policy, we have already more or less removed most of the major taxes. So, corporation taxes for, if your turnover is under N25 million is zero. And we have reduced incrementally all the way up. So, with respect to corporation taxes, at least, we know that we are doing quite well. And same if you look at the proposed finance bill there are several incentives for small businesses.

But I think as they say the devil is in the details. We have to find ways. And I think this is where the private sector must work very actively with us in ensuring that we are self-regulators and policemen and women of the regulations. I think the time has come for us to have the chamber of commerce paying very active attention to all that is going on in the MSMEs especially with respect to regulation.

We must call out government officials who are making it difficult for people to do business. This is important because if you recall, the president himself said that there is no way the private sector can thrive if government officials see themselves as roadblocks; see themselves as hindrances as opposed to facilitators. Every government regulator must be a facilitator of business. That is the way forward. We cannot afford a situation where government regulators see themselves as policemen only. They must be facilitators of business.

I am excited to see what the Abuja Chamber of Commerce is doing. As they say if you are serious about anything, we will know by what it is you are spending your money on. The fact that the ACCI has chosen to spend its money on this prominent edifice as a convention centre and office is evidence of the fact that they are really serious about this business of regulating the environment and also promoting business and the economy.

Finally, I just wish to encourage the ACCI—we have done quite a bit of work in terms of trying to see in what ways we can work with the private sector. We have done our business forum and the Honourable Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment is already fully involved in the business of ensuring that we promote a better business environment. So, perhaps the ACCI ought to play a more important role in PEBEC.

I am sure this is something we can work out because here in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria, I think that we make a point that business runs well here and we create a model here for every other state and every other locality in Nigeria.