Prof.-Yemi-Osinbajo
Prof.-Yemi-Osinbajo

The presidency is lobbying the national assembly for a “plain sailing” of its proposed economic emergency power bill, TheCable has learnt.

The bill seeks to empower the president to take decisions on the economy by bypassing extant laws and procedures.

Although, the executive has not sent the bill to the legislature, it has intensified effort to make it sail through smoothly.

Some legislators have already described the bill as “dead on arrival”.

On Monday, Vice-President YemiOsinbajo met with Senate President BukolaSaraki and YakubuDogara, the speaker of the house of representatives, at the presidential villa to seek their support for the bill.

But they promised to consult their members and relay their decision to the presidency.

On Wednesday, the leadership of the national assembly met at the Abuja residence of the senate president to discuss the request.

The meeting lasted for two and a half hours.

Although, it is not clear if they agreed to let the bill fly, they agreed to work towards passing important bills.

Here are seven major issues to be addressed by the bill:

MORE FUNDS FOR STATE GOVERNMENTS

According to news report, the bill seeks to amend certain laws, such as the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act 2004.

The UBE Act states in section 11, sub-section 2, that “for any State to qualify for the federal government block grant pursuant to sub-section (1) of this section, such state shall contribute not less than 50% of the total cost of projects as its commitment in the execution of the project”.

With most states cash-strapped, the bill seeks to overrule this section, and allow states access about N58 billion “stuck” in UBEC’s coffers.

If the bill sails through, interested states will have N58 billion  to spend through this economic crisis.

BOOSTING THE FOREIGN RESERVES

Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves fell to an 11-year low of $24.76 billion on September 21.

With the depleting reserves, following a plunge in crude oil prices, the government is seeking to get emergency powers to sell and/or lease property to raise $50bn to shore up the reserves.

STRENTHENING THE NAIRA

With the reserves in good shape, it will become easier for the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to defend the naira, and shore up its value in the face of dwindling oil prices.

A vote for this bill by the national assembly, may lead to a stronger naira against the dollar, an end to forex scarcity, and to some stimulation of the economy.

CREATING EMPLOYMENT

According to the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) report for the past three quarters, at least 1.5 million Nigerians have become unemployed.

The president and his team promised employment, and have not effectively delivered on that.

However, with the new bill, funds will be allotted to many capital projects, which will in turn generate employment.

With states having access to the UBE fund as stated in the bill, the school feedingprogramme of this administration may kick off and create employment in Nigeria’s vibrant informal sector.

EASIER PROCUREMENT

The Nigerian procurement act has been reported time and again as cumbersome, stalling the speed of implementation of government projects.

This bill seeks to also “support stimulus spending on critical sectors of the economy; make orders to favour local contractors/suppliers in contract awards.”

DUBAI-LIKE VISA PROCESS

Nigeria is desperate for foreign investment; foreign portfolio investment had declined by 86 percent in the past year, while foreign direct investment had plummeted by over 50 percent.

Osinbajo, who confirmed this at a presidential policy dialogue in Lagos, said the government was working on policies aimed at reducing fiscal and forex imbalances, boosting dollar liquidity, lending to the real sector, and increasing “FDIs and FPI by sustaining enabling policies”.

The bill, according to reports, seeks “to embark on radical reforms in visa issuance at Nigeria’s consular offices and on arrival in the country”.

This visa process, similar to that of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Ghana’s newly-adopted system, is to ensure ease of movement by investors into Nigeria.

BETTER EASE OF DOING BUSINESS INDICES

Nigeria has lagged many developing countries on the ease of doing. The bottlenecks are enormous, the laws are strenuous, the tax policies are repetitive.

The bill seeks to address some of these issues and improve the ease of doing business in Nigeria.


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