Last week, former President of Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, spoke to selected media organisations on how Nigeria can generate huge revenues through legal innovations.
Law and Human Rights which was at the event, captures some of the highpoints of Agbakoba’s proposition to solve Nigeria’s massive revenue shortfalls using legal innovations.
Nigeria is a very big country with over 200 million people but is a dumping ground for foreign goods because we have no national trade policy and legislation. It is important to enact legislation that will support the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiation, NOTN. To support local produce, the starting point is to enact trade remedies legislation. Trade remedies legislation imposes anti-dumping duties on dumped products. There is also counter-veiling special duties measures imposed on exports into Nigeria subsidized by a foreign country. The trade remedies legislation will also prohibit imports if it is adjudged that they will cause material injury to local industries, for example by impeding growth.
Foreign aircraft dominate the Nigerian airspace and earn well over N1 trillion annually to our exclusion. What is needed is a policy that will generate and lock in income from aviation in Nigeria. Nigeria can generate over N1 trillion annually by simply passing a Fly Nigeria Bill. A Fly Nigeria Act will ensure that public funds to purchase air tickets must originate and fly on a Nigerian carrier. The Fly Nigeria Act will create an instant market of goods, passengers, and services for our national carrier.
This is potentially the largest economic sector outside of hydrocarbons. A recent report by a Dutch consultancy firm, Dynanmar, shows that Nigeria loses about N20 billion daily at the ports, which at an annual value, is about N7.2 trillion. Nobody is quite sure about the figures from other sectors – Legal, Banking and Insurance. In the Oil and Gas industry, for example, all the major legal work (which is well beyond $1 billion in value) by the major IOCs are carried out by foreign retained law firms.
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These foreign law firms are engaged in extensive legal support for the IOCs- from advisory to contract drafting, consulting, arbitration, mediation, cross-border litigation and the various legal relationships arising between the government of Nigeria and the IOCs in relation to oil well disputes, Production Sharing Contracts and legal issues related to NAPIMS. The only connection a handful of Nigerian law firms have with legal services in this industry is when they are subcontracted by foreign law firms to provide data support and advisory on the status of Nigerian Law.
So, generally speaking, the legal services spend, which is revenue generated and accruable, ought to be invested in Nigeria with the relevant multiplier effects such as job creation and development. In banking, funds accruable to Nigeria in relation to crude oil production are all domiciled in foreign banks without interest, sometimes for months before remittance to the Central Bank of Nigeria. No Nigerian bank plays any direct, significant and pivotal role in the Oil and Gas industry mainly because Nigeria’s huge financial accruable is sent offshore to banks like Barclays, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse Group, etc.
The financial services sector (which includes lenders, insurers, banks, investment firms and pension funds) is the artery through which money flows in the economy.However, the Nigerian Financial Services is not operating optimally because many key legislation and institutions do not exist. For example, there is no legislation to compel the banks to give credit to the real sector and consumers and stimulate the economy. Banks are engaged in short-term credit lending. Banking legislation that delivers credit to the economy is needed to support a viable economy. In the United States of America, USA, the Glass-Steagall Act and Frank-Dodd Act focused banks on the proper role to lend to the real sector and consumers, at low-interest rates to stimulate the real sector. The Nigerian banking laws require a major overhaul.
Nigerian fintech startups raised almost $800 million in 2021. The industry is projected to generate $1 billion in investment and bring in crucial foreign currencies. For the government to benefit, the institutional and regulatory frameworks need to be streamlined. The National Assembly should pass holistic, unified legislation for Fintech in Nigeria. The Nigeria Startup Bill may be the silver bullet.
Space is the next investment arena. The global space industry has evolved over the years. The first space race was by states – a 20th-Century competition between two Cold War adversaries, the Soviet Union, USSR and the United States of America, USA, to achieve superior spaceflight capability. The second space race is more complex and multifaceted than the first. It is driven mostly by commercialisation and led by emerging economic powers like China, India, the United Arab Emirates, and risk-taking private citizens like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson alongside other entrepreneurs and investors. The global entrants to this race are ushering in next-generation small satellite capabilities with enormous value to commercial and government customers, including organisations in the energy, mining, manufacturing, transportation, finance, agriculture, and communications; thousands of these satellites will be produced and launched in the next decade.
Nigeria can leverage its status as a multi-billion-dollar tech hub to develop its IT sector and become a global IT services destination. Github, a leading software development platform, recently reported that Nigeria is home to the fastest-growing developer community on its platform. The country has benefited from companies like Andela which brought world-class training and job opportunities to budding Nigerian programmers. Gebeya is promoting a similar model of training the next generation of African developers. Nigeria’s growing supply of programmers will likely be met with rising demand from the country’s constantly expanding tech hubs. The potential of the business-to-business (B2B) or enterprise software sector is also good news for the country’s ITC sector. The Federal Government recently said the current e-commerce spending in Nigeria has grown to $13 billion per annum and is expected to hit $75 billion in revenue per annum by 2025. It also said e-commerce grew in Nigeria from 14 per cent in 2019 to 17 per cent in 2020.
Nigeria’s entertainment industry already plays an important role in the Nigerian economy but its full potential remains untapped. PwC predicts that total industry revenue will rise steadily from $7.7bn in 2021 to $9bn in 2022, $10.7bn in 2023, $12.6bn in 2024 and then $14.8bn in 2025. This steady growth will be largely fuelled by internet access, which is in turn powered by the country’s broadband infrastructure and mobile connectivity. Like digital economy and e-commerce, Nigeria will benefit in terms of revenue if legal bottlenecks related to Incorporation, Trademark Security, Copyright Protection, Transaction Issues and Privacy are adequately addressed.
Although oil receipts are down, our huge gas reserves present opportunities for alternative revenue sources. The success of Nigeria’s LNG has demonstrated that gas revenue is massive but only if exploited. Nigeria can also derive revenue from petrochemicals like methanol which Nigeria currently imports. But the legal framework must be right. The legal framework relating to hydrocarbons is skewed in favour of foreign companies in the entire value chain. In at least four cases, banking, insurance, shipping and legal service, capital flight is massive. In relation to shipping alone, it has been suggested that Nigeria loses over $10 billion annually.
Solid mineral is another sector that has not been adequately harnessed. Nigeria is estimated to have about 34 solid minerals, with every Nigerian state boasting of at least one of these minerals. Steel mining constitutes only 0.2 per cent of GDP. Mining can generate $10 billion and 5 million jobs. The Democratic Republic of Congo in 2017 alone saw the sector generate $1.68 billion, accounting for 55.16 per cent of the total government revenue and 17.40 per cent of the GDP. Solid minerals is undoubtedly capable of making a more pronounced impact on the country’s employment rate and generating more revenue for the government. However, to derive the highest possible benefit from this sector, a local content policy and legal framework needs to be put in place.
Agriculture is one of the largest contributors to Nigeria’s GDP. It is 25 per cent of GDP and has the potential to create massive numbers of new jobs, especially in Northern Nigeria that has very fertile agricultural land. The Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers programme that made Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production has shown the potential of the Agriculture Sector. The Central Bank has identified 10 products to support namely: rice, wheat, milk, tomato, fish, cotton etc.This is a great leap forward for the sector. But our policy on agriculture must move away from subsistence to mechanized agriculture. The legal framework for land use administration also needs adjustment. Mechanized Agriculture could generate $10 billion, create jobs and also improve national security by offering employment to our teeming youths exploited for banditry and terrorism.
Land Administration/ Housing
A recent study shows that the housing inventory of Nigerian property exceeds six trillion dollars. Nigeria has fallow assets estimated at $900 billion in and outside Nigeria (according to PWC). Most is dead capital as it cannot be used as collateral. Creating the proper legal framework to make dead capital fungible (easily transferable) will create an instant credit market and enable Nigerians to borrow on their property. Digitalization of land registries including introducing a Land Use Administration Act will make the consent process more efficient and give confidence to banks to accept title documents as collateral.
Inefficient Revenue Collection
Nigeria’s tax collection mechanisms are extremely weak and inefficient. According to the FIRS, Nigeria lost over $178 billion to tax evasion by multinationals in 10 years. This can be saved if enforcement institutional and regulatory frameworks are strengthened.
Monies trapped in Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
The 2021 Auditor-General’s report showed N323.5 billion is trapped in MDA as unretired advances, payment for services not executed and payment without a voucher. The Judiciary has trapped over N3 billion. This can be reversed with strong accounting regulations and enforcement.
Looking at all these areas and without any serious study, it shows that we are almost at N100 trillion. But with concerted deep study, it is possible to even exceed the N100 trillion mark. Government should explore new sources of revenue to close the budget deficit and grow the economy. We strongly feel that a special case can be made for laws that can generate revenue and create jobs.