Proposed emergency economic stabilization bill
The decay in Nigeria occasioned by bad leadership and cluelessness became visible recently in all facets. The urge to reposition the country and more particular the economy has brought to the front burner the necessity for the justiciability of the economic objectives as enunciated in Section16 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).This section provides thus:
(1) The State shall, within the context of the ideals and objectives for which provisions are made in his constitution. a. Harness the resources of the nation and promote national prosperity and an efficient, a dynamic and self-reliant economy; b. Control the national economy in such a manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity; c. Without prejudice to its right to operate or participate in areas of the economy, other than the major sectors of the economy manage and operate the major sectors of the economy. d. Without prejudice to the right of any person to participate in areas of the economy within the major sectors of the economy, protect the right of every citizen to engage in any economic activities outside the major sectors of the economy.
(2) The State shall direct its policy towards ensuring- a. The promotion of a planned and balanced economic development; b. That the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good; c. That the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals or of a group; and d. That suitable and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, reasonable national minimum living wage, old age care and pensions, and unemployment, sick benefits and welfare of the disabled are provided for all citizens.
(4) For the purposes of subsection (1) of the section- a. “Economic activities” includes activities directly concerned with the production, distribution and exchange of wealth or of goods and services; and b. “Participate” includes the rendering of services and supplying of goods. The section above referred intends to galvanize, stimulate a plan and balanced economic development void of bureaucratic bottleneck.
Burdened by the failure of successive governments to translate budget proposals into concrete reality, President Buhari’s current administration has prudently thought of window that can fast track economic development setting outside civil service barriers as clogs. As widely speculated, the “Proposed Emergency Economic Stabilization Bill” seeks to fast track the procurement process to support stimulus spending on critical sectors of the economy such as roads, railways and powers, make orders to favour local contractors/suppliers in contract awards; abridge the preprocess of sale or lease of government assets to generate revenue; allow virement of budget any allocation to projects considered as urgent without going back to the National Assembly.
The proposed bill intends to amend as well certain laws inhibiting statutory performance of government agencies to wit: the Universal Basic Education Commission Act to facilitate states access to the cash, bring radical reforms to visa issuance process at Nigeria’s Consular offices and compel some agencies of government to be more proactive and improve on their turn around operation time for the benefit of stimulating the economy. For example the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBSE) in tandem with the United Nation Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) guidelines seek to encourage and increase enrolment of pupils in primary school up to Junior Secondary School. It is disheartening to note that many states in Nigeria have failed in this respect owing to their inability to contribute their share of the counterpart funding. The proposed bill attempts to reduce their contribution to a workable and accessible fee of 10%. In the same vein the proposed bill seeks to raise contracts mobilization fee from 15% to 50% with proper monitoring; all to revamp a weak infrastructure .
The intendment of the proposed bill notwithstanding, the political landscape has suddenly been clouded with speculations equating economic emergency stabilization bill with absolute political power. In the case of the former, the President requires an extra constitutional power to stem, correct and arrest current unpleasant economic trends to grow the economy while the later gives a president of overwhelming sweeping powers that can easily turn an executive, a dictator; here lies the fears of some uninformed. In the extant Nigerian scenario warranting the quest for emergency economic power, it is essentially and purely economic and the president unequivocally needs the unflinching support of the Nigeria citizenry, particularly members of the National Assembly for the swift passage of such an enabling bill to resuscitate our fast ailing economy for a rebound. The agitation by a certain section of the National Assembly members clandestinely hobnobbing and with a stern avowed resistance and opposition to the proposed Emergency Economic Stabilization Bill amounts to a display of lack of economic intelligence and legislative ineptitude. The proposed bill is a precursor to Nigeria economic rebound that requires the support of all.
Robert O. Omote is a Benin – based lawyer
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