According to Jide Babalola of The Nation, business firms are moving out of Abuja, but if the authorities can reduce the taxes, and boost power supply and security, among other measures, investors will reconsider their stance.
Unnecessary friction between government agencies, corruption and multiple taxation by Federal Capital Territory (FCT) agencies are major reasons why Nigerian and international investors and business firms are moving out of Abuja, Mr Benson Ezem, an architect, has said.
According to Ezem, a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Architects, whose Cosmobase Nigeria Limited owns investments in hospitality, real estate and other sectors of the economy, it is quite possible for Abuja to adopt a pragmatic plan for change towards attracting more Nigerian and international investors.
Asserting that an agreeable investment environment can improve Abuja’s chances in competing with Lagos and other states, he stressed that the high rate of youth unemployment that fuels crime can best be addressed by increased private sector investment.
Among other recommendations, he urges the Federal Government to urgently avert a repeat of the inter-agency friction and confrontation whereby armed men from two agencies threaten a showdown with one another.
He said, “The EFCC/DSS saga alone sends out very wrong signals abroad, businessmen and countries that are our potential investors are all watching this nation; if there are frictions between two security agencies, that does not send a right signal.
“How would a potential foreign investor want to go to a place where he is not sure of his security when people naturally feel discouraged about investing in places known for potentially dangerous confrontations or friction?” he asked.
According to Ezem who is also the proprietor of Jades Hotel in Abuja, the problem of multiple taxation and other charges are big enough to require special government consultation with stakehoders towards redressing various challenges and encouraging more investment in Abuja.
“We businessman with investment in the hospitality business in Abuja are battling with a complex tax system, from the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) alone, we have almost eight different types of taxes, there is environmental charges from the same office, and you have to pay the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, the Water Board, they give you meter and still they don’t rate you through these meter.
“All these are strangulating investment and a five-star hotel chain that I wanted to bring to Abuja to help provide more employment and economic multipliers decided not to invest here after assessing the prevailing tax system.
“I want to ask the Federal Government, the FCT Minister and other relevant authorities to look into these because the industries in Abuja are not many and some of them are already moving out of Abuja to go and invest in other places.
“It is time they look into these, with the number of people in Abuja, the government alone cannot employ all, we need to attract investors and industrialists here but they are sending us away, telling us to invest in other places.
“President Buhari and the FCT Minister should invite the stakeholders here and agencies that are responsible for these multiple taxation on businesses to sit together and find solutions that will also help us curb insecurity and increase youth employment in the FCT.
The issues about ease of doing business is not just about easy online registration of new businesses; is it easy getting an industrial plot of land in Abuja for development, the answer is ‘No’.
“We applied for an estate land in 2012 but up till now, no land has been given; instead they expect us to buy the one vendors are selling around for up to one billion Naira and you can’t get direct allocation for industrial purpose while there are lots of plots allocated but lying unused in Idu Industrial area.
“Such allocations were not going into the hands of people that will use them and provide employment; they were going into the hand of politicians and their agents,” Ezem stated.
Source: The Nation.