Exclusives

National Assembly slow on economic reform bills in 2017

by KEHINDE AKINTOLA & OWEDE AGBAJILEKE, Abuja

December 30, 2017 | 10:01 am
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The inability of the Eighth session of the National Assembly to pass the remaining high priority economic bills before the end of its lifetime in June 2019 has come under serious scrutiny.

 

Political economists have expressed worry that with the 2019 elections fast approaching, attention has shifted from governance to politics.

 

The election is about 400 days away, even as major political parties are already shopping for presidential candidates, with some federal lawmakers already tipped as likely presidential hopefuls.

 

Although the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is yet to release timetable for the 2019 elections, most lawmakers seeking re-election have commenced subtle campaigns through the use of ’empowerment programmes’; a common trend in the buildup to general elections in Nigeria.

 

Experts say that except the Eight session of the National Assembly puts in place legislative processes where bills are rolled over, the Ninth Assembly will have to start legislative proceedings on the remaining high priority economic bills de novo.

 

At the moment, only two out of the 14 high priority economic bills in the National Assembly have been signed into law by the President, thus raising concerns about the fate of the remaining 12 bills with both legislative chambers.

 

Even though Senate President Bukola Saraki, who doubles as Chairman of the National Assembly, had assured that all the economic bills would be passed alongside the 2017 budget, only two bills (representing 14.2 percent) were passed by the National Assembly and assented to by the President. They include: the Secured Transactions in Movable Assets Act (otherwise known as Collateral Registry Act) and Credit Reporting Act.

 

Between October and December 2017, both Chambers passed the conference committee report on Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Bill, which sought to repeal the Consumer Protection Act, establish the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission as well as the Consumer Protection Tribunal. It is expected that the bill will promote healthy business competition and strengthen consumer rights in Nigeria.

 

Other economic bills already passed by the Senate but awaiting harmonisation with the House of Representatives include: the National Inland Waterways Authority Bill; Petroleum Industry Governance Bill; Federal Roads Authority Bill; Nigerian Independent Warehouse Regulatory Agency Bill; Nigeria Railway Bill; Nigerian Ports and Harbours Authority Bill and Nigerian Postal Commission Bill.

 

Those yet to be passed include: the National Roads Funds Bill; National Transport Commission Bill; Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) (Amendment) and Investment and Securities Act (Amendment) Bill, as well as National Development Bank of Nigeria Bill.

 

If passed into law, experts say the bills will help create 7.5 million jobs and reduce poverty by 16.4 percent.

 

Critical to the success of the bills is the National Assembly Business Environment Round-table (NASSBER), a public-private partnership inaugurated in March 2016, which provides an opportunity for legislators and businesses to work together to create the conditions for Nigerian businesses to become more competitive and grow. It is a platform for the legislature and the private sector to engage in discussion and deliberate on ways to improve the country’s business environment through a review of relevant legislation and provisions of the Constitution.

 

It involves the National Assembly, the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and the Nigerian Bar Association – Section on Business Law, supported by the UK Department for International Deveiopment, through the ENABLE2 and GEMS3 programmes.

 

NASSBER has been represented in the Technical Committees to the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on these critical bills.

 

Attention has now shifted to the approval of the N8.612 trillion 2018 budget estimates by the National Assembly.

 

At the 2017 Nigerian Economic Summit (NES#23), Vice Chairman, Senate Public Accounts Committee, Gbolahan Dada, dashed the hopes of passage of the remaining economic bills when he argued that there are other bills begging for attention in the Senate.

 

Worried by this development, organisers of the twenty-third Nigerian Economic Summit (NES#23) – the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) – have urged the National Assembly to speedily pass the pending 12 economic bills before the 2018 Economic Summit.

 

NESG’s Chief Executive Officer, Laoye Jaiyeola, made the call at a news conference to mark the end of the NES#23 in Abuja.

 

He said that NESG had been working with the National Assembly on the bills and would like to see them passed to enable the President sign them into law.

 

Jaiyeola pointed out that the group would want to see speed in the way of doing business in the country.

 

“Also, we want to see Executive Order around ease of doing business. We want to see it so that we can facilitate as much foreign and domestic capital needed for economic growth,” Jaiyeola stated.

 

Notwithstanding, the major highlight for 2017 was Nigeria’s significant improvement in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business index for 2018.

 

In its annual report released in October 2017, the World Bank said Nigeria now ranks 145th out of 190 countries in the Ease of Doing Business index for 2018.

 

The report titled: ‘Doing Business 2018: Reforming to Create Jobs’, indicated that Nigeria had moved up by 24 points from 169th position on the 2017 ranking and also 170th position on the 2016 ranking to 145 in the World Bank’s 2018 report.

 

According to the World Bank, Nigeria alongside El-Salvador, India, Malawi, Brunei Darussalam, Kosovo, Uzbekistan, Thailand, Zambia and Djibouti are the top 10 improved countries worldwide, after carrying out numerous reforms to improve their business environments.

 

Elated by the country’s elevation, Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah, who also represents the National Assembly at the Presidential Enabling Council, attributed Nigeria’s giant leap in the global ranking to the synergy between the Executive arm of government and the Legislature.

 

Raising a Point of Order at Senate plenary, he said: “We should celebrate that our efforts are recognised by the World Bank. The details of the report was largely due to two important decisions among the five decisions taken by the Senate.

 

“We have always said that we will cooperate and give the reform agenda of this government 100 percent. This has been exhibited in the report of the World Bank. We have to put it on record that this Senate has cause to rejoice that at least our humble efforts have been recognised,” the obviously excited senator submitted.

 

If only two bills, alongside other efforts, could do the magic by improving Nigeria’s ranking in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business index for 2018, then the country’s position in the 2019 ranking can better be imagined if all the remaining 12 economic bills are passed by the National Assembly and signed by the President.

 

It is hoped that this will in turn translate to the common man by boosting output, creating jobs and generating wealth.

 

Progress of economic bills in the Senate

 

Below is the status of the 14 economic priority bills in the Senate

1. Secured Transactions in Movable Assets Act: Signed into law by Acting President – May 30, 2017

 

2. Credit Reporting Act: Signed into law by Acting President – May 30, 2017.

 

3. Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Bill: Conference report adopted.

 

4. National Inland Waterways Authority Bill: Passed 3rd Reading.

 

5. Petroleum Industry Governance Bill: Passed 3rd Reading.

 

6. Federal Roads Authority Bill: Passed 3rd Reading.

 

7. Nigerian Independent Warehouse Regulatory Agency Bill: Passed 3rd Reading.

 

8. Nigeria Railway Bill: Passed 3rd Reading.

 

9. Nigerian Ports and Harbours Authority Bill: Passed 3rd Reading.

 

10. Nigerian Postal Commission Bill: Passed 3rd Reading.

 

11. National Roads Funds Bill: Awaiting 3rd Reading, Joint Committee report expected.

 

12. National Transport Commission Bill: Awaiting 3rd Reading and passage.

 

13. National Development Bank of Nigeria Bill: Technical Committee work completed.

 

14. Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) (Amendment) and Investment and Securities Act (Amendment) Bill: Passed 2nd Reading, at committee stage.

 

KEHINDE AKINTOLA & OWEDE AGBAJILEKE, Abuja

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by KEHINDE AKINTOLA & OWEDE AGBAJILEKE, Abuja

December 30, 2017 | 10:01 am
12893  |   93   |   0  |   Start Conversation

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