Buhari Set To Seek Emergency Powers To Reflate Economy

President Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari

When the National Assembly resumes from recess on September 12, the presidency will likely table an executive bill that would give the president emergency powers to stimulate the economy without having to contend with getting clearance from the legislature.

The bill titled “Emergency Economic Stabilisation Bill 2016” is designed to enable the executive push for measures that would provide immediate stimulus for the economy said to be technically in recession.

Laolu Akande, Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, on media, gave this indication while debunking media reports that the presidency was ready with the bill.

“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,” he stated but added that the plan, which is the brainchild of the economic team headed by Osinbajo, had not become an official.

Akande, said the plan had not been communicated to President Buhari yet, and that it is still in the planning stages.

The objectives of the action-plan include creation of more jobs, shoring up the value of the naira, boosting of foreign reserves, reviving the manufacturing sector and improving power generation and supply.

The bill is based on a proposal from the economic team headed by Vice President  Osinbajo, after it reviewed the various economic policies introduced so far and how they have affected the economy.

The review led the team to the decision that the economy required urgent stimulus measures which some of the extant laws, especially the Procurement Act 2007, will not permit.

The alternative, the team concluded, was a long period of recession which is not in the interest of the government or of Nigerians.

Vive President and head of the Economic team, Yemi Osinbajo
Vice President and head of the Economic team, Yemi Osinbajo

In the bill, the executive will be asking for the President to be given sweeping powers to set aside some extant laws and use executive orders to roll out an economic recovery package within the next one year.

Specifically, the president will be 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.

The bill also seek to 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 of business.

The Procurement Act does not allow contract award earlier than six months after decision. Part of this is a mandatory advertisement of the contract for six weeks-a provision the economic team noted as unacceptable in the present circumstance the country has found itself.

Although the president has the power to order the sale or lease of any government asset to raise cash, “the procedure is cumbersome and long”. The draft bill is meant to ease the process.

There are reports that about nine government assets may be leased or sold to generate around $50 billion to shore up the nation’s foreign reserves and the value of the naira against the United States dollar.

Also, about N58 billion is said to be trapped in UBEC’s coffers because the states cannot access it as a result of the key condition, which is the payment of 50 per cent counterpart funding. The government is seeking an amendment to the law so that states will pay only 10 per cent as counterpart funding.

The purpose is to enable state governments have access to cash to develop education and facilitate job creation in the sector.

The Act also makes it mandatory that government cannot mobilise contractors with more than 15 per cent of contract sum. The bill will seek to allow the government to mobilise contractors with 50 per cent of contract sum so as to facilitate infrastructural development.

Although news of the plan appeared to be well received across all sectors, but there are concerns on the details of the bill and what powers the president would be seeking.






     

     

    For instance, since the MDAs are the legal procurement agencies, would the president take over their functions or seek blanket approval from the Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP, on their behalf? What would be the role of the BPP in the new plan?

    Functions of the BPP include: (a) the harmonization of existing government policies and practices on public procurement and ensuring probity, accountability and transparency in the procurement process ; (b) the establishment of pricing standards and benchmarks ; (c) ensuring the application of fair, competitive, transparent, matinee standards and practices for the procurement and disposal of public assets and services ; and (d) the attainment of transparency, competitiveness, cost effectiveness and professionalism in the public sector procurement system.

    But Section 42 of the Act gives the president powers for restricted tendering. This is why some have said the president may not need the national assembly to pass the bill for it to carry out the economic measures.

    The section says: A procuring entity may carry out any emergency procurement where : (a) goods, works or services are only available from a particular supplier or contractor, or if a particular supplier or contractor has exclusive rights in respect of the goods, works or services, and no reasonable alternative or substitute exits ; or (b) there is an urgent need for the goods, works or services and engaging in tender proceedings or any other method of procurement is impractical due to Request for quotations. Direct procurement. Public Procurement Act 2007 No. 14 A 233 unforeseeable circumstances giving rise to the urgency which is not the result of dilatory conduct on the part of the procuring entity ; (c) owing to a catastrophic event, there is an urgent need for the goods, works or services, making it impractical to use other methods of procurement because of the time involved in using those methods.

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