From Abubakar Y Ojimaojo ABUJA
President Muhammadu Buhari recently signed the business facilitation (miscellaneous provision) bill 2022, also known as the omnibus bill, into law.
Now the business facilitation act 2023, the document is a legislative intervention by the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), which amends 21 business-related laws.
The amendment of the relevant laws is to promote the ease of doing business in Nigeria as well as eliminate bottlenecks.
According to the PEBEC, the signing of the legislation by Buhari was a step towards creating an enabling environment for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Nigeria.
The modified laws include Companies and Allied Matters Act, Customs Excise Management Act, Export (Prohibition) Act, Financial Reporting Council Act, Foreign Exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, Immigration Act, Industrial Inspectorate Act, Industrial Training Fund Act, Investment and Securities Act, National Housing Fund Act, and National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion Act.
Others are the National Planning Commission Act, Nigerian Customs Service Board Act, Nigerian Export Promotion Council Act, Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission Act, Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act, Nigerian Ports Authority Act, Patent and Designs Act, Pension Reform Act, Standard Organisation of Nigeria Act, and Trademarks Act.
The act is composed of 11 clauses, and a schedule that provides specifics on the amendment to the legislations.
In this piece, Peoples Daily Weekend highlights modifications made to some of the business-related laws.
Pension reform act
Under the amended version of this act, pension assets are eligible for securities lending, based on the approval of the National Pension Commission (PenCom).
Also, pension fund administrators (PFAs) may, subject to guidelines issued by the commission, apply a percentage of the pension assets in the retirement savings account (RSA) towards payment of equity contribution for payment of residential mortgage by a holder of RSA and for the purpose of securities lending
Transparency requirements for MDAs
The business facilitation law mandates ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) to publish a comprehensive list of the requirements for obtaining any goods or services they offer.
They include licences, permits, waivers, approvals, filings, certifications, and tax-related processes, among others.
Additionally, it requires that MDAs publish service-level agreements (SLAS) on their websites and that the set deadlines be followed without failing.
The law also codifies default approvals, which provide that if an MDA fails to notify a party of its decision regarding an application within a specified period of time, the application will be deemed to have been approved.
Overhaul of port operations
According to the new law, touting is prohibited at all ports in Nigeria.
Those who violate this provision commit an offence and will be liable to a minimum fine of N1 million, a minimum jail sentence of six months, or both, upon conviction.
Tha act also stipulates that employees on duty must wear uniforms and carry official identification cards, adding that employees who are not on duty must stay off the ports unless they are specifically permitted to do so by the head of the MDA.
Meanwhile, the law makes room for the creation of single interface customer at the country’s ports and airports to ensure efficiency and eliminate corruption.
It empowers the new single interface station at each port to capture, track, and record information on all goods arriving and departing from Nigeria and transmit captured information to the head of the relevant offices and the head of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on a weekly basis.
Companies and allied matters act (CAMA) 2020
The law modified the CAMA 2020, offering a legal framework for how businesses should operate in the country.
The act mandates the recognition of electronic share certificates and electronic voting at annual general meetings (AGMs), as well as the simplification of the procedure for increase in share capital.
It also requires pre-emptive rights of shareholders — the provision of a specific maximum timeline of 21 days within which offer of shares must be accepted by existing shareholders or deemed declined.
The minimum number of independent directors for public companies was reviewed from three to one-third of the board.
Custom and Excise management act LFN 2004
Reviewing this custom’s act, the new law provided for the creation of a single window platform for trade facilitation in Nigeria.
Additionally, it reduced the timeline for dispute resolution process in buyers’ appeal to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) where they are not satisfied with the valuation of imported goods.
Immigration act LFN 2004
In amending the immigration act, the ease of doing business law made provision for a legal basis for automation of the Nigeria Immigration Service.
It also stipulates a 48-hour time frame to issue or reject entry visas to Nigeria with reason within two days of receipt of valid applications.
More so, it prescribes that a comprehensive and up-to-date list of requirements, conditions and procedures for obtaining visa on arrival as well as all other entry visas — including the estimated timeframe — should be published on all immigration-related websites, embassies and high commissions, and all Nigerian ports of entry.
Standard organization of Nigeria Act 2015
The business facilitation law reduced the time limit for notifying the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) before instituting an action against it from three months to 30 days.
It also established a legal obligation for the director-general to make an ex parte application to the court for an order pertaining to actions taken by SON against detrimental or hazardous goods.
Export (Prohibition)act LFN 2004
With the amendment of this act, the minister of finance now has the responsibility to recommend goods to be prohibited for exportation, according to the new law.