Charles Odii: Who is going to save Nigeria’s small businesses?

by Charles Odii

Small businesses in Nigeria need to realize that they must become their own saviors. Firstly, by paying their taxes as upstanding citizens and then by holding the government accountable.

September 1st, 2016 will not be forgotten quickly. At least not by the small businesses in Ikoyi, Lagos whose shops and offices were demolished. This is coming at a time when the country has officially gone into recession. Needless to say, being an entrepreneur now isn’t as easy as it was two years ago.

In spite of the current economic downturn, small businesses in Nigeria have become their own government: They provide their own water, road network, power and other social amenities, yet they pay taxes to the government. For some of them, they might as well be working for the government as they are saddled with multiple taxes.

An entrepreneur who owns a restaurant in Lekki was recently complaining to me about how she is taxed for the signage outside her restaurant, the televisions in the restaurant, ground rent tax, consumption tax, alcohol tax and so on. Shouldn’t the government come to the aid of an entrepreneur like this by streamlining the tax system instead of shutting down their businesses and demolishing their offices?

As is widely known, SMEs are the biggest contributors to economic growth in most nations. In 2013, the micro, small and medium enterprises in Nigeria employed a higher percentage of the labor force and contributed 48.47% to the nation’s GDP as stated by the National Bureau of Statistics. A total of 59,741,211 people representing 84.02% of the total labor force were employed by these SMEs.

This information is available to the government of the day, yet entrepreneurs are left wondering if indeed doing business in this country is sustainable. If companies like Aero Contractors can ground their operations based on current trends, what is the fate of a start-up? Entrepreneurs are crying out #savethesmallbusinesses and I wonder who will perform this herculean task and and when he or she will emerge.

Unfortunately, there is no savior in sight for the SMEs because the legal system itself is too frustrating to encourage any quest for justice.

Small businesses in Nigeria need to realize that they must become their own saviors. Firstly, by paying their taxes as upstanding citizens and then by holding the government accountable.

In the rather unfortunate case of today’s demolition story, imagine if there was a central online database where people could go and confirm if a property has been marked for demolition so they can simply avoid the risk of renting or leasing spaces in such buildings, this huge loss could have been avoided.

Entrepreneurs in Nigeria have been silent and considering the strategic role they plan in the economy, I encourage them to become very active, join industry associations and elect effective leaders that can help drive their objectives and represent them adequately at a national level.

We need to start saving our businesses and the time is now!

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Charles Odii is the Executive Director at SME100 Nigeria.

One comment

  1. Comment: am so worried about the current situation, because its seem there is no body in the present government with any esperience on how to deal with the current economy downfall, companies are folden up and shuting down indefinately leaving so many that was employed unemployed. Pls government react to the situation and give us reason not to panick. Thanks

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