- Senators lament state of economy
- Advocate 50% recurrent expenditure
Senators yesterday during the one year anniversary of the eighth National Assembly took a critical look at the state of Nigeria’s economy and declared that it needed urgent attention with a view to reversing the drift, even as they listed some legislative interventions to save the situation.
Senate President Bukola Saraki led his colleagues in dissecting the economic situation in his special address to mark the day, saying that as a nation, “we have failed to take the necessary steps in policy and legislations that would set us on the path to developing the kind of economy that we desire.”
According to him, “The collapse in oil price has without doubt brought huge shock to our economy on a scale that perhaps, has never been experienced before. This requires us to develop creative strategies that would stimulate business and investments into other sectors.”
Saraki, however, announced some measures adopted by the Senate to address the teething economic problems through legislative interventions, which he said included that “the Ease of Doing Business Report that ranks our country 167 out of 189 countries is not likely to attract business into our economy.
“This Senate understands this. With the support from our international development partners, the organised private sector, we commissioned an expert report which identified 54 extant laws that must be reviewed and brought in line with international best practices in order to open up our economy up for private investments and business.”
Other legislative interventions, according to him, include the processing and passage of some series of legislations directly related to reviving the economy.
Saraki went further: “This legislative intervention yielded about 15 major economic reform bills and seven business environment bills. Some of these bills have since entered the dockets of the Senate and are at various stages of consideration as some also have been passed by the Senate. Chief among those passed include, the Electronic Transaction bill 2015; Debt Recovery and Insolvency bill 2015 and, the Railway Bill which is being considered through the final lap.
“All these bills represent a watershed in economic and business legislations in our country.
“The Electronic Transaction Bill 2015 for example, will be the first legal framework ever in our country that provides the legal foundation for electronic signatures and guarantees predictability in contracts made electronically.
“Once signed into law, this bill will offer full protections to contracts entered into via emails, and transactions conducted with online shops, electronic commerce and services platforms, which are currently not provided for in our laws.
“Another obvious benefit of this bill is will reduce the cost of doing business by eliminating transportation and other logistics cost. By passing this bill, the Senate has given legitimacy and local application to the United Nations Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts, which was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 23rd November 2005 (the UN Convention).
“Another important bill that has emerged from our Ease of Doing Business intervention is the Bankruptcy & Insolvency Repeal and Amendment Bill 2015. These are the super structure on which a 21st century Nigerian economy must be built on. Nigeria has been ranked very low in dealing with corporate insolvency due to the multiple, costly and unwieldy resolution framework under the old 1979 Act.
“Aside from removing the clogs in the process of transiting insolvency to administration, this new bill guarantees that the process becomes even more efficient, less exhausting and result oriented.
“The primary objective of this bill is to shift the paradigm of business administration from focusing on penalizing failures to encouraging credit and entrepreneurship. This is one bill that has the potential to transform the Nigerian financial landscape by enabling consistent supply of credit; attracting new capital and expertise into business revival; improving creditor recoveries and lowering the cost of credit,” he added.
Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu in his remarks said only God gives power and called on detractors to leave the red chamber alone.
“I am proud of our accomplishment as a Senate. On the 9th of June 2016, as I look back now, there are a number of our colleagues who were not here, but today everybody is here. We were divided along the lines of ‘Unity Forum,’ ‘Like Minds’ and none-aligned, but today we are united as one indivisible Senate working for the progress of our nation.
“We can only remain patriotic. Our parties may differ, but we have one country and we have one constituency which is Nigeria.
“To our detractors, let me just say that there is God. It is God that gives power and He gives to whoever he wants. It does not make any sense people wasting their time and energy plotting the downfall of other people. That means you are challenging God who has given power to those persons,” he said.
In his contribution, Senator Ben Murray -Bruce (PDP Bayelsa East) also took a very critical look at government’s approach towards redeeming Nigerians from the current economic shackles, and declared that national budgets over the years had been made to give undue priority to recurrent expenditure.
Murray-Bruce advised that the budget must be structured in such a manner that pays at least 50 percent attention to capital projects.
“We celebrate one year in office but I am very troubled by our economy. A lot of things have gone wrong and we have no time to fix the problems. Everybody complains that the price of oil has caused the decline of economy, but everybody must understand that the oil sector contributes 50 percent to the GDP.
“The GDP cannot all of a sudden have a negative growth of minus .36 percent. And if we have this again this quarter, we go into a recession. We have a very serious problem coupled with the fact that 18,000 babies are born in Nigeria everyday more than the whole of Western Europe combined and population growth with the declining economic growth is a terrible combination to have.
“This is coupled with the fact that after one year the budget has not been implemented as Kemi (Adeosun) the Minister of Finance has said. It is very unlikely the budget would be implemented fully this year because we have only 6 months to go.
“Now, let me make a request to President Buhari; when the budget for next year is presented, he must give Kemi a direct instruction: recurrent expenditure should not exceed 50 percent of the budget. It is ridiculous for us to talk about capital expenditure of N1.5 trillion in a N6 trillion budget when in fact we should be talking about the N6 trillion budget, the capital expenditure budget should be the only budget, recurrent expenditure is a fixed amount regardless of what happened you have to pay salaries.”
He continued: “As a country of 170 million people with civil servants, the civil servants in Nigeria are only 2.2 million. If 2.2 million people consume 75 percent of our entire budget then we have a serious problem.
“What is going to happen is that Nigeria can never develop. That is the fact of life. If we want Nigeria to develop, recurrent expenditure can and should never exceed 50 percent as a starting point regardless of the consequences. No budget to be presented to the National Assembly must exceed 50 percent for recurrent. We want money for capital expenditure, we want money for healthcare, we want money for education, and we want money to solve our problems.
“We cannot survive as a nation if all we do is pay salaries for 56 years. It is a very serious problem and here is a subject nobody talks about, population explosion 18, 000 babies born every single day and these are excluding babies born from rape victims. This is a serious problem,” he submitted.
Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Olusola Adeyeye (APC Osun Central) was frank in drawing the attention of his colleagues to the series of problems bedevilling the nation in addition to the challenge of imminent economic recession.
Adeyeye said: “No matter the political party we belong to, the country is in turmoil; the economy is in a bad shape; insecurity is very high; unemployment is unimaginable. The next one year must not be like the last one year; we must make a difference.”
He urged his colleagues to put the past behind and proffer solutions to the myriads of problems bedevilling the country.
He said: “Some things have not gone on rightly in the last one year. If we say we have no sin, we lie and the truth is not in us. We need to tell ourselves the truth. We need to put our pasts behind us and work together.”
While also speaking on the general state of affairs in the country, Senate Minority Leader Godswill Akpabio warned that if something urgent was not done, Nigeria would be plunged into crisis.
He noted that “in the South-South, people have abandoned their homes because of activities of Niger Delta Avengers. The north is under turmoil. The South-East is boiling because of agitation. The South-West is the only peaceful area, but they still send mercenaries to other areas to fight.
“I want to urge the APC to market this country very well. The way the APC is saying that the country is full of criminals, investors will not come here to invest. They must change the way they talk about Nigeria. Things need to change,” Akpabio submitted.
While speaking on the general state of affairs in the country, Akpabio warned that if something urgent was not done, Nigeria would be plunged into crisis.