As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark the 2021 Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), stakeholders in the trade sector have called for 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).
They made the call at a webinar organized by the policy centre of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) to mark the World MSME Day with leading experts in the field positing that the legislation and executive order were urgently needed to enforce harmonised taxation for SMEs as provided for in the new national MSME policy.
In her remarks, the Minister of State for Trade and Investment, Amb. Mariam Katagum, listed the various efforts of the Federal Government to promote the SMEs, citing as an example the new national policy on MSME which contained several innovations to develop the sector.
The director-general of SMEDAN, Dr. Dikko Umaru Radda, in his presentation also described the new national policy as a product of extensive consultation with stakeholders, pointing out that the challenges facing the sector would 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 MSMEs are dying prematurely due to multiple and excessive taxation.
The CEO of Bristol Investment Limited, Dr. Chijioke Ekechukwu, said since SMEs contributed over 50 per cent of the GDP, a legislation harmonizing taxation for the sub-sector was needed.
In his remarks, the special adviser on trade and investment to the Borno State governor, Hon. Bashir Maidugu, contended that such a legislation would permanently address challenges of taxation killing many businesses and hindering their readiness for AfCFTA.
The vice -president, commerce, of ACCI, Dr. Sijuwade Kayode, said while legislation was being worked upon, the president should issue an executive order enforcing implementation of existing incentives for SMEs as well as work out a robust legislation to create a one stop tax payment system for SMEs.
Earlier in his remarks, the president of ACCI, Dr. Al-Mujtaba Abubakar, commended the Federal Government for the conclusion of the national MSME Policy and 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”, he said, renewing call on government “to disburse financial interventions to SMEs through the chamber movement in Nigeria”, adding “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, Abubakar said Nigeria was poised to expand its influence across Africa through trading activities. “Nigeria’s MSMEs 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),” he added.
A statement by ACCI’s media officer, Olayemi John-Mensah, said the webinar ended with a four-point recommendation 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.