Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Ease of doing business: How MDAs are frustrating investors

The drive by the present administration to ease the burden of doing business in Nigeria may suffer a serious setback due to a major deficiency in communication flow between government agencies and foreign investors who may want to conduct enquiries before making up their minds on whether or not to invest in the country.
Acting President Osinbajo meets US President Trump in Italy. This is because, as Vanguard investigations show, most Nigerian Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, which are the repositories through which foreign investors could access vital investment information about the country do not have functional telephone lines. Vanguard’s findings show that despite huge budgetary provisions for telephone and Internet services yearly, all the MDAs still list non-functional phone numbers as their means of contacts on their wobbling websites. Apart from parading dead telephone lines, many other government agencies do not bother to indicate their contact telephone lines on their websites as obtains in other countries. Further findings reveal that where such MDAs indicate any telephone number at all on their websites, the numbers are either not working or cannot be connected to any of the networks currently in operation in Nigeria. Of all the federal ministries surveyed by Vanguard, only the Foreign Affairs Ministry provides a GSM number: 08038883494, which however, does not ring. The contact number does not ring either in the day or night, thereby rendering it useless to local and international inquiries. The Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission, at Plot 1181, Aguiyi Ironsi Street, Maitama District, provides two telephone lines on its website: +234 (0)9 2900059,+234 (0)9 2900061, but neither is working. The two lines report that they had been switched off when our correspondent dialled them. The Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, lists this line: 09-5234694, which it claims belongs to its Public Relations Officer (PRO) and the same line is meant for facsimile service, which unfortunately does not work. A call to the line, returns a troubling answer: “The number you have called does not exist”. However, three other lines provided by the NCS for people to report any activity of smugglers to the agency given as 094621597, 094621598 and 094621599, ring but plays music at the background with nobody answering from the NCS. Embarrassingly, the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, which is expected to prepare visas for foreigners and investors at a faster rate under the new dispensation, presents a phone number on its website: Phone: +234-9-7806771. When Vanguard dialled the number last night, it kept returning the message: “The number you are calling does not exist.” The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, which is the major revenue generator for Nigeria, has inexplicably not provided any telephone contact on its website. It simply says on its contact page: Corporate Headquarters, NNPC Towers, Central Business District, Herbert Macaulay Way, P.M.B. 190, Garki, Abuja. General Inquiries: Please fill out the contact form below or e-mail us at, Website problems, Please contact the webmaster at   The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, which is expected to attract visitors and in the process generate revenue for the country, provides this non-functional line: +234 9 234 2764, as its major contact on its website” Like others, the NTDC contact line keeps saying the number does not exist despite repeated dials. To worsen matters, it does not have a running website at the moment. A search on its website address:, returns: “The account has been suspended, please contact your host”. A major corporation licensed by the Nigerian Government to protect Nigerian banks and customers’ deposits, the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation, NDIC, also lists over 20 lines: Tel: (09) 460 1380 – 9 (09) 617 1380 – 9, on its website but none appears to be working. When dialled, each of the number returns: “The number you are calling does not exist.” In the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, there is no functional telephone number listed on its website. The only semblance of what appears as a contact telephone symbol on the ministry’s website is: Via phone: 234 xxxxx… In the Federal Ministry of Industries, Trade and Investments, which is supposed to serve as the coordinating agency for investment drive into the country, a symbolic Nigerian telephone code is the only item placed where a telephone number should appear on the website of the ministry. It has the symbol: Phone: +234 NIGERIA Similarly, finding shows that the strategic Ministry of Mines and Steel lists a line: +234 9 523 9064, which returns a frightening response: “The number you have called does not exist. Please check the number and dial again.” The same problem afflicts the Ministry of Interior; whose contact line 09-6713526, promptly greets the caller with the response: “The number you have called does not exist”. The same scenario plays out in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, where the Phone symbol, and 234 xxxxx… appears as its contact telephone line. The Ministry of Finance  did not also provide any telephone contact on its website. Beyond the telephone line problem which afflicts virtually all the MDAs, the updating of vital information on their websites remains another source of concern. Information is not regularly updated on most of the MDA websites, according to our findings. For instance, in the Ministry of Environment, the picture and bio-data of the former minister, Amina Mohammed, who had since resumed as the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, are still running on the ministry’s website as minister, months after she had exited the ministry for New York. The website of the Federal Ministry of Justice and Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation is currently down with Error 404 showing up whenever one tries to access it for any purpose. No explanation has been given for such a flop. The website of Ministry of Labour and Productivity:, is currently down with no explanation on why such a vital communication route should be non-functioning, just as its contact telephone number: +234 9 5235973, does not ring when dialled for any information pertaining to the ministry and its numerous parastatals. The good thing is that the minister, Dr. Chris Ngige, picks all his calls and still uses the same line he used before his appointment as minister. Although the website of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture is regularly updated, it does not also have any telephone contact to assist anyone to get prompt access to any of the top officials of the ministry. The good thing about the ministry is that unlike most other ministers, its head,  Alhaji Lai Mohammed, answers any phone call on his mobile phone. The Ministry of Health on the other hand, has not bothered to put a telephone symbol or any number on its website, just like the Ministry of Education. The saving grace for the Health ministry is that the minister, Prof Isaac Adewole picks his calls and responds to text messages. Apart from answering his callers —  known or unknown — Adewole also responds to tweets and Facebook enquiries of those looking for information about his ministry. Many other ministers only pick and answer callers who are known to them and therefore shut out genuine information seekers for investments or any other official purpose. Less than 30% MDAs have functional website, emails – NITDA Meanwhile, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has revealed that less than 30 per cent of government Ministries, Departments and Agencies   have functional website in Nigeria. The Director General of the agency, DR. Ibrahim Isa Pantami made the disclosure, yesterday, at the 2017 Digital Africa conference and Exhibition holding at Yar’ Adua Centre, Abuja. The NITDA boss also disclosed that only 25 per cent of the MDAs have functional mobile phone numbers across the country. He noted that the assessment was carried out in compliance with the Executive Order signed by the Acting President, Prof.Yemi Osinbanjo , on the promotion of transparency and efficiency in the business environment, which is designed to facilitate the ease of doing business in Nigeria as it relates to the use of ICT for efficient service delivery. Responding to the communication flaws in the MDAs, the Minister of Industries, Trade and Investments, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, assured that the Federal Government is taking concrete steps to address the identified lapses so as not to hamper the EDBES drive in the country. Enelamah said in an interview with Vanguard: “All MDAs have been directed to update their websites and the Ministry of Communications and Galaxy Backbone are working with them to do so. “Also, Ease of Doing Business Secretariat (EDBES) and Servicom as well as consultants are rolling out a massive support programme to help the MDAs overcome their communication challenges and keep them up to date in terms of communicating with the world at all times,” the minister assured.

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