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Transforming CAC to world-class companies’ registry

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By Ibrahim Ramalan – The Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) is a Federal Government agency that is saddled with the responsibility of business registration in the country. Alhaji Garba Abubakar, the current Registrar-General of the Commission, is no more than a colossus, well-educated and thorough-bred lawyer cum civil servant. Mr Abubakar, who hails from Bauchi State, was born on October 7, 1966. He joined the CAC in 2004 as a Principal Manager and rose to become a director in 2017, before being appointed the number-one man in the Commission.

Appointed in January 2020 by President Muhammadu Buhari, AG Abubakar stepped into the leadership helm of the CAC with a resolve to improve the service delivery and revenue generation of the commission. True to that, a few years down the line, the Registrar-General can now pride himself on so many innovations and astounding reforms as far as company registration, staff welfare and general administration of the commission are concerned. AG Abubakar has done a lot in ensuring service delivery to the commission’s teeming customers.

Cashing in on the Companies and Allied Matters Act, CAMA 2020, the Registrar-General introduced many reforms. Some of which include the introduction of two business ownership types: Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs) and Limited Partnerships (LPs).

The LLP is a partnership arrangement with a legal personality, separate from the partners, while the LP is a partnership arrangement with at least one general partner and at least one limited partner. Another reform by the CAC Boss is the launching of a new self-service portal for company registration that allows for end-to-end electronic submission by customers. The new law provided a robust framework towards reforming identified legal, regulatory and administrative bottlenecks, which had hitherto slowed down the wheel of doing business for over three decades.

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As major implementers of the CAMA, the CAC has been able to keep tab with the global practices by introducing many reforms in keeping with the law. One of it is that all documents issued by the Commission after registration now come with a QR Code that allows one to scan to confirm their authenticity. Without sounding arrogant, I make bold to say that there is no registry that uses QR Code for validation in the country apart from the CAC, courtesy of AG Abubakar’s leadership foresight.

CAMA 2020 enabled individuals to register their businesses with the CAC, without going through a lawyer or any other stipulated professionals. It is also possible for an individual to form and incorporate a private company, unlike before when sole membership of a company was impossible.

Furthermore, the CAC, under the AG Abubakar’s leadership, has been able to develop an app to make customers have easy access in registering companies. The app would help customers to navigate from account creation opening to the final stage of the company registration. With this, CAC is one of the few government agencies that have recognised the importance of ICT in company registration activities. Over the years, the CAC had continued to improve and refine its processes and standards in line with global best practices through its integrated ICT system, code-named CACONLINE.

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In furtherance of the Federal Government’s ease of doing business initiative, AG Abubakar had introduced an interface in the CAC company registration portal whereby business owners wouldn’t have to visit the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, for generation of Tax Identification Number, TIN. The numbers would be generated by the portal and even get printed on the certificate of incorporation.

The initiative, according to the Registrar, followed his quest to identify glitches in the registration and post registration of businesses with a view to removing all bottlenecks hindering their operations. Little wonder the National Assembly commended him for introducing wide-ranging reforms in the commission. It would be recalled that the Senate Committee on Trade and Investment, chaired by Francis Fadaunsi, had expressed delight at the commission’s use of technology to drive its processes.

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Peeping into another noteworthy reform, we will see that the CAC has opened itself up for partnership and intergovernmental support, considering its strategic position as the repository of companies and their operators. The Commission is in partnership with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Department of State Security Services (DSS), ICPC and INTERPOL. The commission had established a dedicated unit to expeditiously handle requests for information and other services.

The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, in partnership with the Commission, inaugurated a National Beneficial Ownership Register which will be filled in with information and data on who owns what in the oil, gas and mining sectors. With this, financial excesses and illegalities will be kept in check. The Commission had also granted the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, access to its database to probe fraudulent companies.

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As impressive as these reforms are, they are not without some backlashes from members of staff of the commission, including some outsiders. On the heels of these reforms, especially the digitization of the commission’s registry, many staffers insinuated a reduction in the workforce of the commission. Allaying the fears of these staff, AG Abubakar dismissed any move to lay off some of the workforce of the commission. Instead, he charged the staffers to rededicate themselves to their duties, stressing that technology was currently taking over manual processes in the Commission, hence the urgent need for staffers to make themselves relevant to the system. The Registrar-General added that it was imperative for non-compliant staff to embrace technology.

In the final analysis, it will be deduced that CAC under AG Abubakar has witnessed tremendous progress through implementation of various reform initiatives and policies of the Federal Government. His open-door policy is second to none. Based on the foregoing, it would be deduced that AG Abubakar has so far justified the confidence President Buhari reposed in him. However, the Registrar needs to put harder in his bid to improve staff training and development.

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Mr Ramalan wrote from Abuja

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