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OPINION : Unlocking our potentials of doing business in Cross River

Kanjal Awam

By Kanjal Awam

Driving an emerging industrial economy thrives on microeconomic policies and sprouts on SMEs. Evolving new ways of doing business, pushing reforms and blocking revenue leakages. Stimulating reforms in our ease of doing business through legislative framework will remove some of the encumbrances faced in starting a business in Cross River State.

A 2016 study by Kingmakers.com ranked Cross River 15 in Business Environment Report with 921,256 microenterprises, 1,126 small enterprises and 168 medium enterprises. The study further ranked Cross River 10th on the ease of doing business, it takes 32 days to register a business in Cross River with 11 procedures on the bureaucratic process. Kaduna is the easiest place to enforce a contract within Nigeria. Resolving a standardised commercial there takes 307 days and 25.2% of the claim value. 

We can't continue to apply old techniques and expect best results. Tax reforms is the first step to boost our IGR and create jobs for our teeming youths. Remodeling Cross River Internal Revenue Service (CRIRS) for effective tax administration. Removing some of the impediments which stifles trade and kill SMEs by nipping multiple taxation.

One of the key objectives of State Peer Review Mechanism (SPRM), is to share experiences, reinforce global best practices. To borrow a leaf from the Lagos tax model which bolstered their revenue profile and blocked revenue Leakages, a deliberate policy direction was introduced. The State government reengineered the Lagos Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) for efficiency by deploying technology.

In 2005, LIRS remodeling process began with the appointment of Mr. Babatunde William Fowler, a US trained economist, business administrator and banker of vast experience as Chairman, Lagos Board of Internal Revenue & Chief Executive Officer of the Lagos State Internal Revenue Service (LIRS).

His appointment was preceded by a bill for the establishment of the Board of Internal Revenue as an autonomous and self accounting entity to the state legislature. The bill was passed in 2006 making it the first agency of its kind to be autonomous in the country. It started by by removing impediments in tax payment, making tax assessment and payment easier for tax payers by establishing 38 mini-tax offices in markets across the state.

Two years later, LIRS introduced the Self Assessment Filing System for individuals outside the formal sector. The LIRS introduced the Personal electronic Tax Clearance Cards (e-TCC), first of its kind in the country. The results have been astounding.

Between 2008 & 2012, the average monthly IGR of the State leapt from #18.9  billion to #29.9 billion. Lagos state IGR has also accounted for over 65% of government revenue. LIRS success is a contagion, with many States Bayelsa, Edo, Osun, Oyo, Delta and Ekiti adopting the LIRS manual for effective tax administration.

Creating Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zone (SAPZs) in Cross River, a spatial and geographic location with purpose-built integrated infrastructure. A hub where agricultural produce can be turned into finished goods for export. A nexus where the agro sector feeds the industries and in turn feeds the hospitality sector.

This can be achieved by deliberately taking into cognizance these key performance indicators:

*Streamlining the rigours of registering a business.
*Dealing with construction permits.
*Registering property and enforcing contracts.
*Incorporating measures of regulating quality control.

The Cross River of our dream anchored on Ayade Industrial Revolution is achievable when all hands are on the plough followed by deliberate business reforms. Applying global best practices and expecting best results!

This unedited article was written by Kanjal Awam
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