How Osinbajo’s Executive Order affects ‘ease of doing business’ for the Nigerian tech ecosystem

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By: Timi Olagunju

[Analyses]–Exercising presidential authority, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, signed three executive orders this Thursday. Quickly, executive orders are issued by the Nigerian President and directed towards officers and agencies of the federal government. The three executive orders signed by the Acting President were:

  1. The promotion of transparency and efficiency in the business environment, set to facilitate ease of doing business in Nigeria;
  2. Support for local content in public procurement by the government;
  3. Timely submission of annual budgetary estimates by all statutory and non-statutory agencies”.

However, of the three the one I will be considering in this context, is that which concerns the promotion of transparency and efficiency in the business environment, aimed at facilitating ease of doing business in Nigeria.

In my years of providing legal, training, and business support for the tech ecosystem, two things amidst others, can be important. The first is the intellectual property of the technology idea, innovation, or invention, and the second is, the incorporation or registration of the technology business. By intellectual property, this refers to safeguarding your idea, brand, innovation, invention, or proposals. This could be done through copyright, trademarks, or patenting – you can read more on this through my interview with Ibukun at the Guardian on https://goo.gl/mzlo5q. In addition to intellectual property, in order to do a business in Nigeria, incorporation or registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) is important and necessary.

So how does this executive order affect patenting, copyrighting, or trademarking of tech ideas, innovation or products, and how does it affect business registration and incorporation? To get to this, I will state the exact order relevant to this discussion.

According to section 1 of the executive order, every Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDA) of the federal government will publish a complete list of requirements (including fees), publish the list on its website and paste it in a conspicuous place in its premises within 21 days of the issuance of the order.

In addition to Section 1, Section 2 of the executive order says “it shall be the responsibility of the head of the relevant MDA to ensure that the list is verified and kept up-to-date at all times. If there is any conflict between a published and an unpublished list of requirements, the published list shall prevail”. In the published list, the relevant agency will state the stipulated time in getting an approval.

Section 6 of the executive order states: “there shall be at least two (2) modes of communication of acceptance or rejection of applications to the applicants by the relevant MDAs before the expiration of the stipulated time, including letters, emails and publications on MDA websites.”

Section 3 of the executive order, any application for permits, registration or licenses not approved or rejected within the stipulated time will be deemed approved. “Where the relevant agency or official fails to communicate approval or rejection of an application within the timeline stipulated in the published list, all applications for business registrations, certification, waivers, licenses or permits not concluded within the stipulated time shall be deemed approved and granted.” An applicant whose application is deemed granted under this directive may apply to the minister for the time being in charge of the application for the issuance of any document or certificate in evidence of the grant within 14 days of lapse of the MDA’s stipulated timeline for the application.

Please note that these sections affect the over 105 MDAs in Nigeria – see a list of them here (https://goo.gl/mRbRTe). MDAs mostly connected to the tech ecosystem include Corporate Affairs Commission; Nigeria Copyright Commission; Nigerian Communications Commission; National Information Technology Development Agency; Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment; Central bank of Nigeria; and the National Broadcasting Commission.

Now, a particular order was quite clear about the dealings of the Corporate Affairs Commission. The order makes provision for an online payment platform as thus,  “the Registrar-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) shall within 14 days of the issuance of this order ensure that all registration processes at the CAC are fully automated through the CAC website from the start of an application process to completion, including ensuring the availability of an online payment platform where necessary.”

Let me contextualize all these sections with a recent experience. Recently, we helped a client copyright her technology based proposal, it took almost forever. Now, with the combined effect of the above executive order, this implies that the Copyright Commission or the Trademark and Patent Office, would have to state clearly when a patent, copyright, or trademark is supposed to be out. And also publish how much it would cost – no arbitrary fees. This also implies that if they fail to approve or reject your patent, copyright, or trademark within the stipulated time, it is deemed approved after that time.

The days when you cannot clearly state when your patent, trademark, or copyright would be out and how much it would cost, may be completely over, thereby reducing the arbitrary cost of getting these simple things done. In addition, the days of overcrowded queue at the CAC as if it’s the ‘pre-Fashola Oshodi (Lagos)’ may soon be over. Thanks to Mr. Acting President – we can only hope these executive orders become executed.

Timi Olagunju is a technology lawyer, with specialization in providing training, legal, and business support for start-ups, nonprofits, and innovators.




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