Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Nigerian Emergency Economy Stabilization Bill 2016
By anyichietochukwu@dailytrust.com
Nigeria Daily Trust
Sep 20 2016 2:00AM

The country is awash with the story that upon the return of the National Assembly from its recess, President Muhammadu Buhari will submit what is called Emergency Economy Stabilisation Bill (EESB) 2016 for its consideration. The bill when seeks to grant the President spare powers to deal with the troubled national economy. So far, there have been commentaries, both positive and negative, on this quest by the President for additional powers. For many Nigerians, this particular request has re-awakened the monster of Buhari’s 1984-85 dictatorship following the overthrow of the government of former President Shehu Shagari. For them, Buhari cannot be trusted with additional power.

Nevertheless, the Nigerian economy is in dire straits. The masses are complaining of hunger, the workers are grumbling about irregular and insufficient salaries, while the privileged class is irritated by lack of access to foreign exchange. Everyone blames Muhammadu Buhari for this adverse turn of events. But if the President is going to take responsibility for the current situation, it is fair for him to seek reserve powers to deal with it. By the same token, the National Assembly has the obligation to grant him these powers so that he could have the appropriate authority to tackle what has become economic recession.

The powers the President seeks are in line with his government’s philosophy of pulling out the economy from recession by spending huge amount of money on infrastructure. Part of the provisions in the Bill seeks to authorise the President to abridge the procurement process to permit the government to fast-track the award of important contracts and projects without being encumbered by existing legislation. Currently, contracts need to be advertised for several weeks before they are awarded and the President is saying he doesn’t have the luxury of waiting for about two months before giving out an important job. The Bill also seeks power for the President to favour local contractors in the award of contracts they are known to be capable of handling. The aim here is to empower local contractors who should in return employ Nigerians to execute these given projects.

The Buhari government is also hard pressed to raise additional resources for development purposes.

In this regard, it makes sense to lease out or out rightly sell off some of our national assets to harvest these resources and plough them into the sectors that may provide the necessary respite for the economy.

Additionally, the Bill seeks to empower the President, to re-direct budgetary allocations away from projects they were earlier earmarked for, if in his own wisdom, there are other tasks he considers urgent and more important. In this case, he could cause a virement of the allocations to be made without recourse to the National Assembly.

Equally, in harmony with the government’s commitment to expend its way out of recession, the Buhari administration is keen on unlocking the coffers of the Universal Basic Commission (UBEC) to enable states draw money and invest in schools. The states can use the money from UBEC to build and upgrade schools and also invest some into the feeding programme.

All of these measures taken together with the government’s avowed determination to employ 500, 000 teachers, sponsor 100,000 science and technology students, dole out N5, 000 to each of the most vulnerable Nigerians as well as the millions of Naira earmarked for market women and other small businesses are expected to impact positively all across the country and help kick-start the economy.

The extant laws that guide the process of leasing or selling our national assets will also stymie the Buhari government’s objective of generating new revenues, hence the need to abbreviate them. If the government succeeds in selling some of these assets, it could have a whole new source of additional funds, in international currencies. This can boost our reserves and shore up the appalling value of the Naira.

If the President acquires these additional powers and is able to pursue diversification with single mindedness, the economy will regain its vitality in no time. If we sustain the current determination to revive agriculture, cultivate rice, wheat, etc., and eliminate their importation by 2018, the country will be assured of a very bright future indeed.

Nigeria is also showing a lot of promise in terms of solid minerals. The recent discovery of “world class” nickel deposits in Kaduna state has strengthened the hopes of the citizens that at last we are about to expand our national revenue base. As we have increasingly seen, heavy reliance on crude oil as about our only source of foreign exchange has become suicidal and nobody is in a better position to reverse this frightening trend than Muhammadu Buhari, not only because he hasn’t seen the oil to export or the good price to sell, but also because he comes from the ‘parasitic North’ that must redeem itself.

We can turn this difficult and painful period to one of opportunities for our people. The Nigerian economy has been bad for as long as I can recall. In 1982, President Shehu Shagari was granted the Economic Stabilisation Act to assist the country get out of recession but this is yet to be acted upon by anyone.

There is nothing wrong with Buhari’s economic team. Nigerian economy is basically about crude oil and at the moment, it is either there is no oil to sell or there is no good price for it. We are very short of the foreign exchange madly desired by importers. We must diversify this economy and it will take at least a two-termed administration. Let the National Assembly resume and grant President Buhari all the powers he needs to pull Nigeria out of recession.

Read more at http://www.dailytrust.com.ng/news/opinion/emergency-economy-stabilisation-bill-2016/163117.html#epyP6z0j37ZQ0012.99

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