Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau chief
Media reviews at the start Of The Week Indicated that President Muhammadu Buhari Was disappointed With The tempo Of financial improvement beneath His administration & wanted to give It An Impetus thru An Emergency Stabilisation Act. As pronounced, The invoice For dat Act had been prepared and waiting To Be Transmitted To The country wide assembly For consideratio
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Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
Media Reports At The Beginning Of The Week Indicated That President Muhammadu Buhari Was Dissatisfied With The Pace Of Economic Development Under His Administration And Wanted To Give It An Impetus Through An Emergency Stabilisation Act. As Reported, The Bill For That Act Had Been Prepared And Waiting To Be Transmitted To The National Assembly For Consideration.
That Bill Seeks Powers For Emergency Executive Orders Which Will Enable Him Take Decisions That Can Accelerate Economic Development. Specifically, He Wants Powers To Reduce The Process Of Procurement To Make It Shorter. He Wants To Increase Contract Mobilization From The Current 15% To 50 %. He Wants To Truck Gas To Electricity Generation Plants Because Of The Problem Of Pipeline Vanadalism
He Wants To Reduce The UBEC Counterpart Funding By States To 10 % Instead Of 50 % Before They Can Access Their Funds. He Wants To Vire Budgetary Provisions To Sectors And Projects He Considers Of Priority Importance Without Going To The National Assembly For Permission On Each Case.
He Wants Order For Visa Issuance Within 48 Hours At Consulars Abroad And Even Give Visa At Points Of Entry In Nigeria. The Reactions That Trailed The News Obviously Overwhelmed The President, With Many Stakeholders, Stoutly Rejecting Such Laws. Many Legislators Said That The Bill Would Be “dead On Arrival” As It Was Seen As An Attempt To Circumvent The Nation’s Laws Which Provide Checks And Balances Between The Three Arms Of Government.
Faced With What Could Be Considered As An Outright Rejection To A Law That Could Give President Buhari, Unprecedented Powers To Spend The Nation’s Money As A Personal Resource, The Presidency Quickly Denied The Reports That A Bill To That Effect Had Been Prepared And Soon To Be Presented By President Muhammadu Buhari To The Legislature. It Admitted, However, That The Economic Team Was Working Along That Line.
The Senior Special Assistant To The Vice President On Media And Publicity, Laolu Akande, Told The Media, “The Economic Management Team Has Indeed Been Considering Several Policy Options And Measures To Urgently Reform And Revitalise The Economy. Some Of These Measures May Well Require Legislative Amendments And Presidential Orders That Will Enable The Executive Arm Of Government Move Quickly In Implementing The Economic Reform Plans.
“As Far As I Know, This Has Not Been Passed On To The President, The Federal Executive Council Or The Legislative Arm Of Government. So, At This Point, There Are No Further Details.” Those Who Spoke To Weekend Jakophite Said That The Powers Sought By President Buhari Were Not Only Unnecessary But Would Turn Him Into A Dictator.
It Will Lead To Dictatorship – Eze Onyekpere
Specifically, The Executive Director Of Centre For Social Justice (CSJ), Mr. Eze Onyekpere, Warned That Such A Law Would Be Dictatorial And Tyrannical. According To Him, What The President Should Do Is To Clearly Analyse The Specific Sectors That Require Specific Interventions And Ask For The Approval Of The National Assembly Which Must Be Debated By The Legislators With Inputs From The General Public.
His Words: “I Think That The Current Economic Crisis That We Are In Now Is A Product Of The Neglect And Refusal Of The Authorities To Follow Laid Down Procedures And The Law And In The Constitution, Including, But Not Limited To, The Fact That We Refuse To Save Under The Fiscal Responsibility Act In The Excess Crude Account, As Stipulated By Law Or To Invest When The Oil Prices Were High, In The Sovereign Wealth Investment Fund. That Was Why We Crashed Because There Was Nothing To Smoothen Over, There Was Nothing To Fall Back On.
“In Essence, I Am Saying That We Did Not Follow The Rules Of The Game. If The President Is Now Thinking Of An Economic Emergency And He Want The Powers To Now Ride Rough Shots Over The Laws And That Means If The Laws Are Not Convenient For Him, He Can Now Go Out Of His Ways To Take Decisions That Are Not In Consonance With The Law. To Do That Will Further Deepen The Economic Crisis. It Is Like Somebody Is A Pit And Rather Seeing How We Can Bring The Person Out, You Are Digging In.
“I Will Give You The Example Of The United States Of America. When President Obama Came In There Was Economic Crises 2008- 2009, The Recovery Act Which Was Enacted By Congress Started With A Bill Which The President Sent To Congress And There Was A Huge Debate In Congress Whether It Was Proper To Use America Tax Payers Money, American Treasury Money To Bail Out All Those Big Banks, The Detroit Motor Company. At The End Of The Day, A 667 Page Bill Was Signed By Congress.
“In Essence There Wasn’t Much Of Discretion Given To The Executive. You Can Imagine A Bill That Is 667 Pages. The Implication Of More Than 667 Clauses, Even More Than Our Constitution. It Was So Detailed As To What The Executive To Do To Bring The Banks Out Of Recession To Bring The Mortgage Companies, The Detroit And Other Sectors Of The American Economy.
“Consequently, I Will Not Vote To The President Any Emergency Stabilization Powers Which Will Distract From The Existing Laws . “What The President Needs To Do, With His Economic Adviser If He Has Any, Is To Sit Down And Make Specific Proposals In Any Of The Sectors That He Needs To Intervene On, To Bring The Nigerian Economy Out Of The Woods.
They Have To State Specifically What They Want And It Should Be Tabled Before The National Assembly And The Nigerian Public Should Also Be Given The Opportunity To Make Inputs So That Sector By Sector, You State What You Want, Rather Than Looking For A Blank Cheque To Now Write In Anything You Want- Saying It Is Economic Emergency. That Doesn’t Make Sense At All.
“I Even Read A Piece Where Somebody Was Talking About The Procurement Process And Saying That It Is Too Long. I Would Even Rather Think That That Procurement Process, Whatever It Has Been Able To Save For Us Is What Is Keeping Us Going.
“If You Are Now Thinking Of Somebody Awarding Contracts Without Following Due Process- You Know The Nigeria, We Are Into. So Let Him Do A Sector-by-sector Analysis And Present It To The National Assembly So That We Can Debate It. But To Give Him A Blank Cheque, No Way. That Will Be Dictatorship And Tyranny. “All These Foreign Investors That Are Running Away From Nigeria Are Doing So Because They Don’t See The Laws And Rules Enforced. So What Will Happen If You Invest Such Powers In One Person? They Rest Of Them Will Run.
“They Earlier We Understand That The Rules-based Approach To Running An Economy Is The Way To Go, The Better For Us. I Am Sure You Are Reading What Is Happening In The Aviation Industry. I Am Sure You Are Reading That All The Airlines Are Relocating To Ghana. If They Are Relocating To Ghana, What Is The Cause. That Is What You Should Ask.
50% Contracts Mobilization Fee Can’t Work- Abuja Chamber Of Commerce
Also Speaking On The Proposed Bill, The President Of The Abuja Chamber Of Commerce And Industry, Mr. Tony Ejikeonye, Said That The Major Problem Lies With The Inefficiency In The Civil Service. He Warned That The Proposal Of 50 Per Cent Mobilization Fee To Contractors Will Not Help In Anyway, As According To Him, Contractors Will Not Be Able To Secure The Mandatory Bank Guarantees For Big Projects , As Stipulated By The Rules Guiding Federal Government Contract Awards. His Words: “Our Take As Chamber Of Commerce Is That What We Need Is Not Emergency Powers But Ensuring The Efficiency Of The System.
“Nothing Is Wrong, For Instance With The Procurement Process. What We Need Is The Efficiency Of The System To Ensure That The Process Works. Nothing Is Equally Wrong With The Timing Stipulated In The Procurement Law. The Problem Is That Our Civil Service Is Inefficient.
“For Instance, The 2017 Federal Government Budget Ought To Have Been Prepared By Now.” On The Proposal To Pay Contractors 50 Per Cent Mobilization Fee With A View To Accelerating Projects Implementation, The ACCI Boss Said That Contractors Will Not Be Able To Secure The Required Bank Guarantees Of 50 Per Cent Of Contracts Sums.
“If You Want To Pay A Contractor 50 Per Cent Of The Contract Sum, He Must Present A Bank Guarantee Before Such Payments Can Be Made. Before Banks Issue Guarantees, The Contractor Must Provide Collaterals Worth The Amount Of The Guarantees So Sought. Tell Me, If A Contract Sum Is N100 Billion And The Federal Government Adopts A Policy Of Paying 50 Per Cent Of That Sum, How Can The Contractor Raise The Bank Guarantee Of That Magnitude? It Simply Can’t Work.
“What Is Needed For Speedy Implementation Of Contracts Is Strict Adherence To Payment Schedules By The Government. It Is Not A Question Of How Much Contractors Are Paid As Mobilization Fees. The Most Critical Thing Is To Be Paid As At When Due. Contractors Can’t Meet The Stringent Conditions Of Banks. So What They Are Proposing Is Not The Solution. The Solution Is Efficiency In The System.”
On The Idea Of Trucking Gas To Power Plants, Mr. Ejikeonye Said That The Focus Of The Buhari Administration Should Be How To Stop The Cause Of Pipelines Vandalism, Rather Than Contemplate Trucking Gas. He Said, “The Cost Of Moving Gas By Trucks On Roads Will Be Too High To Be Considered As An Alternative. If That Strategy Is Adopted, You Will Hear Of Contracts For Trucking Gas And It Will Come With Various Challenges. It Will Worsen The Already Bad Conditions Of The Nation’s Roads.
“There Is A Technology For Monitoring Gas Pipelines. That Is The Way To Go. Trucking Will Not Solve The Problem. “ Commenting On The Plan To Make The Universal Basic Education Fund More Easily Accessible To State Governments, Mr. Ejikeonye Said That The Federal Government Should Show Greater Interest In The Efficient Utilization Of Resources At The State Level.
He Noted That Some State Governors Allegedly Diverted The Bail- Out Funds Granted Them By The Federal Government, Through The Central Bank Of Nigeria.
As Such He Said, The Problem Of Prudent Utilization Of Funds At The Sub-national Levels Should Be Critically Addressed And That The States Should Think Out Of The Box, With A View To Raising Their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), Rather Than Only Depending On Funds From The Federal Government.