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Incessant invitation by NASS, distraction to private sector, operators lament

By Gloria Nwafor
08 November 2022   |   2:53 am
The Organised Private Sector of Nigeria (OPSN) has expressed worry over frequent invitations of members by committees of the National Assembly, requesting Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) to appear before them for investigation purposes.

National Assembly. Photo/facebook/TopeBrown/NigerianSenate

• Reject proposed increase in excise duty on food, beverages

The Organised Private Sector of Nigeria (OPSN) has expressed worry over frequent invitations of members by committees of the National Assembly, requesting Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) to appear before them for investigation purposes.

The group said the move was not only a distraction to organised businesses, but also has the potential to demotivate genuine investors, frustrate the ease of doing business initiative of the Federal Government and set a dangerous precedent of deviance to the time-tested principle of separation of powers in Nigeria.

Speaking in Lagos, the Directors-General of the OPS of Nigeria, comprising Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria (MAN), Nigeria Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), National Association of Small-Scale Industrialist (NASSI), National Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME), and Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), said the recent activities of various committees of the National Assembly, remain an usurpation of the powers and responsibilities of the executive arm of government.

The Directors-General, who expressed worry that despite rules within the NASS to the effect that cases are in court, it appeared the lawmakers were not adhering to the rule.

While urging restraint and stoppage of the invitations, the chief executives urged that the NASS committees to tarry for the court to make pronouncement rather than continue the unabated harassment of legitimate business owners.

They noted that they had made several representations to the various committees and also approached the courts for the determination of the constitutionality, scope and extent of sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution on Businesses in the Private Sector.

According to them, the crux of the matter is the determination of the extent of legislative investigatory powers as contained in sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution, especially how it applies to businesses in the private sector.

“Businesses are already faced with myriads of challenges and it will be counter-productive for some committees of the NASS to constrain the wheel of the most productive sector of the economy, organised businesses.

Moreso, the NASS Committees appear to be contravening the NASS Rule by still taking action on a matter that is before a court of competent jurisdiction.

“Our expectation is that legitimate businesses should be supported by the NASS committees complimenting the efforts of the executive arm of government by legislating laws that will make the business environment more friendly to attract domestic and foreign investments.

“If the National Assembly committees have issues with the way and manner the executive arm is carrying out its responsibilities of ensuring compliance to various laws and regulations, their focus of investigation should be directed at the relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government rather than the private sector.”

Meanwhile, the OPS also raised the alarm that government’s choking policies were pushing businesses out of existence.

In an eight-point position paper, titled ‘Proposed Increase in Excise Duty for Tobacco, Spirit, Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic Beverages,’ the body warned that rising production costs, epileptic power supply, insecurity, access to financing, multiple taxation were further compounding the woes of businesses in Nigeria.

It lamented that there were no fewer than 17 bills pending in the National Assembly, NASS, aimed at imposing more levies on the private sector, with negative implications on business’ sustainability of businesses.

OPS, in the position paper, rejected the government’s proposed increase in excise duty on food and beverages, especially on alcoholic, non-alcoholic beverages and tobacco.

It explained that already, the industries, including the food, beverages and tobacco, were overburdened by almost innumerable taxes and levies, adding that they also suffered non-tax challenges, such as inadequate support infrastructure, high cost of borrowings, unfavourable exchange rate parity, regulatory charges and many more.

According to the body, the costs account for the high cost of production and low competitiveness of the economy, stating that additional “tax will not help anybody, but might be the final killer punch.”

It requested that the government maintain the status quo of no excise increases – other than as prescribed in the 2022 Fiscal Policy Measures approved by President Buhari earlier in the year (the three-year roadmap which commenced on June 1, 2022 should remain).

It said in order not to jeopardise the successful implementation of the private sector component of the National Development Plan 2021-2025, the government should rather focus on creating a favourable business environment that will enhance job creation and promote enterprise competitiveness.

It urged that representatives of the OPS should be given the opportunity to engage and make representations to government and its committees on the impact of the current roadmap and expected future impact.

According to it, “Retaining the roadmap guarantees that government’s dual objectives of revenue generation and reduced cigarette consumption will be met by raising incremental revenue for the year 2023 and 2024 under the current roadmap and reducing the consumption of cigarettes between two to three per cent yearly.”

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