Days after Kano State Government shut down the office of online payment firm, OPay, the company’s Country Manager for Nigeria, Iniabasi Akpan, has reacted to claims that OPay failed to secure necessary approval and authorisation from the state government. He also highlighted the impact that the closure would have on the state. 

In an interview with Nairametrics, Akpan said that the State government didn’t shut down its operation in Kano, clarifying that the government only closed its office. According to him, business is still running as usual. 

It had been previously reported that OPay’s office was shut by the Nigerian Police Force on Friday, September 20, 2019. The spokesman of the Police Command, DSP Abdullahi Haruna Kiyawa said that OPay was accused of non-compliance with the rules and regulations of the State. 

However, Akpan maintained that the office had been closed for no reasonas OPay didn’t receive any formal statement or communication from the Kano State Government. He further stated that the company was in the dark concerning the reason behind the closure. 

Is OPay being bullied? 

While reacting to the closure, Akpan told Nairametrics that for the closure to have occurred without proper communication from the government, it means that someone was trying to bully OPay. 

Nairametrics learnt that OPay has every necessary authorisation to operate in Kano, “We are not out of Kano. We still in Kano State and we are still operating. Our operation isn’t shut down, (but) the office is shut down.  

“We don’t have any official communication from any authority othe reason why it was shut down. So you get the feeling that someone is trying to bully us or someone is trying to play a fast one on us because that’s how vested interest works. 

“There’s no official (statement), nothing from the Kano State government on why the office is shut down. 

We’ve been operating in Lagos; what formal authorisation do we need to go operate a business in (Kano). We are not clear what the (formal authorisation is) because we have everything that we need to be able to function in Kano. We have all the approvals that we need. 

So we don’t understand what other authorisation is required beyond the usual ones of making sure that we pay our taxes.” 

OPay is owned by Opera Group CompanyIt is the payment platform for the company’s other subsidiaries OFoodOBus and ORidewhich have operations in eight cities across Nigeria, including Lagos, Ibadan and Aba. 

Impact of closure

The closure sends a frightening message to investors willing to set up business in Kano State. For OPay not to receive any formal statement from the government regarding their operation in Kano before the closure of its office, it says a lot about the ease of doing business in Kano State. 

Akpan also voiced this worry during the interview, stating that, “I think that’s a way to frustrate investment from coming to a state.”  

Dialogue between OPay and Kano

OPay is in talks with the Kano State government to determine what led to the closure because the mobile money company insists that it has all needed approvalto operate in the state, “We are engaging the Kano State government to understand why our office is closed.” Akpan said. 

OPay is open to regulation

Despite the rivalry between ORide and Gokada, there’s one thing both companies agree on, and that’s for the bike-hailing market to be regulated. 

However, Akpan urged that regulation should be balanced, as over-regulation also has its negative impact just like underregulation does, “Regulation is important, but I believe there can be underregulation and over-regulation.  

Under-regulation is not good because the quality of service will be affected if there’s under regulation. And if there’s over-regulation, then it stifleinnovation and creativity. 

“So there must always be a balance, so we are open to regulation. That’s why we are working with regulators. Some things are being refined and finalised on what the license fee will be and other stuff.” 

Lagos State license fee

The Lagos State Government is reportedly planning to introduce N25 million annually per 1,000 bikes for the bike-hailing market. But Akpan said talks are still ongoing on the license fee, “Nothing has been finalised; discussions are ongoing about it. So definitely, there’s going to be a license fee.  

And that’s part of making sure that serious players, the right players get into the business. And also making sure that not just any Tom, Dick and Harry opts in.”