Trade experts and operators of SMEs in Nigeria have called for a legislation and presidential Executive Order to streamline taxation of small businesses to expand their survival rate and capacity for Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Speaking at a webinar organised by the Policy Centre of Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry to mark the World MSME Day, leading experts in the field posited that the legislation and executive order are urgently needed to enforce harmonised taxation for SMEs as provided in the new national MSME policy.
The Minister of State for Trade and Investment, Amb. Mariam Katagum had in her presentation at the event listed the various efforts of the Federal Government to promote the SMEs, citing the new national policy on MSME which contained several innovations to develop the sector.
The Director General of SMEDAN, Dr.DikkoUmaruRadda in his presentation had also described the new national policy as a product of extensive consultation with stakeholders and submitting that the challenges facing the sector will be resolved with the implementation of the policy.
A cross section of speakers however emphasised the need to create mechanisms for the enforcement of the policy as many MSME are dying prematurely due to multiple and excessive taxation.
Dr ChijiokeEkechukwu, the CEO of Bristol Investment Limited affirmed that since SMEs contributed over 50 % of the GDP, a legislation harmonizing taxation for the sub-sector is needed.
Another speaker, Hon Bashir Maidugu, the Special adviser on Trade and Investment to the Borno state Governor posited that such a legislation will permanently address challenges of taxation that is killing many businesses and hindering their readiness for AfCFTA.
The Vice -President, Commerce ACCI, Dr.SijuwadeKayode added further that while legislation is being worked upon, the President should issue an executive order,enforcing implementation of existing incentives for SMEs as well as a robust legislation to create a one stop tax payment system for SMEs.
The speakers opined that the proposed legislation and executive order will strengthen the Nigerian SMEs and prepare them to take advantage of opportunities offered by the continental free trade regime.
Speaking earlier, the President of ACCI, Dr Al-MujtabaAbubakar commended the Federal Government for the conclusion of the national MSME Policy even as he lauded the partnership between ACCI and SMEDAN to drive the implementation of the new policy.
“This partnership is an indication that the policy is not meant to be an academic exercise but a genuine demonstration by this administration to strengthen the Nigeria economy”, Dr.Abubakar said, renewing call on government “to disburse financial interventions to SMEs through the chamber movement in Nigeria. As a corporate body with rules and due process, the chamber movement will save the government all the head aches of data gathering, and registration of businesses that require financial interventions.
“The chamber movement has comprehensive lists of MSME across Nigeria. It will, therefore, be easier for government not just to liaise with the chambers of commerce but to also have feedback. The chamber represents businesses and the impact of financial interventions will be better felt if such interventions are routed through the chamber movement.”
Speaking on the MSME celebration, Dr.Abubakar said Nigeria is poised to expand her influence across Africa through trading activities, adding that “Nigeria’s MSME are energized and are poised to storm the export markets in the spirit of AfCFTA. Evidence from our members nationwide confirm readiness, and preparedness for innovation to meet the challenges of African Free Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA)”
The webinar ended with a four point recommendations from participants namely the need for nationwide sensitisation on the benefits of the new policy for SMEs; the need for an executive bill to harmonise SME taxation; the need for an executive order to enforce existing incentives for SMEs; and a recognition of SMEs’ pivotal position under the AfCFTA.