By Favour Nnabugwu
RECENTLY, the World Bank in its Doing Business Reports 2016, ranked Nigeria 124th on the global ‘Ease of Doing Business.’ This was a slight improvement from the 127th position the country occupied on the competitiveness index last year. The slight improvement recorded by the country, came about as a result of the relentless efforts of the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, to improve investment climate across the country.
Recall that in the past four years till-date, the management of the Commission, led by its Registrar-General, Mr. Bello Mahmud, embarked on various reform programmes aimed at improving service delivery, especially ease of registering companies, business names and incorporated trustees as well as post incorporation services.
For instance, the Commission decentralised its operations in 2012 which allows the Commission to process new applications, print and issue registration certificates in the two Lagos offices (Ikeja Business District and Yaba) as well as Kano, Kaduna, Enugu and Port Harcourt without having to send the personal documents to Abuja. This has reduced the processing time for new registration in Abuja and all the five states to 24 hours.
Also, the CAC has deployed Globacom’s fibre-optic link for its Wide Area Network(WAN) between the Head Office in Abuja and state offices in Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Enugu and Port Harcourt which enable those state offices to start and finish new registration of companies, print and issue registration certificates directly to customers.
To further reduce time spent on company registrations, the Commission introduced direct registration without the use of lawyers or other accredited agents for registration of new companies. This service allows Nigerians to register their companies themselves. This option has thus, eliminated the legal fees which in most cases was even higher than the registration fee.
Moreover, the CAC in partnership with the Ministry of Communication Technology deployed new registration software in October 2014 under the auspices of the Government Service Portal (GSP). The new software replaced the Content Pinnacle System deployed in 2004 due to its functional deficiencies. The new software enables customers to reserve names, submit their registration applications and pay on-line.
Speaking on the occasion of Ministerial Retreat organised by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, held in Port Harcourt, last month, CAC Registrar –General, Mr. Bello Mahmud, noted that the gains recorded so far by the Commission can be further improved upon if the Companies And Allied Matters Act (CAMA) that gave the Commission its statutory mandates is amended to keep pace with modern business practices.
Stressing the need for the CAMA to be fine-tuned, Mahmud said CAMA was promulgated in 1990 to regulate the formation and management of companies in Nigeria. It is becoming increasingly clear that the entire Nigerian corporate landscape is heavily hamstrung by several provisions in CAMA which impedes modern business practices in the light of national and global reforms,” he said. He further said: “Securing an amendment of CAMA has become more compelling considering that legislations that set up most of CAC’s peer regulators have been amended.
He cited the followings as examples: “Central Bank of Nigeria Act, 2007; Investment and Securities Act, 2007; Pension Reform Act, 2004, Nigerian Deposit Insurance Commission Act, 2006 and Financial Reporting Council Act, 2007 as well as Federal Inland Revenue Service Act, 2007.”
According to him, some of the new areas of focus in the proposed amendment includes framework for Business Rescue Recovery process, provision for company with single shareholder and director as well as repeal of the statutory declaration by a legal practitioners in company formation. It was learned that the proposed amendment has been referred to the Minister of Industry, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah before it is referred to the National Assembly for consideration after necessary approval by the Federal Executive Council.
Meanwhile, the Board of Corporate Affairs Commission approved the appointment of Mr. Bello Mahmud as the new Registrar-General for the agency. The Chairman of the Board of the commission, Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim made the announcement in line with Section 8 of the Company and Allied Matters Act No.1 of 1990 and the due process policy of the Federal Government of Nigeria. The government has also communicated a no objection letter to the independent decision of the Governing Board.
Until his appointment, Alhaji Bello Mahmud was the Director of the Compliance Department of the Commission. As the director of the sensitive department he supervise the enforcement of the provision of the companies and Allied Matters Act 1990 (CAMA) and monitor compliance with the provision in addition to ensuring the filing of statutory returns by companies.
Born on February 24 1954 in Bodinga Local Government Area of Sokoto State, Barrister Bello Mahmud after attending Government College Kaduna for his WASC Certificate between 1967-71, had his legal education at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria starting first with a Diploma-in-Law in 1975, LL.B in June 1978 and called to the Nigerian Bar in July 1979. Apart from attending several training at home and abroad, his working career too is quite exciting. He started as a State Counsel, Sokoto State Ministry of Justice in 1980 rising to the position of Principal State Counsel before moving to Usman Danfodio University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto as Principal Secretary and Assistant Director (1983-1985).
Mahmud also had working experience in the private sector where he was employed as Company Secretary/Legal Adviser Gamji Bank of Nigeria (1985-1988) which later became International Trust Bank. It was in 1996 that he was first given political appointment as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice Sokoto State from 1996 to May 1999.
Barrister Mahmud who had active legal practice between 1988 to July 2001, except when he served as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, he was also member of the defunct Constituent Assembly 1988-89, Chairman Nigerian Bar Association, Sokoto state 1989-90 and Member Sokoto State Scholarship Board, Director Sakkwato Savings and Loans Limited.
Barrister Bello Mahmud is happily married with children. With his new appointment, Mahmud would ensure the Commission meets its statutory responsibility which mandates it to regulate and supervise the formation, incorporation, management and winding up of companies and to establish and maintain companies registry and offices in all the states of the Federation. The agency is in addition saddled with the responsibility of arranging and conducting an investigation into the affairs of any company where the interests of the shareholders and the public so demand.
The Commission was established by the Companies and Allied Matters Act, which was promulgated in 1990 to regulate the formation and management of companies in Nigeria. Its establishment as an autonomous body was as a result of the perceived inefficiency and ineffectiveness of the erstwhile Company Registry, a department within the Federal Ministry of Commerce and Tourism which was then responsible for the registration and administration of the repealed Companies Act of 1968. The Commission also registers Business Names and Incorporated Trustees as well as provides a wide range of ancillary services.