There are many laws and agencies in Nigeria regulating businesses. These laws are set by the Federal, State, and Local Governments. However, Irrespective of your line of business in Nigeria, as an SME, the following laws and Agencies are important to your business. I have taken my time to consider them under seven sub-headings for ease.
These subheadings encompass basically everyone‘s right under the constitution as an individual to engage in lawful activities within the country. I considered the law for the creation of business generally, and then taxes, the environment within which the business is conducted, advertisement, protection of business and intellectual property. I ended it with the need to understand specific laws regulating one’s line of business.
The Nigerian Constitution: This is the Supreme Law of the country. All laws inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution are void to the extent of such inconsistency. The constitution guarantees the right to life and freedom of association among other rights. Hence, all persons can engage in any legal activities within the country as long as such activity conforms with the provisions of the constitution and other laws.
Companies and Allied Matters Act: It provides for the incorporation of companies and related matters, registration of business names, and incorporation of trustees of certain committees, bodies, and associations. It also provides for management and administration, internal politics, shareholding, liquidation, and standards for businesses in Nigeria. The Agencies in charge of carrying out the functions listed under the Act are the Corporate Affairs Commission and Federal High Court.
The Various Tax Laws: All persons in employment and entrepreneurs, foreigners; corporate bodies and individuals who earn from Nigeria are liable to pay tax. Some taxes are payable to the Federal Government, some are payable to state, and local governments. These laws make provisions for taxation of companies. It states the rates applicable to companies, time, and the agencies responsible for the collection of such tax. Some of the Taxes are Capital Gain Tax, Companies Income Tax, Education Tax, Personal Income Tax, Petroleum Profits Tax, Stamp Duties, and Value Added Tax. All taxes paid to the Federal Government are administered by Federal Inland Revenue Service. Those paid to the state and local governments are administered by the relevant state or local government agencies.
The various Advertisement Control Laws: These laws are to regulate products packaging and advertisement which comprises of several state and federal government laws. All business in Nigeria must adhere to some advertisement laws. Some of these laws apply generally to all business and advertisement engaged in by the business. Some advertising laws apply specifically to some businesses and products. For instance, Tobacco Advertisement is regulated by Nigerian Tobacco Control Act. While there are also laws like Spirit Drugs Regulation, 2005. Wine Regulation etc regulating advertisement in this line of business.
The Various Environmental Laws: These laws are to regulate environmental practice by individuals and businesses. Each arm of government in Nigeria has various laws regulating the environment. Some of the laws for the federal government are Environment Impact Assessment Act 1992, National Environmental Protection Agency Act 1988, National Environmental Protection (Effluent Limitation) Regulations, National Environmental Protection (Management Of Solid And Hazardous Wastes) Regulations, Harmful Waste (Special Criminal Provisions Etc) Act 1988. Some of these laws are regulated by the National Environment Protection Agency. In Oyo state, for instance, there is Oyo State Environmental (Sanitation and Wastes Control) Regulations, 2013, Ministry of Environment and Water Resources Law, 2001, Ibadan Waste Management Authority (Gazette No 8, vol. 22 of 16th May MANAGEMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION IN IBADAN 267 1997).
Business protection and Intellectual property laws: For any business to carry on with a name, logo and any other means of identification such names, logo, and means must meet the required standard set by some laws. And they must also not infringe on the rights of others or other businesses. Also, the business engaged in an act or special work or intellectual creations can protect their rights over such creations by ensuring such rights are protected. This, of course, will depend on the kind of creation and rights to be protected over such creation. These protections include copyright, patent, trade, trade secret, confidential information. There are several agencies like the Nigeria Copyright Commission, the Trademark Patent and design Office, Nigerian Police Force and the Federal High Court responsible for the protection of these rights and claims for them
The various laws regulating your line of business: Generally, there are some specific laws peculiar to the specific line of businesses. Business owners must be ready to abide and follow the regulations set by these laws in carrying out their business. For instance, the legal profession in Nigeria is regulated by the both the national and state chapter of the Nigerian Bar Association. Also, the General Council of the Bar makes laws regulating the practice of law and requirements for qualification to practice. Those in the advertisement business are regulated by the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria
As proprietors and intending proprietors of SME’s please be properly guided and be on the right side of the law