ACTING Executive Secretary/CEO of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) Emeka Offor has urged would-be investors to see beyond challenges in the Nigerian economy and strive to explore opportunities in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA).
Offor, who described Nigeria as the gateway to the African economy, said any chief executive officer who failed to establish a presence in Nigeria might admit regrets later, noting that the commission guided investors from the beginning to the end stage of their investments.
The acting executive secretary spoke on the theme: ‘Nigeria Investment Environment: NIPC’s Facilitation Role’ at the one-day Greek-Nigeria Chamber of Commerce and Technology Investment Summit on Tuesday in Athens, Greece.
Apart from four international airports in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano providing vital links from Nigeria to the rest of Africa, Offor said Nigeria was also blessed with major seaports in Lagos, Calabar, and Bonny Island, with over 3,798 kilometres of railway tracks and 168,000 kilometres of road networks.
Besides, he said the country was strategically located, with land borders with some countries in the West African sub-region, including the Benin Republic in the west, Cameroun in the east, Chad in the north-east and the Niger Republic in the north.
He said even before the take-off of the AfCFTA, there were several Nigerian companies, particularly in the services sector such as banking, telecommunications, fintech, e-commerce and manufacturing, that had already developed the capacity to serve the rest of Africa.
In terms of comparative advantage to other economies in Africa, the NIPC boss said Nigeria was blessed with very competitive economic sectors, with the various geo-political zones having various endowments capable of sustaining their independent economic survival and growth.
While the North-West region is rich in agriculture, agro-processing, mineral mining, textile, garment and footwear, educational services, the North-East region has viable agriculture, animal husbandry, and small hydro-power sectors. The North-Central region is endowed with agriculture, animal husbandry, mineral mining, small hydro-power, thermal power plant, iron & steel, ceramics, tourism.
For the South-East, Offor said the region thrived in mineral mining, agriculture, automobile, garment and footwear, food and beverages, tourism, while South-West region was noted for financial services, food and beverages, garment and footwear, ceramics, educational services, ICT, tourism, thermal power plant, maritime, inland waterways. The South-South region is blessed with oil & gas, petrochemicals, tourism, fishing, thermal power plant, maritime, inland waterways.
With Nigeria acknowledged by the World Bank as one of the most improved in terms of ease of doing business ranking, Offor said the country moved 15 steps and 4.01 points to 131/190 in 2020, from the 146/190 ranking in 2019, despite the impact of the pandemic.
“Nigeria is one of the most committed to business environment improvements,” he told his audience made up of international investors from around the world He spoke of the reforms introduced by the government through the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 2020 signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari in August 7, 2020 changed the country’s investment climate for better.”
Some of the highlights of the CAMA, he said, included the introduction of the single shareholder provision for private companies, with Section 18(2) of the Act making it possible to establish a private company with only one shareholder.
Section 27(2) replaces the requirement for ‘authorized share capital’ in companies with ‘minimum issued share capital,’ while Section 402 exempts small companies or single shareholder companies from appointing auditors to audit the financial statements of the company. Also, Section 176(1) introduces electronic instruments of transfer, while Section 861 allows electronically filed documents to be accepted in evidence. Similarly, Section 240(2) allows virtual meetings in private companies only, in addition to sections 746-820, acknowledge limited liability partnerships as a business structure.
Other reforms in the CAMA, he noted, included Section 223(12) which reduced the fees payable for filing from 65 per cent from the old law to 0.35 per cent of the value of the charge; Section 265(6) restricted the chairman of a public company from acting as its chief executive officer, while Section 330(1) made the appointment of a company secretary optional for private companies. Sections 119 and 120 provide that persons holding significant control in any company should disclose such control within seven days of acquisition, while the framework for rescuing a company in distress and keeping it alive is introduced in Sections 434-442; 443-549 and 718 -721.
He said further support for investment in Nigeria was provided through various incentives in the Finance Acts 2019 and 2020. The Finance Act 2019, he said, exempted small businesses from company income tax and charging of value-added tax (VAT); granted tax relief for medium-sized companies with an annual turnover of between N25million and N100million; protected locally produced goods and facilitates the importation of raw materials not available locally, in addition to over 600 basic food items and locally manufactured goods exempted from VAT.
The Finance Act 2020, on the other hand, he said, exempted those earning a minimum wage from personal income tax; exempted small companies with N25 million turnover from tertiary education tax; exempted flight tickets from VAT and granted companies in primary agriculture pioneer status for an initial four years and additional two years.
On efforts by the NIPC to facilitate investment, Offor said the investment promotion agency had created the Single Window Investors’ Portal, whose service offerings were all at the One-Stop Investment Centre and were automated.
He listed the benefits of the OSIC to include an online application for business registration, document submission, fee payment, workflow-based review and tracking. With OSIC, he said. agencies would be integrated as they adopted electronic-government and electronic pioneer status incentives to automate applications for incentives administered by NIPC; allow online application, document submission, fee payment, workflow-based processing, automated stakeholder notification and report generation.