The Economic Times, Nigeria’s Authoritative Economic and Business Blog, caught up with the Ag. Registrar-General and Chief Executive of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Lady Azuka Azinge, at her office in Abuja. Azinge opened up on her plans to make the Commission a world class companies registry. Her enthusiasm about seeing a Commission where excellent service delivery is achieved to the satisfaction of the stakeholders for the benefit of the economy are captured in this exclusive interview. Excerpts:
How has it been piloting the affairs of a very critical agency like the Corporate Affairs Commission at a time when Ease of Doing Business is the priority of the Federal Government?
It has been very challenging particularly in the course of striking a balance between excellent service delivery at a reduced cost vis-à-vis the cost of technology that is required to deliver on the services of the Commission.
The Commission has embarked upon several reform initiatives, some have been concluded, while some are on-going what has been your experience?
The Commission in order to attain the World Class status embarked upon several reform initiatives ranging from; Direct registration of all entities, full decentralization of operations, deployment of Company Registration Portal (CRP), digitalization of legacy records, etc
Some of those reforms have been concluded while some are still on-going. It has not been easy as most of the reform initiatives are technologically driven. Therefore, given the average literacy level and the ICT appreciation, the Commission has the herculean task of mass education, awareness, training and re-training on the use of the CRP.
The foregoing notwithstanding, the Commission under my watch has remained focused and is doing everything possible to attain the World Classs status.
Currently, the Commission has completely removed proficiency requirement for Business registration, partially automated its post incorporation applications, a robust Website, functional Help Desk, enhanced collaboration with stakeholders, stepped up public engagement/sensitization, etc.
The Commission recently undertook the amendment of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA). What informed the amendments?
The CAMA has been in operation for about 29 years without any major amendment to keep it at pace with modern realities and global best practice in Company administration.
Therefore, the Commission undertook the amendment of its enabling law to enable the Commission deliver on its mandate. The amendment seeks to:
i) Ease starting and growing businesses in Nigeria
ii) Ensure more appropriate regulation for Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs)
iii) Enhance transparency and shareholder engagement
iv) Align regulatory framework with international best practice for competitiveness and thus enhance the efficiency of the
v) Make Nigeria an investment destination of choice by attracting, retaining and growing investments
The Amendment Bill has been passed by the NASS and is awaiting Presidential Assent.
The Commission on its part has been doing everything possible on the imperatives of the President assenting to the CAM Bill 2019.
Interestingly, the amendments are in line with President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s reform agenda to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive.
I am therefore very confident that Mr. President will assent to the CAM Bill.
How prepared is the Commission to fully implement the new Law?
The Commission has been working on the amendment for a very long time. The Commission is fully prepared to implement the new law to the letter. The Commission has the right manpower and appropriate technology to implement the new law once it is assented to.
The Commission has held Management Retreats to brainstorm on how best to implement the new law. Already, standing working and implementation Committees are in place fine-tuning the modalities of a seamless implementation of the new Law.
What is the Business Incentive Strategy (BIS) of the Commission all about?
The BIS is a special window created to encourage MSMEs register their businesses at a 50% reduction. Under the BIS, cost of business names registration has been reduced from N10,000 to N5,000. The BIS, a brainchild of the Commission was first introduced in October, 2018 for an initial period of 3 months (90 days), which was later extended by 3 months (90 days).
Upon expiration of the 6 months window on 31st March 2019, the Vice President, HE Prof Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, GCON further granted a 3 month extension with effect from 13th May, 2019. The current window will close by 13th August, 2019.
The public response has been very encouraging. The total number of Business Names registered during the period actually multiplied.
What has been the Commission’s role in the Ease of Doing Business Agenda of the Muhammadu Buhari administration?
The Commission readily keyed into the ease of doing business agenda of the current administration for two reasons: Firstly, even before the administration came on board the Commission had already embarked upon far reaching reform initiatives aimed at simplifying its processes and procedures, such as the 2012 Companies Regulation that took effect January, 2013. Similarly, the Commission’s online registration application, the Company Registration Portal (CRP) was launched in 2014. Secondly, the Commission in line with its commitment to prompt and efficient service delivery was already working towards creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive in so many respects.
Therefore, when the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) was established in July, 2016 it was very easy to see the Commission work seamlessly with PEBEC and the Ease of Doing Business Environment Secretariat (EBES) to promote an enabling environment.
The Commission has been outstanding in the area of business registration and regulation, hence several awards/recognition by several agencies including the Office of the Vice President.
As a visionary Leader where do you intend to take the Commission to?
My vision for the Commission is to make the Commission a World Class Companies Registry.
I will like to see a Commission where excellent service delivery is achieved to the satisfaction of our esteemed stakeholders for the benefit of the economy.
I intend to achieve this through:
i) Accelerated Reform Initiatives
ii) Enhanced Information Technology infrastructure
iii) Enhanced Staff Training and re-training
iv) Motivated workforce and Reward Scheme
v) Enhanced Staff Welfare Scheme
vii) Prompt Payment of Staff Entittlements
viii) Change in Staff attitude to work