By Amechi Ogbonna
Ogun State Commissioner for Industry, Trade and Investment, Mrs. Kikelomo Longe, FCA speaks on efforts of the Prince Dapo Abiodun-led administration at making the state emerge number one on the World Bank Ease of Doing Business ranking as well as other measures implemented in the last two years to make Ogun consolidate its status as Nigeria’s leading industrial hub.
She also projects into the plans of the government for the next two years.
Scoresheet as Commissioner for Industry, Trade and Investment. The journey so far
For me, it’s been very interesting and fulfilling. I will like to give credit to my boss- the Governor of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun, who has clearly articulated his vision for this government. His vision is: to provide focused and qualitative governance that will create enabling environment which we believe is fundamental to attracting Public-Private sector partnerships which will lead to economic growth of the state and unlock the prosperity of our people. You will see that in this vision statement, there are several components that relate to the mandate of my Ministry.
We are looking at “creating an enabling environment”, “attracting Public-Private Partnerships” and “growing the economy”. The whole idea is that we want to attract a lot of investments into the state and to do that, the environment has to be conducive.
What we’re doing on Ease of Doing Business
One of the things that the Governor is very passionate about is improving the Ease of Doing Business ranking of the State at the sub-national level, which is very important. I will be very happy to share with you our achievements over the last two years and some of our plans for the future which we are working on achieving and even exceed.
I will start with our efforts on improving the Ease of Doing Business. There are some structures that have been set up to support the work being done. One of the structures put in place is the Ogun State Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency (OGUNINVEST). They are a one-stop shop that markets the State to potential investors, help them settle down in the State, get the necessary permits, licenses and other approvals as well as whatever they need to establish in Ogun State. Even after they have established, OGUNINVEST supports the businesses with investor after-care.
Another structure put in place by the administration is the Ogun State Business Environment Council. This is a high-powered Council that is chaired by the Chief Economic Adviser to His Excellency and Commissioner for Finance. The main objective of this Council is to focus on all those areas that affect our Ease of Doing Business rankings and they are well defined indices by the World Bank. For example, how easy is it to start a business, register a business, get construction permits, get title documents for your land and enforce contracts? These are various components that affect the Ease of Doing Business ranking of any jurisdiction especially Ogun State. So, the Ogun State Business Environment Council has the mandate to oversee that.
Efforts at creating jobs for Ogun citizens
Still on the Ease of Doing Business, the $250million Ogun State Economic Transformation Project (OGSTEP) was approved by the World Bank in February, 2020. This project is focused on job creation and instituting Sustainable Economic Development through three key areas – improving the Business Enabling Environment, improving the agriculture value chain and developing skills especially technical and vocational skills.
I would also like to mention that the Office of the Public-Private-Partnerships has been established and is headed by a Director General, an experienced and brilliant young man.
We have a lot of PPP opportunities under review, some of which have been signed and are already up and running.
This is because we believe that working or partnering with the private sector offers enormous synergies. All these entities – OGUNINVEST, Ogun State Business Environment Council and the Office of the PPP are backed by law. I can also say that as far as our Ministry is concerned, we are going on to automate a lot of governmenttransactions with businesses and members of the public. As you know the Ministry of Finance has created a platform where tax payers can go online and make payment for Land Use Charge. That is to say that the Ogun State Internal Revenue Service (OGIRS) has now automated its tax payment process and tax payers pay taxes online.
In the say way our Ministry is automating the processing and payment of Business Premises Permit such that businesses can process their Business Premises Permit from the comfort of their homes and offices. They can also pay taxes and levies online without necessarily having to go to government offices. Everything can be done online and the records are available. I also want to add that for us we are very keen to stay close to our businesses and understand their challenges. In furtherance of this, we have opened 12 additional zonal offices across the entire state to aid service delivery so that businesses that are in locations far away from Abeokuta can go to our zonal offices for enquiries, clarification, requests and whatever it is they need without coming over to Abeokuta.
These zonal offices are well manned and equipped. We got vehicles and motorbikes for some to aid mobility. We also got computers, generators, printers and other things to make the staff comfortable for improvement in service delivery and Ease of Doing Business.
Government’s Support for MSMEs
The Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) sub-sector, MSMEs are very important in the economy of every state especially, Ogun State.
It is not in any doubt that Ogun is the industrial capital of Nigeria. We have the largest number of industries and have also focused on the MSMEs space because the sector contributes between 70 to 75 percent and even more to the economy of the state. It also they employ the largest number of the people. While the large corporates may be big by revenue and volume of production, the MSMEs actually employ more of our people. If you look at their numbers, they have that numerical power to swing the needle. So, it’s important that we support them and we have done this in various ways. First, in the area of capacity building we have been helping to train MSMEs on how to improve their businesses. We have been helping them with market access, linking them with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) to prepare their products for exports, educating them on how to package their products and get customers abroad and so on. We also realised during the course of 2020, that a lot of our MSMEs are left out of Public Procurement and contracts. What we then did was to organise training sessions for them such that they will understand the basis of the Ogun State Public Procurement Law to understand what is required of them and how they can get more businesses.
We had a training session which was quite intensive for them to understand the opportunities that are available for them and how it is possible for them to key into the opportunities. We identified the challenges that many of them may face and we proposed solutions on how they could address these challenges just so that they can do more with the government. I’m happy to say that this is beginning to yield results.
Also, as the State Focal Person for the Federal Government Survival Fund, I co-ordinated the five streams of the Survival Fund which include over 5,000 free Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) registration under the CAC Formalisation Support of the Federal Government Survival Funds. As at January, 2021, 5, 200 MSMEs benefitted from the Payroll Support and selected employees were paid over a period of three months. That also helped some of our MSMEs in the state.
Earlier on, we had organised the MSMEs Business Clinic which objective was to bring those businesses that are in the informal sector into the formal sector and also help them settle down. The very first step on that is to register those businesses with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
Our Business Clinics
The Ogun State Business Clinics were held in the three senatorial districts after which we had physical sessions where we had a lot of these MSMEs and regulatory bodies as well as representatives of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) among others. Through the Business Clinics, our MSMEs were able to get on-the-spot registration of their businesses. They got their NAFDAC approvals or in-principle approvals subject to NAFDAC getting comfortable with their products. They got Tax Identification Numbers (TIN) for their businesses as well. We then had financial institutions that were also present to assist the MSMEs to open bank accounts in the names of their businesses and some of them even went as far as assessing credit facility, so it was very impactful. During that session too we were able to register 553 new companies by the Corporate Affairs Commission. A number of them were able to open bank accounts as well while they also got regulatory approvals from regulatory bodies.
It was an eye-opener for us because we realised that a lot of these entrepreneurs just need to be educated. They were not aware of the benefits that would be available to them if they formalise their businesses.
Lastly, with respect to the MSMEs development, all the work we did has put Ogun State on the global map of institution that support small business development.
Awards and recognitions
Impressed by the support they have been getting from the administration, the Association of Small Business Owners of Nigeria (ASBON) conferred on Governor Dapo Abiodun, SMEs Most Supportive Governor of the Year 2019, the year we came on board. Similarly, my Ministry won the award as SMEs Most Supportive Ministry 2019 in the same award organised by ASBON beating all the other 35 State Ministries and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
I think that’s a testament to what we are doing for MSMEs and how important they are to us especially when it comes to industrial development.
I would like to link that to market access because a lot of issues affecting MSMEs are somehow complicated but they can be solved. If you look at market access, a lot of MSMEs produce their goods and then look for where to sell. It’s only when they sell their goods that they can think of growth and expansion as well as creating more lines and so on. As a Ministry, we have also been working on how to help MSMEs sell more. I will give a few examples about some of the things we are doing which we also plan to continue to do and even more.
I will start with value chain linkages. A lot of these companies struggle with who their target market is. We are working to link these MSMEs to the larger corporates to be able to supply the large corporates some of their raw materials. This brings different benefits as MSMEs through these linkages have predictably defined businesses. They can raise capital, plan their businesses, employ more staff and grow because they can see where they are going and the industries are happy because it is local sourcing compared to bringing the products from abroad. The MSMEs are able to make better margins at the end of the day because they can sell more to the various industries and do more in the state. Another area in terms of market access that we have done is to see how we can expose the MSMEs to Target Markets.
For example, there is a Gateway International Trade Fair that happens every year. Unfortunately, the last one we had was in 2018 so we had not had one for three years. This year, despite all odds, we went ahead to hold the 10th Gateway International Trade Fair which was quite successful with participants from all over the country and even participants from Benin Republic and Cameroon. During events such as Trade Fairs we are able to expose our MSMEs to target markets so that they are able to showcase their products and get to sell a lot of their products. Our plan is to ensure that at subsequent Trade Fairs, the quality of participation and the experience of both the participants and exhibitors are elevated to such a level that they will be so happy they added.
We are aiming to host a much more improved International Trade Fair and to that extent, we are upgrading the Fair Complex. We have already reconstructed the perimeter fence and also installed a transformer there. We did some work on the inner-route but we will do much more. We are working to give that Trade Fair Complex a facelift so that come 2022, it is going to be a much better experience for anyone that participates in theTrade Fair.
Industrial sector development
I will now talk about industrial sector development. For us in Ogun State, our industries are very important. Not just MSMEs, even the large corporates are very important to us as well. A key ally that we have is the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN). We have periodic engagement including quarterly meetings with the Ogun State chapter of MAN.
Indeed, we engage with them on different tracks. We seek to understand what their challenges are, get feedback from them to know what we are doing right and how we can continue to help them. So we are their partner in government. His Excellency also gets involved in that engagement. Soon after he was sworn into Office he had a breakfast session with Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of these companies. In 2020 you know there was limited interaction. We are trying to get things back on track such that His Excellency can also interact with representatives of some of these companies through that platform in due course as well. We also realise that there are some factors that are common to our industries. For example on the issue of infrastructure, if you look at the roads this administration has constructed, we have been responsive across the State. We have used the bottom-up approach in deciding which road to start paying attention to as you know there are so many roads requiring attention.
The present administration asked respective clusters to submit list of their top three priority roads for fixing. We started tackling them a few at a time and you can see the results. For example, the Ijebu-Ode- Epe Expressway is going to be commissioned soon, the Abeokuta-Sagamu Interchange Road that is under construction and most exciting for me is the flag-off of the Agbara-Atan Express way. That road was in bad shape and had not been worked on for many years. Thankfully, His Excellency being the listening Governor that is purpose-driven listened to us and found a way to ensure that the road is given the necessary attention.