The Organised Private Sector (OPS) has raised the alarm over the role of the National Assembly in the success of private sector business operations in Nigeria, querying the legality of the lawmakers oversight functions.
According to the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), the brazen attack on enterprise rights by various committees and ad-hoc committees of the House of Representatives is to blame for the death of many businesses.
Director General of NECA, Olusegun Oshinowo, at a press briefing in Lagos recently lamented that contrary to what the executive and the legislative arms of government often express “working to enthrone the Organised Private Sector (OPS) as the engine of economic progress”, “partnering with the OPS to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to the Country”; and “improving Nigeria’s ranking on the Ease of Doing Business international index”, there has been an unhealthy increase in the incidence of unwarranted investigations by the lawmakers into all aspects of the private sector’s operation that catches their fancy.
“The oversight and investigative power of the legislators is clearly being stressed to an absurd limit without any deep thought to its counterproductive effects on the growth and development of the economy”, he said.
He noted that the lawmakers based on their interpretation of Sections 88 and 89 of the Federal Constitution on the believe that they have unrestricted power to dabble into any issue or the affairs of any enterprise in the economy, whether a public or private entity.
But Oshinowo said the Organised Private Sector does not agree with them on the matter and as such is challenging the NASS in court on some of its actions.
Oshinowo, singled out the House of Representatives Committee on Labour, Employment & Productivity,House of Representatives Committee on Steel,House of Representatives Committee on Telecommunications, House of Representatives Committee on Public Safety and National Security, Ad Hoc Committee on the Abuse of Pioneer Status by Companies and Ad-Hoc Committee Investigating Operational Activities of Telecommunications Equipment and Service Companies/Vendors in Nigeria, as the most guilty.
He explained that “all efforts at exploring the avenue of dialogue, advocacy and lobbying as evidenced through our several correspondence to the House and submissions at hearings and visits to the National Assembly seem to have been ineffective in protecting the economic rights and interest of businesses in this environment. The legislators only listen to themselves and have become law unto themselves. Therefore, we have been left with no option but to seek judicial solace to protect Enterprise rights and provide some relief to business by staving off this meaningless by the legislators.”
According to Oshinowo, Companies and Business Membership Organisations (BMOs) are being forced to incur avoidable litigation, travelling expenses and waste of management time to attend “settlement meetings”.
He said that the issues being investigated by the lawmakers are issues that could be resolved by respective agencies in-charge of the organisation.
“The coca-cola issue is an example. The lawmakers saw it as an opportunity to investigate other manufacturers who use similar ingredients in their production.
“The right agency the legislators supposed to approach is NAFDAC who is responsible for quality control instead of inviting the Chief Executive Officers of these organisations as these ingredients are already certified by NAFDAC anyway. If it’s in the aviation, the agency to call should be NCAA and in telecommunication the NCC”, he said.
He said that law making institutions have a role to play in promoting social economic development, stating that quality of leaders, quality of institutions and quality of policy are three key roles that drives development.
“Any country that will be willing to make any meaningful development and impact on the welfare of its citizens must get the three factors right on a sustainable basis’’, Oshionowo said.
He said that OPS, who are NECA members, are not averse to constructive engagement with the leadership of the House of Representatives on all matters for the good of the Country.
Oshinowo said that prospective investors are worried why businesses are under constant siege instead of creating conducive environment for the enterprise to thrive.
The NECA director general stated further that some of the factors killing businesses for operators are the hours which stakeholders are kept waiting when invited to the National Assembly, especially for Public Hearings.
He cautioned that those invited to the National Assembly should not be disrespected since they represent the companies, even if they are not the CEOs.
“When a Company has honoured the legislators’ invitations by sending representatives, why will the lawmakers throw out such representatives, insisting on having only the CEO? Why equate the CEO with the institution.
“Committees of the House are quick to threaten CEOs with arrests and bench warrants whenever they send a proxy to represent them, notwithstanding the reason for their inability to honour the invitation,’’ he said.
The director general also condemned the use of consultants by the lawmakers, noting that often the executives after putting themselves through so much stress to get to Abuja would be left to see consultants instead of the lawmakers who had given the invitation.