Seni Adio, SAN Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association - Section on Business Law.
The 14th Annual NBA-SBL e-conference, which took place on July 16 and 17, was tagged, “Business Unusual: Digital Acceleration for Growth in A New World”.
Undoubtedly, this theme was apt for discussion given the current unprecedented times. The e-conference was held in a virtual venue, with multiple interactive rooms, plenary sessions, breakout sessions, virtual/speed networking, media highlights, and wrapped up with an e-party with fun music and virtual games.
Amid the several thought-filled sessions, one session stood out. The e-conference chair, Ozofu Ogiemudia, a partner at Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie moderated a fireside chat with Alhaji Garba Abubakar, the Registrar-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). The session was tagged, “Changes on the Horizon: The Future of Company Law in Nigeria” and highlighted burning concerns of lawyers and the business community.
The CAC is at the centre of the business environment, being the primary regulator for corporate activities in Nigeria. Since Covid-19, the CAC has responded with guidelines and policies to address some of the concerns regarding the continuation of business activities.
During the fireside chat, AG Abubakar highlighted some of the CAC’s recent policies and constraints.
“In recent years, we have ensured that company registration can now be done online, with the exception of the collection of registration certificates. Post-incorporation processes are still done manually, and I must admit that this is not good enough but we are working to ensure that there are major improvements before the end of the year. The idea is for the processes - from name reservation all the way to company dissolution - to become fully digital”.
AG Abubakar also highlighted a few recent interventions including the £320,000 World Bank grant, under its Open Governance Partnership Multi-Donor Fund, to assist the CAC implement some of its new innovations.
In light of the pandemic, the CAC has also, in collaboration with the Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), issued guidelines which permit up to 20 proxies to attend Annual General Meetings in the stead of shareholders, so long as the due process under the relevant guidelines are adhered to.
“We are also encouraging private companies to amend their constitutional documents to provide for virtual meetings. Covid-19 has shown us that the way forward is indeed digital,” said AG Abubakar.
“Our offices currently close at 2pm daily. We are also equipping our staff to work remotely. The CAC is, in addition, engaging courier companies to deliver relevant registration and post-registration documents to the homes of our customers,” said AG Abubakar.
AG Abubakar also spoke on the Companies and Allied Matters Bill which is set to revamp the ease of doing business in Nigeria. He confirmed that the Bill had been passed by both chambers of the Nigerian legislature and had now been shared with relevant government agencies for final comments, as well as the Presidency.
“Working on this Bill, we have collaborated with committed associations including: the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (Chaired by the Vice President alongside the Special Adviser to the President on the Ease of Doing Business, as the Secretary); the members of the NBA-SBL; Business Recovery & Insolvency Practitioners of Nigeria (BRIPAN) and many more.”
Once the Bill receives Presidential Assent, the expectation of the legal and business community in Nigeria is for a major positive shift for Nigerian company law, as was highlighted in an earlier article here.
AG Abubakar also committed to a few more interventions before the year ends, including the introduction of e-certificates and e-filing of annual returns.
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