Ajibade Morakinyo Temilorun
Mrs. Racheal Oludele, a supervisor in a manufacturing company, who lives in Iyana-Ipaja, Lagos State, will never forget one day in her life in a hurry. She had gone to a market around her area for her monthly shopping as well as shop for her two children who were due to return to school after the long vacation with N50, 000. She had paid for a few items on her shopping list when she frantically started searching for the bulk of the money in her bag.
She could not believe that much of the money had disappeared into the air without her purchasing all the items on her shopping list unlike before. Her initial reaction was that somebody must have robbed her.
Sadly, she went back home with the few things she bought. When she got home, her children welcomed her but expressed surprise that she did not get all their requirements. She narrated her experience still
convinced she was robbed. But when the prices of items she brought home were calculated, the money tallied. It was then she realised that hyper-inflation in the country had robbed her of her purchasing power.
She had to explain to the children that they would have to tighten their belt because there is no way out of the current hardship in the country.
Like Mrs. Oludele, many Nigerians are groaning under the current economic downturn in the country, which is no news in the society.
With Nigeria being declared a nation in recession recently, the odds are against both government and citizens, regarding the hyper-inflation status that the country has been hit wit and the cluelessness of the government in finding a solution to the crisis.
When President Muhammadu Buhari took over the reins of power about 19 months ago, many Nigerians, including those who opposed the emergence of the former military Head of State, were expectant of one thing – change! But the shape and state of the economy has made many citizens to think otherwise about the capacity and competence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) – led government to take the nation out of the woods.
But to prove ‘level of competency’ in the present administration within the over 365 days in office, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) Report for 2015 showed that the country had negative growth periods all through the year (2015). In one of the many efforts to stimulate the economy, the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, stated in a meeting with the National Assembly members, that the government had released over N450 billion for capital projects funding, adding that, “we are pumping money into the economy at a very rapid rate.” Which she cautioned that it would take time to start feeling the impact due to the time lag between ‘spending and effect’ of the project.
The Minister said the procurement process that usually accompanies capital projects was slowing down.
However, the present so called administration’s Economic Team, which for all intent and purpose is non-existent, in order to fix the economies during critical times, has weighed the mood of Nigerians on the present economic hardship, and decided that unless there is an “Emergency Economic Stability Power Bill”, a bill that bestows every power required by the President to address the problems. It also gives extra powers to Mr. President, which he does not have to go through over the legislature before he could take drastic decisions to tackle the economic challenges, because there is need for extraordinary solutions to the problems facing the economy.
Definitely, this bill negate the right of ‘Checks and Balance’ between the two arms of Nigerian government, but the question is, will this bill turn him a tyrant as speculated by the legislative arm? This is because, the bill when passed, will empower the president to carry out radical reforms that have both executive and legislative components. The executive orders will involve issuance of visas, registration of businesses, granting of waivers, processing of tendering and sales of non-core assets. The emergency powers that have the legislative components include the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) Act, procurement process and verification of budget allocations. It is believed that only a tyrant will want to perform all functions of other arms of government, says an anonymous political affairs analyst.
The bill is also to set aside some extant laws and use executive orders to roll out an economic recovery package within the next one year, and seeking powers to: abridge the procurement process to
support stimulus spending on critical sectors of the economy; make orders to favour local contractors/suppliers in contract awards; abridge the process of sale or lease of government assets to generate revenue; allow virement of budgetary allocation to projects that are urgent, without going back to the National Assembly; amend certain laws, such as the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) Act, so that states that cannot access their cash trapped in the accounts of the commission (because they cannot meet the counterpart funding) can do so; and to embark on radical reforms in visa issuance at Nigeria’s consular offices and on arrival in the country and to compel some agencies of government like the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), the National Agency for Foods Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and others to improve on their turn around operation time for the benefit
But many Nigerian senators and economists say the bill will turn President Buhari into a tyrant, because it negates the very process of law making, awarding contracts and resolution of how things ought to be done, no matter the circumstance – except in the case of a declared National Emergency; one that is yet to occur giving the posturing and denials of the same government that we are in an emergency.
The Chief Economist at FSDH Merchant Bank Limited, Mr. Ayodele Akinwunmi, stated that what the current administration needs is to communicate its plans coherently to the private sector and make the
private sector to buy into it, and disagree to any form of additional powers to the President whether emergency or not.
Akinwunmi further stated that the reasons there are economic contraction in Nigeria today can be linked to the following: the neglect of the power sector; the neglect of the critical infrastructural development in Nigeria which can support the growth of the critical sectors of the economy; the neglect of agriculture for cheap money from oil. He declared that there is no doubt the country has a comparative advantage in agriculture, but the sector was neglected for oil; exporting raw materials without adding value on the raw materials in Nigeria before they are exported, and of course, huge corruption.
“I do believe that these factors can be addressed within the power that the president has today, and not any emergency bill,” he said.
More so, objectives of the bill as researched are to reflect the economy by creating more jobs, boost foreign reserves, ensure inflow of foreign exchange, strengthens the naira, resuscitate the manufacturing sector and get contractors back to site. These, the banker believed Nigerians never check in for as regards the bill, but insisted that the President would be more tyrannical than he is today.
According to an anonymous Nigerian politician, who stated that only a tyrant can say on national television that Court Orders will not be respected because in his opinion those accused of the crimes are
already guilty, and that it would be dangerous to give such person emergency or additional power on the economy.
He cited an example that makes the President a tyrant already: “The response of President Buhari on the Shiites issue proves beyond reasonable doubt that he sanctioned the killings of over
1,000 innocent Nigerians who he felt committed a crime in an extra-judicial manner. This is wrong and barbaric. We are not in the era of jungle justice. Why do we have courts? If people have committed
a crime in your own opinion; you don’t take the laws into your hands as the President of a democratic nation and pass death sentences on them,” he said.
“Those who have committed crimes should be arrested and charged to court and not summarily executed on the streets like dogs on the street like the Zaria case.” He said he watched a video where small children were pushing a General, when did death sentence become punishment for pushing a General? Only tyrants behave this way. Why then charge Dasuki and Nnamdi Kanu to court? Why not just summarily executed them like the Shiites in Zaria?” He added.
This bill as proposed will allow the government declare a state of emergency, yet the more plausible explanation will be applicable in three cases: The first permissible scenario is a war emergency, where
the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Nigeria is threatened through external aggression or armed rebellion. The second is a public emergency or calamity; and the third is a financial emergency, during which the country’s financial stability or credit is threatened.
The government has not admitted to any of the three scenarios above and hence raises the question as to the basis of the emergency powers sought, maybe considered needed and helpful to the economy’s hardship without turning to a tyrant.
Chairman, Automobile Group, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Oseme Oigiagbe, stated that if President Muhammadu Buhari needs emergency powers to tackle a specific need of the economy, it may be justified. But if what the National Economic Team is asking for are extra powers that are not tied to anything, then the bill does not make any sense. We need to know the specific need the President wants to use the powers to address. The need and derivable objectives should be specified.
Oigiagbe buttressed that, “if the bill is seeking broad emergency powers that are not tied to any special purpose, there would be corporate governance violations. The economy is too wide to be tackled with emergency powers. Even agriculture is too broad for the purpose of emergency powers. You could talk about declaring an emergency on food production. That is specific enough. The President could ask for
powers to declare an emergency on food production and ban the importation of food items. That would be understandable.”
He also added that what is the essence of the emergency powers when nobody stops the President from doing what he wants to do? The government would get the right results if it engages the right people.
Nigerians are paying a sacrifice for this non admission of a serious national economic crisis. And the Federal Government must therefore, wonder why and what this emergency really seeks to address and for how long; even as Nigerians expect the administration to do its own share as well – being upfront with it and selling its stimulus plan as a confidence boosting measure of giving life to the dying economy.
Ajibade Morakinyo Temilorun