Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
Participants at the Round-table on the Ease of Doing Business in Abia State, have raised the alarm that many Small and Medium Enterprises, SMEs, in Aba might close shop if nothing urgent were done to halt the high exchange rate plus the soaring cost of diesel following the fuel subsidy removal.
The National Secretary of the Association of Leather and Allied Industry of Nigeria, Ken Anyanwu, expressed worry that the biting economic hardship in the country was already taking a toll on many SMEs in Aba, saying that many artisans would soon be pushed into the over saturated labour market.
He called on Government to consider the ripple effect of such scenario, hence the need take proactive steps to forestall it.
Meanwhile the Deputy Governor of Abia State, Engr. Ikechukwu Emetu, has said that his boss, Gov. Alex Otti, is making “conscious and deliberate efforts” to improve the ease of doing business in the state.
Declaring open the event organised by the Office of the Special Assistant to the Governor on the Ease of Doing in Collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Deputy Governor said the current administration was poised to re-invent the state.
He further said that the on-going massive infrastructural development in the state as well as the clampdown on touts were part of strategies to make Abia a destination for investors.
The Abia number two citizen said that very soon both local and foreign investors would flood the state.
He said that machinery had been put in place to eliminate bureaucratic bottlenecks that had hitherto scared investors in the state.
In his remark, Commissioner for Trade, Commerce and Industry, Dr Chimezie Ukaegbu, said that the current administration had implemented series of reforms to improve the ease of doing business.
Some of the reforms according to him, include streamlining business registration processes, reducing the time required for obtaining permits, enhancing and strengthening security protocols, and improving access to utilities.
He further said that tax policies had been modified “not only to be business-friendly but more transparent .”
“The positive effects of these reforms are already becoming evident. More entrepreneurs are choosing Abia State as their destination for business, and existing businesses are expanding their operations. This influx of business activities translates into job creation, economic growth, and a broader tax base, all of which are essential for the sustainable economic prosperity of our state,” he said.
He predicted a bright future for the state.
Speaking also, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on the Ease of Doing Business, Lilian Ezenwa, said that the Round-table would help to identify challenges of ease of doing business, and galvanise support for the proposed Ease of Doing Business Law.
She added that challenges identified at the event would be prioritised and a six months work-plan developed to tackle them.
This, according to her, will form the fulcrum of the Abia Investment Summit proposed to be held 2024.
The SSA said that arrangements were in place to design a portal and website for the State Ease of Doing Business Portal which would provide all needed information and guide investors.
In a remark the Special Assistant to the Governor on Due Process, Dr Oluebube Chukwu, said the current administration was poised to comply with the global best practices to make Abia investor friendly.
He said that the Government was determined to eliminate obstacles to the ease of doing business, assuring investors that the current administration will make things easy for them.
Meanwhile, participants at the round-table expressed concern over the activities of touts and youth bodies sometimes with the support of traditional rulers, who extort money from developers using various subheads.
“These touts impose various levies such as ‘marching ground’ levy, development levy, borehole levy, etc,” they lamented.
They, therefore, called for Government intervention to protect the interest of genuine investors.
Contributing, the Vice President 1, Leather Products Manufacturers Association of Abia State, Obinna Nwaobilo, regretted that many made-in-Aba products were being snuggled out of Nigeria without government making any revenue due from them.
He called for collaboration between the artisans and government for mutual benefits.