Past administration frustrated our efforts, CBN tells Otti

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Abia State Governor, Dr Alex Otti, says the State Government would soon set up a commission on the Ease of Doing Business.

The Governor said this is necessary in order to eliminate the obstacles citizens and investors encounter in their efforts to set up and grow their businesses.

Governor Otti disclosed this Wednesday when he played host to a team from Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), led by the Abia State Branch Controller, Mr. Olaoba Ayotunde. Also present was the Abia State chapter Chairman of National Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME), Mr. Eze Linus Okezie.

The CBN team congratulated the Governor on his resounding victory at the March 18, 2023 governorship election and subsequent swearing-in as governor and expressed joy that one of their own is now a State Governor.

“We are glad that someone, a very senior colleague, is heading a State Government. That means those of us in the banking industry should be able to relate easier with the State Government,” said Mr. Kelechi Adiele, who spoke on behalf of the team.

The CBN crew told Governor Otti that the apex bank has designated Abia to receive a palliative of food items to mitigate the harsh impact of the removal of fuel subsidy on the populace, especially the vulnerable poor among the residents.

It added that the CBN was willing to partner and collaborate with the State Government in the area of building Small and Medium Scale Enterprise (SME) Village, financing agriculture, cooperatives and other developmental and empowerment programmes.

However, the CBN representatives narrated some of the ugly experiences the bank has had with previous administrations in the state, which hindered the implementation of some of their intervention programmes.

According to Adiele, who heads the bank’s Department of Development Finance in Abia, some of the issues have been lack of synergy and the necessary structure to work with in things like interventions in Abia State.

“So, when I saw your list of appointments and I noticed that you have a Special Adviser on Interventions, I was very pleased that we have a Focal Person to relate with and explain our challenges.

“Another issue that we have which we would like you to help us with, is the issue of recovery. Here (in Abia), we don’t have structural traditional institutions to help us get to the grassroots when it comes to recovery,” Adiele explained.

The team also drew the attention of the Governor to the issue of delays and difficulties people encounter getting Certificate of Occupancy (C of O), which, according to them, has hindered many Abians from benefiting from CBN interventions.

“Your Excellency, so many business men and women, who are small entrepreneurs wish to access funds from CBN but they do not have a C of O, and you know what that means,” it declared.

Governor Otti expressed happiness to receive the CBN team and promised to work on the issues they raised, so that Abians and residents would benefit from the programmes and interventions of the bank.

He said: “I agree with you completely. Sometimes recovery becomes a problem when you extend some of these supports that you mentioned. We must go back to think of, first of all, how to encourage our people to benefit from some of the items you mentioned. Most importantly, to also support you in recovering.

“You also noted the issue of Certificate of Occupancy. It’s one of the items that don’t help the State in the ease of doing business. The last time I checked, we were somewhere around the twenties out of the 36 States. That is not a good place to be for a State that is both the commercial and industrial nerve center of the Southeast.”

The Governor added: “We will set up a committee or commission on the Ease of Doing Business, which would look at some of the stumbling blocks to the ease of doing business, including the issuance of Certificate of Occupancy, Business Registration; ease at which Government responds, transfer of titles/and so on.

“We also do know that if it is not easy to do business, people will go to where it is easy to do business. So, we lose by not addressing all the issues.”

Governor Otti, who was joined in the meeting by some senior government officials, including Rev. Father Christian Anokwuru, Special Adviser on Policy and Interventions, assured the CBN team of the State Government’s readiness for collaborations and partnership. He told them that the impediments they encountered in the past will be a thing of the past.