The senate is now in possession of a memo on the proposed emergency powers bill from President Muhammadu Buhari — and an important component of the bill is to abridge the process of sale or lease of government assets to generate revenue.
The bill, which is intended to steer the country out of the economic recession, and is titled ‘Emergency Economic Stabilisation Bill 2016′, seeks to raise the value of the naira, create more jobs, boost the country’s foreign reserves, improve power supply and revive the manufacturing sector.
A source at the senate confirmed to TheCable that the upper chamber had received the memo, saying Buhari sought “to abridge the procurement process to support stimulus spending on critical sectors of the economy”.
According to the bill, the president is also seeking powers to make orders to favour local contractors/suppliers in contract awards, to abridge the process of sale or lease of government assets to generate revenue and to allow virement of budgetary allocation to projects that are urgent, without going back to the national assembly.
Other powers sought are powers 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 also to embark on radical reforms in visa issuance at Nigeria’s consular offices and on arrival in the country.
Buhari is also seeking to compel some agencies of government, such as the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), the National Agency for Foods and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and others to improve on their turnaround operation time for the benefit of business.
“We have received a presidential memo on emergency powers,” said the source. “What is in it is requesting presidential fiat to do things the national assembly has already approved, such as the procurement act and extra spending.”
THE ASSET SALE DEBATE
Earlier, TheCable had reported that Yemi Osinbajo, vice president, had already begun lobbying Bukola Saraki, senate president and Yakubu Dogara, the speaker of the house of representatives, for the smooth passage of the bill in the national assembly.
Since September 17, when industrialist Aliko Dangote advised the federal government to sell its stake in the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Limited and African Finance Cooperation, the subject of assets sale to finance the deficit in the 2016 budget has been heavily debated.
The likes of Bukola Saraki, president of the senate; Godwin Emefiele, governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN); Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, emir of Kano and former CBN governor; and state governors supported it.
On the opposing side are Ike Ekweremadu, deputy senate president; George Akume, an All Progressives Congress (APC) senator form Benue state; Femi Falana, human rights lawyer; and Chukwuma Soludo, former CBN governor, who emphatically said such move would be a historic mistake.
The federal government, though, has sought to thaw the heated debates. As recently as Wednesday, Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, said the government had not taken a decision to sell national assets, as all that was being debated was merely a recommendation of the national economic council.
“Government is still working on the most comprehensive manner to reflate the economy and the government will make its position known very soon,” he had said.
“What the government will do is to reflate the economy. Everything you have heard so far is just suggestion, until the government makes its position known, all these asset sale, asset leasing, whatever … being bandied about there are nothing but speculations.
“The government is yet to come out with its position on how to bail out the economy and it will do that very soon. NEC will recommend but it is the federal executive council that will decide and what we decide will be the position of government.”
But with the content of the federal government’s memo to the senate, it does seem that the president is in support of NEC’s recommendation on sale of assets.