National Assembly to move against planned bill on emergency powers
• Suggest way out
The National Assembly yesterday indicated its opposition to President Muhammadu Buhari’s quest for emergency powers on economy. The Presidency was said to have perfected plans to send an emergency economic stabilization bill to the Legislature for approval.
Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Procurement, Dr. Oluwole Oke, said at a function in Abuja that what the President was requesting could be tackled with the existing electronic procurement system in the country.Addressing a gathering of professional procurement officers, Oke said, “most request to be made by President Buhari for emergency economic powers can be robustly tackled with the e-procurement system.”Speaking in the same vein yesterday, Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Science and Technology, Yusuf Yusuf (APC, Taraba Central) asked the President to reconsider the plan.
Yusuf said the bill was uncalled for, given the numerous powers the President already has. Oke explained further, “This is the best time to look into e-public procurements in Nigeria, because we are in recession. The economy must be stimulated through increased public spending.“The Federal Government has pledged to roll out a stimulus package, but this move alone will not sufficiently address the economic challenges we are facing.”
The good intentions of the government he said “can only succeed if it meets the expected mandate. Time is of the essence, this is e-procurement comes in. We need not scare away countries that have refined their procurement systems.“This has reduced procurement cost, improved administrative efficiency, streamlined processes, minimal corruption, superb benchmarking, selection of most competent suppliers and bidders and excellent value for money,” Oke explained.
Economic experts, including former Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu, and the Chief Executive Officer of Pan Africa Development Corporation, Mr. Odilim Enwegbara, also urged President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to shelve the planned bill.Kalu said the President did not require special or voodoo powers to address the current economic challenges than the application of sound and tested economic solution by experts in line with global best practices.
In his reaction, Enwegbara said as good as the request may appear, the implication of what the bill seeks is for the handing over of the legislative function as guaranteed by the constitution to the Executive, a development he believes is legendary among modern democracies.He said: “I strongly believe that inasmuch as the President is good intentioned, the Emergency Economic Stabilisation Bill (EESB) will have difficulty flying. This is especially because this is the first since the return of democracy for a President to demand sweeping powers from the National Assembly.
“There is also this fear among federal lawmakers that passing the bill will be handing the Executive their constitutional powers of oversight and scrutiny of the Executive. This will be unprecedented; it will set constitutional precedence. Most lawmakers could rightly argue that what the President should have presented to them is amending some sections and sub-sections of extant laws.”
Yusuf continued: “The issue of emergency powers or economic emergency powers is becoming a very controversial issue and I think we need to be cautious about how we handle such matter in the country today.“So, I think the question of requesting for economic emergency powers should not arise.”
The lawmaker said in the event that the President was contemplating this, he should shelve the idea and refer to the National Assembly to amend or enact laws that would enable him tackle the challenges.