President Buhari signs Nigeria's first business facilitation bill into law

As of 2020, Nigeria's Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency estimated that there are approximately 39.6 million SMEs in Nigeria with a population of 200 million. Compared to other developed regions with higher populations, it is clear that Nigeria has significantly more entrepreneurs than these other regions.

MSMEs make up more than 90% of all registered businesses in Nigeria. These MSMEs provide about 84% of jobs and contribute just under 50% to the GDP of the economy. However, these businesses face multiple challenges that hinder their contribution to inclusive growth.

Four years after intense consultation among the public and private players in Nigeria's business sector, President Muhammadu Buhari has signed into law the Business Facilitation (Miscellaneous Provision) Bill 2022 (also known as the Omnibus Bill).

According to Jumoke Oduwole, special adviser to the president on ease of doing business—who doubles as the secretary of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), the new law is part of the government's efforts to create an enabling environment for MSMEs in the West African country.

"Everything about the law is curated specifically for small businesses, it deals with issues as basic as legally recognising electronic certificates for incorporation instead of only paper certificates," Ms Oduwole said in an interview observed by "Each of the amendments is targeted towards a pain point highlighted by the private sector."

As an Omnibus Bill, the law will automatically amend 21 business-related laws in the country including; the companies and allied matters act, customs and excise act and export promotion act, this will remove bureaucratic constraints to doing business in Nigeria.

Omnibus is derived from Latin and means "to, for, by, with or from everything". An omnibus bill is a single document that is accepted in a single vote by a legislature but packages together several measures into one or combines diverse subjects.

"We are especially delighted to appreciate the 9th National Assembly for its speedy consideration of this Bill," she added. The business facilitation act codifies Executive Order 001 on Transparency and Efficiency in Public Service Delivery, the Buhari administration's first executive order, aimed at strengthening ease of doing business reforms across the country.

With over 95% of SMEs accessing less than 350,000 ($745) in annual credit in Nigeria, Ms Jumoke added that the law will also impact businesses' ability to access credit. "We have continued to work with banks and other financial institutions to make sure they have the courage to lend to SMEs, this new legislation is creating an environment to enable this demography to be better positioned as credit-worthy" she added.

Related Article: Is it good business to lend to Nigerian SMEs?

Editor's Note: This is a developing story, it will be updated with more details.