We have delisted 44,000 companies from CAC Database- CAC Boss, Bello Mahmud
Barrister Bello Mahmud, the Registrar General of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) does not need much introduction because of the visible nature of his assignments. He is serving out his second tenure at the CAC. But before his ascendancy to the position of Registrar General, he was the Director of the Compliance Department of the Commission, a sensitive department that supervises the enforcement of the provision of the companies and Allied Matters Act 1990 (CAMA) apart from ensuring the filing of statutory returns by companies.
Born on February 24 1954 in Bodinga Local Government Area of Sokoto State, Barrister Bello Mahmud after attending Government College Kaduna for his WASC Certificate between 1967-71, had his legal education at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria starting first with a Diploma-in-Law in 1975, LL.B in June 1978 and called to the Nigerian Bar in July 1979. Apart from attending several trainings at home and abroad, his working career too is quite exciting. He started as a State Counsel, Sokoto State Ministry of Justice in 1980 rising to the position of Principal State Counsel before moving to Usman Danfodio University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto as Principal Secretary and Assistant Director (1983-1985).
Mahmud also had working experience in the private sector where he was employed as Company Secretary/Legal Adviser Gamji Bank of Nigeria (1985-1988) which later became International Trust Bank. It was in 1996 that he was first given political appointment as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice Sokoto State from 1996 to May 1999. Barrister Mahmud who had active legal practice between 1988 to July 2001, except when he served as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, he was also member of the defunct Constituent Assembly 1988-89, Chairman Nigerian Bar Association, Sokoto state 1989-90 and Member Sokoto State Scholarship Board, Director Sakkwato Savings and Loans Limited. Barrister Bello Mahmud is happily married with children. In this interview with Economic Confidential Magazine led by its Managing Editor Ewache Ajefu, he took the team round a tour of current developments at the Commission including but not limited to sanctions, innovations and efforts at concretizing the Information Technology drives to make company registration a smooth sail for all. Excerpts:
EC: How long does it take you to register both business names and incorporation?
RG: What we are doing now is 24 hours. Sometimes it may be less than that. Even though the government has given us 48 hours, but we have taken it upon ourselves to get it done in 24 hours. And I can assure you that in the next few months, it will be a matter of hours! Less than half of that.
EC: How many branches of Corporate Affairs Commission do you have?
RG: We have branches in all the states of the federation and the FCT. We have two in Lagos, the Headquarter complex is also one totalling 39.
EC: You had system abnormalities in the past. Have you overcome the challenges?
RG: The one we had before was called contact pinnacle. And this system was not adequate for our operations because the vendor had refused to develop it to the level that we wanted. In fact, it was supposed to have e-payment platform which was lacking. But subsequently, we have been able to do other systems called CRP. CRP enables you to register you company online from the start to finish, including even stamping your documents. Unlike before, you have to go to stamp duty office, but that has been eliminated. You can now upload your documents and do your registration payments online from any part of the Federation. We have even closed submission of manual documents in six offices of the Federation. They include Abuja, Lagos, Port-Harcourt, Enugu, Kaduna and Kano. In these places, you cannot physically submit your documents anymore. In other places, you can submit documents or visit our offices.
EC: How much have you generated so far since the inception of the administration?
RG: I cannot definitely say how much now. But I know as part of the reforms, we have reduced filing fees to make it easier for people. For anybody registering a company of one million to half a million, we have reduced such fess by fifty percent. And from five million to any amount we have reduced them by 25 percent to encourage Ease of Doing Business. But unfortunately, by doing that we have also lost revenue. And you know we don’t receive any allocation from government. What we generate here is what we use for our operations.
EC: So far how many companies have you registered?
RG: About 1.5 million companies so far.
EC: How far have you gone in the enforcement and clampdown on fake and illegal use of business names?
RG: Touts are no more in CAC because if you can do it yourself you don’t even need to hire a lawyer and that is part of what the government has told us to do. If you want to register your company now, you can do it yourself. Just go to our portal and create an account for yourself. If you cannot do it on your own, then contact a lawyer, chartered Secretary or an Accountant. And these people can file documents on your behalf. Only these categories can access our portal and your very self. Touts have been completely eliminated.
EC: Are you satisfied with companies filing returns and level of compliance?
RG: So far there is improvement and a current ratio of 45 percent. We are still checking on company records especially in terms of compliance for those who have not been filing. If we discover you are not a going concern, the law establishing us gives us power to delist from our database. If we discover and write you first, second and third letter without reply, we now deem it that you are not a going concern and we delist you from our database. So far, the first batch we delisted were about nine thousand (9000) And in the second batch about thirty-five (35,000) totaling 44,000 firms delisted from our database and is still ongoing. Unfortunately, these companies are “briefcase” companies because when you check on the address given, you won’t find them. We are still compiling the list and before the end of this year you will see more delisted companies.
EC: What about the use of technology in your operations?
RG: You know the trend now is information technology(IT). You can’t do any online registration now as I told you without the use of IT. Our operations are ICT-based. As we speak anybody can register in both United States and United Kingdom without necessarily coming to Nigeria. You can file from anywhere in the world and you cannot do that if we are not ICT-based. The only challenge we have now have to do with old records that have not been captured. If you want to make a search on old records, you have to come to us physically. But we are doing all we can to upload them so that you can search without coming to us, and that would be done gradually in the coming months. If you ask us online, a Certified True Copy(CTC) would be made available to you and payment online.
EC: Any ongoing project to make the operations run smoothly?
RG: Yes, and they have to do with the online registration. We now have regulations and requirements which were not there before. The regulations are now online and anybody can go there and see our requirements. And by the presidential order, our fees and procedures are all online. If you go to our website you will know how long it will take you to register and get CTC when you apply for them. That is where we are heading to. And even if we are not able to get you at the stipulated time frame, we will equally let you know.
EC: When you have challenges, where do you turn to?
RG: I can confidently tell you that if I have challenges, I do not turn to anybody but inwards. The greatest problem here is staff cost. Sometimes, 80 percent of what we generate here goes to staff cost. And most times government would want to have some part of it. That is my greatest challenge. Before now government would ask us to give them 20 percent every month of what we generate, but now it has been shifted to end of the year which is a relief anyway. Before now government would take 80 percent and we keep 20 percent, but I can tell you that the situation is bad. Staff cost increase. Not necessarily employing people, but we pay for those promoted and increment for staff.
EC: If so are you looking up to government for more budgetary allocations?
RG: Not in that direction but looking inwards to see how we can generate more revenue to augment shortfalls.
EC: How have you been able to handle staff industrial actions?
RG: The staff industrial action is a long outstanding issue between the staff and management. In 2010, government increased salaries of public servants by over 53 percent. And we were asked to negotiate with our own staff. We negotiated and non-executive agreed to take 35 percent increase and executives got 10 percent and after board approval we started paying. Along the line, National Salaries, Wages and Income Commission came to inspect our books and raised exceptions, saying we are paying illegal salary because it was not approved by them. We explained that the government appointed Board gave approval and we started paying. They asked for the stoppage for us to apply for approval. We did but when the approval came, it was with a review. The approval came with 26 percent across board, meaning that other staff lost nine percent, while the executive gained by fifteen percent. That was the genesis of the problem. They took the problem to the presidency, but presidency insists it must be 26 percent. But we have been able to find our way this year and that is why we have peace now.
EC: what about staff welfare?
RG:Yes that is on. We have planned training for our staff. Some of these plans would be vigorously pursued and materialize in the coming year because we have big budget for that.
EC: Other matters of interest?
RG: As I earlier said we have to tidy up the issue of pilferage. Some of our documents are being pilfered and they need to be uploaded. Some customers would scan documents to go and practice people’s signatures. All these would be in the agenda so that all our operations would now be online and no hard copies again. When you ask for documents, we will tell you to go and pay and go ahead to print the CTC even in your office.
In addition, we now have what we call Public Search Window(PSW) as part of our ICT innovations. It will enable you search online whether a company is registered or not free of charge. Even the e-stamping we are using now is our own innovation. Previously you go to Federal Inland Revenue Service(FIRS) for stamp duties payments. The only thing we have not done now is to print certificate online but we direct you to collect from our office. In the future, we would make sure that with adequate security everyone will be able to print his or her certificates straight from the comfort of their office.