By AUSTIN OWOICHO, Abuja
Nigeria’s economy will create 7.5 million jobs within the next five years, as a result of infrastructure reforms being championed by the Senate and the 8th Assembly.
Senate President/Chairman of the National Assembly, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki gave the assurance, while speaking at the 11th Annual Business Law Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association.
“Our Vision going forward is that with the capital outlay and regulation it is expected that Nigeria will create 7.5 million jobs in the next 5 years owing solely to their infrastructure reforms.
“To ensure a sound economy, our legal regime must be equally sound and provide an assuring platform for investors, entrepreneurs and businesses,” he said.
Saraki who spoke on the theme “Law and the Changing Face of Legal Practice”, said that the Nigerian Bar Association remains not just a stakeholder but one of the most critical voice of reason within Nigeria’s polity.
“This is why we at the Senate have continued to seek out and engage you for advice and consultations on national issues. The role the NBA plays in shaping public perception and the opportunity it offers as a vehicle for promoting good governance have continued to grow. This is why when we opened up consultations and engagement with the private sector and the wider civil society on our legislative agenda which has been anchored on the economy, the NBA was one of our first port of call.
“I remember the promise I made to you then in 2015 shortly after we took office, where I pledged that we will run a much more transparent National Assembly ready to protect our common wealth through effective lawmaking, oversight and representation. I called the NBA to partnership in our lawmaking role. I charged the NBA to come up with ideas on laws that would help us reform the economy and deepen our democracy. today, in partial fulfilment of that promise and the desire to deepen the democratic ethos of the National Assembly the 8th National Assembly is breaking down barriers to engagement and public scrutiny,” he assured.
The Senate President Said that as a matter of deliberate policy, they have put the daily plenary on the worldwide web for all to see and gain first-hand knowledge about the inner workings of the Assembly.
“We have for the first time in the history of the National Assembly uploaded our line by line budget to the public, subjecting our finances to greater openness. As part of this Open Nass initiative, the 8th National Assembly is today the first National Assembly to hold a joint public hearing on the budget as part of the budget approval process.
“Also, we are the first Assembly to deliberate and consider the full detail of the budget on the floor before passage. We are without a doubt the most civil society engaging National Assembly in the history of the consideration and approval of the federal budget. All of these we have embarked on to further strengthen and encourage the continuous interaction and mobilisation of our people towards building a more virile people’s parliament,” he stressed.
Saraki explained that they have continued to expand and push the bar of engagement ever farther.
“Today, the NBA-SBL and other private sector groups and the civil society are participating in the law-making process as we work through our economic priority bills by providing and engaging with relevant committees on technical advisory and support. This is another area where we have found very robust engagement and involvement with our private citizens. Aside the added advantage of enhancing the quality of the bills we pass, I am a firm believer that the laws coming out of the parliament must be owned by the people for it to have the value to change lives.
“Because law is a tool for social and economic re-engineering. Let me therefore use this opportunity to thank all of you in the NBA-SBL and the wider civil society that have so far participated in this process and offered us their expertise. The National Assembly is grateful for all your effort at ensuring that we build a new Nigerian economy. I hope that our timeous passage of the bills you have been involved with has encouraged you that we mean business and we are dedicated for more. For those who have not keyed into this lofty initiative, we extend our invitation,” he said.
He said that the National Assembly is leading a new role to use legislative intervention as a mechanism for achieving economic reform.
“While the National Assembly has pursued economic reforms in the past, much of it had not been anchored on a solid legislative reform of the obsolete laws that guide economic exchanges. This has been the missing gap to sustaining meaningfully the economic policies of the past including the vision 2010, 20- 2020.
“The current 8th National Assembly has placed premium on creating the right legal framework for empowering entrepreneurial development, building investor confidence on our economy and renewing our infrastructure base across board. On infrastructure alone, experts, including the minister of Budget and Planning that Nigeria will need about $3.05 trillion in the next 30 years in order to implement the National Integrated Infrastructure Master Plan, NIIMP. With the state of the revenue basket, it is clear that unless we are able to expand the financing base to incorporate other sources of funding and mobilisation we may not be able to meet our infrastructure target and reduce our deficit. Otherwise, health, education, water sanitation, security and other essential public services will continue to suffer.
“This is why today, we have a framework for collaboration with the private sector, the civil society and the development partners where we can share ideas, engage and consult with one another towards innovative ideas that could help us expand the financing model for our infrastructure development and financing. I am here to say that I am proud that the NBA is a major player in this framework and that we are making tremendous progress so far.
“The state of the Nigerian Economy as we met it is worrisome. With an estimated $900b infrastructure deficit, crude oil price falling down to $50-40 from a high of over $140. With a production level still hovering around 2m barrels and a Niger Delta region that remained fragile we had an economic scenario that was challenging. This is further exacerbated by the fact that in the mist of all of these, we had a none oil revenue base of less than 5% and oil was still accounting for over 40% of the federal revenue base. It is within this scenario that we are to create more jobs and stop people losing their jobs.
“When we came on board we were confronted with the daunting task of creating jobs in an economy with over 13% unemployment. This administration was immediately faced with closing the infrastructure deficit gap of over $350b in an era of sharply dwindling revenue and high rate of divestment. We were confronted also with the need to stop restiveness, secure our peoples welfare, provide more opportunity for our youths on the street and raise their standard of living. This we had to do within the context of the shrinking economy struggling to meet with its recurrent obligations that we inherited. The only option was for government to keep borrowing which is unsustainable with very high negative repercussions on upcoming generations. As a forward-thinking legislature, we knew that we had to do something to ameliorate the challenge.
“It was on this background that the Senate then decided to frame for herself a legislative agenda with the overarching objective to use legal reform as an enabler for modernizing the Nigerian economy for greater competitiveness and attractiveness for investment. Today, working together with the NESG, NBA and the ENABLE DFID Program and other partners under NASSBER. I am happy to report that the National Assembly is making steady progress towards a methodically legal reformation of the obsolete market laws we have. This is already signalling to the world that Nigeria is ready for business and global competition. Our policy drive is simple; to create jobs and enable SMEs for growth. The focus has significantly been on infrastructure mobilisation, access to capital and credit and the reduction in the cost of doing business to encourage investment.
“By the end of the second session of the 8th Assembly, we have successfully passed the following bills aimed at creating a modern Nigerian business environment including; The Electronic Transaction bill 2015, Bankruptcy and Insolvency bill 2015, the Credit Reporting Bill, The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission Bill, the Independent Warehouse Regulatory Agency Bill and the Secure Transactions in Movable Assets Bill. The Companies and Allied Matters (Act) (CAMA) (Amendment) Bill and the Investment and Securities Act (ISA) (Amendment) Bill are today undergoing committee consideration. It is expected that with the passage of these bills together with others we will have a new Nigeria business regulatory environment that is pro innovation and business growth,” he narrated.
Speaking on infrastructure, he said they have put together six important infrastructure reform bills to help revamp the country’s infrastructure.
“These include The Nigerian Railway Bill, The Nigerian Ports & Harbour Bill, The National Road Funds Bill, the National Transport Commission Bill, the National Inland Waterways Bill and the Federal Roads Bill. These laws draw from the experiences of other countries with similar demographics with Nigeria. Leaning heavily on enabling the participation of the private sector in the construction and maintenance of roads, railways and ports as well as their operations. The net effect will be more investment in the country, reduced pressure on the forex market and public funds will be channeled towards more governance oriented public services,” he added.
Speaking further, he revealed that to put into context the economic implication of what they have done, two of their laws have been identified by World Bank to move Nigeria 40 points ahead in its indicators on ease of doing business, the Credit Bureau Systems Bill and the Secured Transactions in Movable Assets Bill.
“In addition to reducing the cost of doing business, these two bills and the Warehouse Receipts bill will create new capital mobilisation scheme for SMEs while also reducing the potential for non-performing loans,” he emphasized.