2 Years Of Lady Azuka Azinge’s Stewardship As Acting Registrar-general Of Corporate Affairs Commission
Lady Azuka Azinge took over the helms of affairs of the Commission as Acting Registrar-General on 9thOctober 2017 upon the expiration of the tenure of the erstwhile Registrar-General Mr. Bello Mahmud.
Within the 2 years she took over, the Commission accomplished the following milestones:
• Settled 2013, 9% salary increment arrears that arose from a tripartite agreement between the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, CAC and the Union, which was a major cause of perennial and industrial unrest before she assumed office.
• Complete decentralization of all State Offices operations, to ensure that State Offices operate at par with Head Office, and to enable customers pick up their Certificates at any location of their choice.
• Full closure of Manual Registration nationwide and deployment of online real time pre-registration services to all State Offices through the Company Registration Portal (CRP), to enable members of the public register their businesses from the comfort of their homes and offices within 24 hours.
• Improved delivery time for name search from 12 hours to 0-4 hours.
• Reorganization of Departments and State Offices for efficient service delivery.
• Removal of requirement for proficiency certificate in the registration of professional entities to encourage investors.
• Recognition and reward for high performance (promotion of two outstanding staff).
• Faithful implementation of Presidential Executive Orders on Ease of Doing Business and other relevant reforms.
• Introduced Functional external and internal communication (Functional website, periodic circulars).
• Deepened communication with stakeholders and the general public through periodic Customers’ Forum, Public Sensitization, Open Market campaign and other forms of public engagement.
• Ensured the Commission’s consistent participation in the nationwide Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Clinics under the Office of the Vice President.
• Successfully implemented the Business Incentive Strategy (BIS) under which cost of registration of business was reduced by 50% to enable MSMEs formalize their businesses. A total of 232,004 Business Names were registered during the period.
• Facilitated the passage of Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) Amendment Bill 2019 by the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Bill is awaiting Presidential assent.
• Enhanced functional Help Desk to boost quality of service to Customers and the general public.
• Restored full industrial harmony between Union and Management thereby leading to increased productivity.
• Gradual payment of pension arrears which had been pending before her coming into Office.
• Introduced the Computer Based Test (CBT) for conduct of Promotion Examinations to ensure prompt release of results and enhance transparency and integrity of the process.
• Organized a top Management retreat on Strategic Planning (first of its kind) to reposition the Commission towards operational excellence.
• Introduced Sustainability Management Principles and successfully keyed into Sustainability Development Agenda of the Federal Government and has consequently incorporated same in its operations.
• Sustained conformity with the Quality Management System (QMS) throughout year 2018 upon transition from NIS ISO 9001:2008 Standard to NIS ISO 9001:2015 standard in 2017 Quality Management System (QMS).
• Review and Publication of Operational Guidelines or Check Lists on the Commission’s website.
• Partial automation of post incorporation applications from State Offices through email to reduce turnaround time and costs of transportation through courier services.
• Consolidation of incorporation Forms into one CAC1.1 which simplified registration for customers and saves costs.
The foregoing and other reforms ensured that Nigeria made significant progress in the Ease of Doing Business Index in 2017 and 2018. The reforms also earned the Commission several outstanding awards.
These achievements led to the following recognition/ awards:
1. Award of best performing Ministry Department and Agency (MDA) by Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) “Distinguished 2017 PEBEC Impact Award”- 11th December, 2017.
2. “Best Agency for Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria” – National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) for the year 2017.- 9th November, 2017.
3. “Best MDA Compliance to Information Technology Clearance Policy for Year 2017” – NITDA- 9th November, 2017.
4 “Most Innovative use of Technology Team of the year Award” November, 2018.
5 “AES Government Parastatal of the Year Award 2017” by Academy for Entrepreneurial Studies, 8th December, 2017.
6 “Star Agency for National Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (NMSMEs) Clinics for Viable Enterprises” by the Vice-President and Initiator of NMSMEs Clinics- 19th December, 2017.
7. “Award for Digital Innovation in Federal Government Category for 2019” by Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA) 5th July, 2019.
8. “World Bank Doing Business Ranking Award 2019”.
9. “Award for outstanding Support for Development of MSMEs 2019” during the 2nd National MSME’s Award 2019- 1st August, 2019.
In spite of the numerous milestones and achievements outlined above and many others too numerous to mention, some unscrupulous individuals and their sponsors have authored several petitions against her person and the Commission to several Agencies including the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.
Rather than wait for the outcome of the petitions, they apparently resorted to media trial on the same issue as evidenced by the articles published in theNigerianlawyer.com of 25th September, 2019 and newsdigest.org/news of 24th September, 2019.
For the avoidance of doubt, we wish to state the correct position on the various issues and put the record straight as follows:
1. Composition of Committees:
Rule 2.14 and 2.15 of the Commission’s Conditions of Service provide for the Central Disciplinary Committee (CDC) and the Examination Committee. There are however several other operational Committees such as the Procurement Committee, Budget Committee, Sports Committee, Anti-Corruption Committee, Sustainability Finance Committee and Industrial Relations Committee filled by members of Staff from different parts of the country and departments. The members of the Examination Committee and the Central Disciplinary Committee which the Union made an issue thereof as not reflecting Federal character are drawn from different parts of the country. The Bio data of members of the Committee are available at Human Resource Department for confirmation.
The Examination Committee was reconstituted in response to stringent demand for it by the Union. It should be noted that in respect of Mr. A.G Abubakar and Mr. MunirWambai, the Union had by its letter dated 17/6/2017 demanded that the duo be removed from the Examination Committee. The demand later turned to total disbandment of the Committee. Curiously, the demand is now being made for inclusion of the same names earlier rejected.
Generally, Composition of Committees and the Examination and Disciplinary Committees in particular, in addition to functional representation require that persons of proven integrity are nominated into those Committees to provide exemplary leadership. Nomination into those Committees therefore take due cognizance of knowledge, skill, character, integrity and trust. It is improper for anyone or group to dictate to Management who and who should be members of a specific Committee.
It is false to claim that the two Committees do not reflect Federal Character. The issue of federal character is just being invoked to whip up sentiments and sow seed of discord between Management and Staff. We believe the issue is also being raised to cast aspersion on the integrity of the Management.
2. Upgrade of Company Registration Portal (CRP):
The Company Registration Portal is the software that drives the operations of the Commission. The vendors of the software Messrs Oasis Nigeria Limited was engaged by the Commission in 2014, upon the approval of the Federal Executive Council, three years before Lady Azuka Azinge assumed office.
The Management had decided on infrastructure upgrade of certain operational process in two major areas:
i) E-Certificate and Certified True Copies (CTC): This was an upgrade of Pre Incorporation process designed to enable customers to print certificates and Certified True Copies of filed documents from their ends. The upgrade as originally designed was aimed at doing away with physical contact with the Commission or Federal Inland Revenue Service in the registration process. The initiative was to ensure improved efficiency, provide greater customer experience and further ease doing business. The desired objective was not realized and the Commission had to revert to status quo.
ii) Deployment of Online Post Incorporation Modules: All post incorporation applications are currently partially automated. Seven high volume post incorporation processes were deployed on the 19/8/2019. The deployment was aimed at enhancing operational efficiency, save cost for both the organization and customers and also promote Ease of Doing Business.
Pre and Post incorporation processes were already on-going processes for which payments were made on the Treasury Single Account (TSA) Platform (Remita). It is difficult to see how an upgrade of existing process that had established mode of payment could result into siphoning money when the mode of payment itself did not change. The allegation that CRP upgrade was aimed at siphoning money is not only patently false but illogical. It is a mischievous smear campaign against the person of Lady Azinge.
We await proof of this allegation by the authors.
3. Contract Appointment for Anthony Udegbe:
The offer of contract appointment to Mr. Anthony Udegbe was made pursuant to Rule 3.05(d) of the Commission’s Conditions of Service which provides for such appointment. It was duly approved by the Commission’s Board as required by clause 3.02 of the Conditions of Service. It is difficult to ascribe bias to a collective decision of the Board with membership drawn from different parts of the Country.
The contract appointment was not premised on his indispensability or any other consideration but rather to ensure that the high standard and effectiveness of the Board Secretariat was preserved. It was also to ensure that he mentors other officers to take over from him at the end of the contract period.
Mr. Anthony Udegbe was offered a fresh appointment when he joined the Commission in 1991. There was no transfer of service for any staff then. The Commission itself is not up to 30 years. The allegation of working for 38 years is consequently baseless and clearly mischievous.
The allegation that two other members of staff (Jamilu Nalado and Aminu Abubakar) asked for similar treatment but were denied is false. The two mentioned staff never asked for contract appointment prior to their retirement. One only lobbied for special consideration for promotion which was not sustained. Their subsequent belated requests for contract appointments were instigated to create false impression of discrimination by Management in handling these issues.
4. Acting Head of Public Affairs Department:
Mr. Moses Adaguusu, a Deputy Director and a Legal Practitioner of 30 years standing at the Bar was redeployed to the Public Affairs Department in July, 2014 by the former RG because of his belief that the staff as an author, Senior Editor of the Nigerian Weekly Law Reports (NWLR), Nigerian Banking Law Reports (NBLR), Nigerian Company Law Reports (NCLR), Bar and Bench Publishers, and several reputable Law Reports could add value to the work of that Department. He being the most senior officer when the Acting Head of the Public Affairs Department Mr. Godfrey Ike retired from service in May, 2019 became Acting Head of Public Affairs. His position is as a result of seniority and merit. There is no statutory provision in the Criminal Code, Penal Code or Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) Act itself which criminalizes such succession based on seniority.
This allegation and the publication is also a subtle attempt to determine which Staff should be posted to which Department without due regard to merit, competence and seniority.
5. Acting Registrar-General’s Remuneration:
By a letter No T/FAL/233119/S/302117 dated 28th September, 2017 issued by FMITI and signed by O. Ogenyi (Ag. Permanent Secretary for the Honourable Minister, Lady Azuka Azinge was appointed as Acting Registrar-General with effect from 9th October, 2017. The post of Acting Registrar-General qualifies her as an Officer of the Commission within the meaning of Rule 6. 06 of the Commission’s Conditions of Service to earn acting allowance if she acts at a higher position for 30 or more days. It was based on the belief that the Acting RG is an officer of the Commission that the Board on the 8th & 9th February, 2019 considered and approved payment of acting allowance to her. The Board’s decision was informed by the fact that Rule 6. 06 mentioned above did not provide details as to what constitutes acting allowance. As a matter of fact, the Board at its 74th meeting approved the acting allowances only, which excludes salary. Consequently, the Ag. RG still earns the salary of a Director.
From the foregoing, it is therefore not true to say that the Board upgraded her status from overseeing Director to that of Acting Registrar-General as erroneously reported in the press as her letter of appointment was explicit and crystal clear on the status of her appointment as Acting Registrar-General.
It is also not correct to say that the matter was presented to the Board twice or that Board excerpts on the matter was presented to His Excellency Prince Dapo Abiodun the then Chairman of the Board and he declined to sign the excerpts for the reason that the matter was never on the agenda. The Chairman of the Board does not sign excerpts. It is rather minutes of meeting approved at subsequent meetings that are signed by the Chairman and Secretary.
The media reportage on this matter was deliberate fabrication to portray false recalcitrance.
We believe the media campaigns are blatant attempts to distract the Ag. RG and the Management team from the excellent job they have been doing in the Commission which has significantly contributed to Nigeria’s ranking on the Global Ease of Doing Business Index as copiously acknowledged and honoured locally and internationally.
Finally, we submit that all the allegations contained in several petitions dished out to different agencies which were published in the media are baseless.
We wish to stress that the Ag. Registrar-General and the Management of CAC remain committed to the reform agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari Administration to take Nigeria to the next level.