President Muhammadu Buhari’s Economic Team headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, has served notice of its intention to introduce a bill in the National Assembly (NASS) seeking “emergency” powers to fix the economy.
In a nutshell, the bill, which is expected to be in the NASS as soon as members resume from their recess, seeks to: speed up the procurement process and raise mobilisation fees to contractors to 50% from the current 15% (thus ensuring that local contractors are favoured) and abridge the process of sale/lease of governments in order to raise revenue.
Others are, to allow virement, (the reallocation of funds to projects in the budget) by the Executive without the approval of the Legislature as the Constitution demands; amending some laws, for example, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) law to allow states that do not qualify to access their share of the UBE funds to enhance the education sector; speeding up the process of obtaining the Nigerian visa and compel crucial agencies like National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to improve our poor doing business rating.
Some stakeholders in the economy, especially the organised private sector, have eagerly supported this proposal, obviously because fifteen months after assuming power, the Buhari regime has finally come out with the intention to do something radical to address an economy that bleeds on all fronts while the regime makes excuses by blaming its predecessors.
The mass poverty from unpaid salaries, massive loss of jobs and flight of foreign capital and companies to more profitable grounds, mainly as a result of Buhari’s policies, have recently forced Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka; former CBN Governors, Prof Charles Soludo and Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as well as Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, to voice out their concerns over the terrible economic situation.
It is our candid view that what is required to fix the economy is not a fallback to draconian laws that grease the wheels of impunity and corruption, but imaginative thinking and all-inclusive leadership. Nigeria’s President has enough powers in the constitution and the laws made therefrom to do his work. All he needs is to engage actively with all stakeholders, particularly the National Assembly and other non-state actors, to get rid of bottlenecks to economic recovery. The President needs the collaboration of all sectors to succeed. That is the hallmark and beauty of democratic governance.
Apart from more abandoned projects which the 50% mobilisation could create, it will also enhance large-scale corruption since politicians and influential people within the ruling party will be the primary beneficiaries of contracts. Secondly, virement is a core legislative constitutional power. We oppose the exclusion of the Legislature, as this could worsen the unbridled favouritism and nepotism already evident in this government’s public appointments. The Legislature’s checks and balances function must be asserted in any virement action.
The emergency powers which the Shagari government was granted never fixed the economy. They merely made the poor masses to pay for the sins and excesses of politicians.
We must do away with our military or fire brigade approach to governance, where the making or change of laws is seen as the silver bullet to kill problems. It never does. It requires painstaking imagination, not emergency laws, to solve problems, especially those of economic nature.
Emergency powers will only benefit politicians, open a new front for corruption and advance the shadow of civilian dictatorship.