Exploring Legislative Initiatives for Sustainable Development

By Abubakar Jimoh

The recent National Dialogue on Economic and Development organized by the National Assembly of Nigeria opened extensive discussions for generation and processing of legislative ideas for economic recovery, improvement of security architecture, and general development of the nation.

The forum which was facilitated by the National Institute for Legislative Studies aimed at providing an avenue for all the stakeholders to engage, and interact on the current economic challenges facing Nigeria and explore ways to rehabilitate and reconstruct social and economic infrastructure in the country.

From left: Speaker of the House, RT Hon. Dogara Yakubu; Representative of the Speaker, Conference of Speakers, Mr. Maman Ali; and

In his opening remarks at the form, Speaker of the House of Representatives, RT Hon. Dogara Yakubu stressed that in accordance with the 8th House Assembly legislative agenda, the House has committed itself to review the national budgetary process and revamp the national economy and development through appropriate legislative measures to tackle non-remittance of internally generated revenue and leakages, infrastructure development, and legislative initiative on: economic diversification, new cities and regional hubs of development, North-East and Niger-Delta, unemployment, housing, urban development, mortgages, power, security.

In order to curb the years of persistent delay in the approval of budgetary allocation which erodes development of the real sectors, the Speaker explained that the House has specifically committed itself to a review of the budgetary process with emphasis on: “promotion of an inclusive budgetary process that seeks the cooperation of the Executive in institutionalising pre-budget interface and consultations; adoption of an effective Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF); strict compliance with the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) 2007; insistence on prioritisation of budget expenditure that reflects approved budget lines; zero tolerance for non-implementation of capital projects as approved in annual Budgets; and effective monitoring and evaluation of expenditure and of outcomes achieved – value for money”.

He urged President Muhammad Buhari as the Minister of Petroleum to as a matter of urgency transmit a Bill to the National Assembly on how his administration intends to reorganize the Petroleum Sector, stating that long time executive-legislative debate had stalled timely passage of Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) by the 7th House without the Senate concurring.

“Clarity on the legal framework for Oil and Gas in Nigeria is crucial to our economy. Contrary to the assertion that the size of the Bill is the problem, the fact is that an early introduction will lead to an early passage,” Yakubu said.

He said the House would partner with the Executive to prioritise legislation that could help to jumpstart the economy such as the Competition and Consumer Protection Laws and other laws that touch on the economic wellbeing of Nigeria.

The Speaker added: “Anti-Corruption Legislation and Over-sight would be the major contribution of parliament to the CHANGE that has come to Nigeria. As I have said elsewhere, the National Assembly remains the only arm of government specifically charged with responsibility by the Constitution to ‘expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it.

“The enduring fight against corruption must be waged through the instrumentality of law and legislation. People can only be accountable when the law is clear and when it is enforced fairly and firmly.”

In a paper titled “Governance, Leadership and the Nigerian Economy”, the Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II explained that while Nigeria may have witnessed delays in the manifestation of the impact of poor governance on key macroeconomic indicators, historical data has shown overtime, how poor governance systems have had severe consequences on the economy and its socio-political development.

“We have seen how our economy degenerated from being a major world exporter of cash crops and self-sufficient in food crops, to being an importer of basic food crops, and dependent on the importation of refined petroleum products. We are witnesses to the severe deteriorations in Nigeria’s key human development indices, from absolute poverty to high infant and maternal mortality, low life expectancy, poor primary healthcare, low primary school enrolment and high secondary school drop-out, high unemployment, low per capital income, high Gini coefficient, rising social insecurity, and high prevalence of diseases,” he lamented.

The traditional ruler saw “Good Governance” as the impartial enforcement of the laws and administration of justice by an incorruptible Judiciary, Legislature and Executive with emphasis that good governance is an ideal which is difficult to achieve in its entirety. He however cited the fundamental and globally acceptable minimum thresholds that represent global best practices.

Sanusi added: “No country can be said to have achieved ‘full good governance’, but what is important is the efforts of a society towards ensuring the principles of good governance, including deliberate measures to strengthen the instruments and institutions for good governance.”

He noted that leadership and specifically good leadership is required to translate governance to good governance, stating that good leadership entails capability, courage, integrity, influence and vision.

Observing leadership from Nigeria context, he said leadership entailed domesticating the theoretical principles and values of good leadership to the Nigerian economic fundamentals and experiences, lamenting that the Nigerian experience has clearly shown a perennial failure of leadership in our growth and development history, at all levels of governance.

Sanusi further recommended immediate but careful appraisal and review of the nation’s existing fiscal and monetary policy framework, including institutional arrangements to strengthen the economy’s resilience.

Also at the forum, former Director and Deputy Head of the United Nations Peace-building Support Office, New York, Ejeviome Eloho Otobo saw challenges bedevilling timely development in Nigeria as those emanating from institutional building rather than governance. According to him, institution building is one of the most important and complex challenges in post conflict peace-building and reconstruction which historically features in Nigeria’s socio-political development.

He explained that the Nigerian context is marked by “transition from multiple conflicts, thus displaying the features of an economy simultaneously in war, an economy in transition, and an economy in usual development mode”.

Otobo theorised five major institutional challenges associating with country emerging from conflict. These include the challenge of: timing the commencement of an institution-building effort; setting priorities for institution building; linking post conflict institution building to nation-building and state building; promoting partnership in support of institution building; and financing institution building.

“The most striking feature of Nigeria today is that it is wracked by violence in some parts and recovering from conflict in others. A conflict has been raging in the North East region for over five years, involving the armed forces and the Boko Haram terrorist group. The conflicted-affected areas in the Northeast have suffered all atrocities associated with war: death, displacement, destruction, and abductions of many people, including the Chibok girls.

“Meanwhile, the Niger Delta—the main source of Nigeria’s oil wealth– has a huge unfinished peace-building agenda and teeters between peace and possible renewed violence. Outside these two regions, insecurities reflected in tensions between pastoralists and farmers, armed robbery and kidnappings are rife,” the former Director said.

He however argued in support of Sanusi that the national security and economic situation present a very challenging environment for governance and presents an opportunity for deep national reflection on how to move the country forward.

“Nigeria is at a crossroads, politically and economically. On the economic front, the falling oil price has had severe adverse repercussions on the economy. Foreign reserves are depleting. Domestic and external debt is rising.  Growth is projected to decelerate from 5.5 percent to 2.6 percent in 2015. Moreover, the fall in oil export revenue is coinciding with a fall in non-oil export revenue, further clouding the country’s fiscal and trade balance outlook. At the same time, inflation is on the rise.   On the political front, while the smooth transfer of power from a defeated incumbent to his opponent has calmed the political situation; the security challenges remain enormous,” Otobo noted.

He warned that neither will Nigeria achieve its full economic and political potential nor wield significant diplomatic influence, if it is wracked by violent conflicts that the country is seen as unable to manage.

Similarly, speaking at the forum, Acting Director, African Studies Program, Johns Hopkins University, Paul M Lubeck, noted that it is readily apparent that the Nigerian nation – which is presently becoming spatially polarized and socially bifurcated into a modernizing south, nurtured by superior infrastructures, consumer demand from a rising, educated middle class on one hand and, on the other, an introverted, economically stagnant, conflict-ridden, impoverished North – will not prosper unless all states participate in the benefits of economic growth.

He observed that the North West is Nigeria’s most populous and most fertile zone with a fertility rate since 2003 varies between 7.4 and 6.7 births per woman, closely parallels that of the Republic of Niger, a country ranked at the absolute bottom of the UNDP’s human security index. Lubeck posited that unless total fertility rates are lowered by introducing responsible and realistic health and education policies, per capita income and living standards will decline and the risk that recruitment into violence-prone organizations will continue.

The Director said effort to addressing the youth employment crisis in both North West and North East zones required state policy makers at the sub-national level to wed public governance institutions at the state level with market-driven incentives so as to attract productive private investment for labour absorbing industries.

“Given the constitutional authority vested in states, northern governors must be convinced to use their authority to solve the coordination problem. …Economic reconstruction requires leaders in the North East and North West zones to pursue policies that nurture industries that increase productivity and employment.  Policies should be realistic, market augmenting and truly “developmental” policies in the East Asian sense of the term,” he advised.

A study presented by the Executive Chairman of African Centre for Shared Development Capacity Building, Olu Ajakaiye revealed that although Nigeria has enjoyed relatively high GDP growth rate of approximately 6.82% between 2000 and 2013 making it one of the fastest growing African economies, yet welfare of Nigerians has not improved with over 60 percent of the population living below poverty line, over 23% rate of unemployment, human development index (HDI) of 0.504 (UNDP, 2014) which ranks the country 152 out of 186 countries as at 2013.

“Evidently, Nigeria belongs to the club of African economies facing the paradox of growth with rising unemployment, worsening poverty and deepening inequality. Unemployment rate has assumed an upward trend, rising from an average of 9.2% between 1991 and 2000 to 23.1% over the period of 2011-2014 (rebasing period).

“Similarly, people’s welfare has worsened over time in spite of the persistent economic growth. Head count poverty index, HCPI rose from 46.01 percent in 1985 to 63.5 in 1996 and further to 65.3 in 2013,” he bemoaned.

In order for growth to generate adequate employment and income that will lift the country out of the present endemic unemployment rate and poverty, the Executive Chairman recommended among other things: rapid and sustained diversification of the economy from dominance of agriculture and service sector; promotion of modernization and transformation of agriculture through generation and adoption of productivity enhancing technologies to make the sector attractive to the youths and generate decent employment and income; adequate support for agricultural research and extension and strengthening of agricultural research institutions by the Legislative and Executive arms of Federal and State Governments.

Discussing the position of Kano State Infrastructure at the inception of the present administration and policy measures and reform programmes introduced to change the situation, the Deputy Governor of Kano State, Hafiz Abubakar said understand that infrastructure played an important role in the socio-economic development of our society, the immediate past administration led by Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso with the present Governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje as Deputy, developed and launched a robust Ten year Kano State Development Plan (KSDP) leading to sustainable development.

The Development Plan in his words highlights the State Government’s priorities for socio-economic development over the next ten years, sets appropriate goals, targets, processes and strategies that will transform Kano State to a leading role amongst States of the Federation in most spheres of human endeavors.

The Deputy Governor said along with the stated Development Plan, the State Government had prioritised power (electricity) supply, roads and transportation, housing development, water supply, sanitation, and human capital development.

He further revealed that successful implementation of the Development Plan by the State Government had benefitted from continued restructuring of expenditure in favour of capital projects, harmonious executive-legislative working relationship, and several other consolidation initiatives which further enhanced development efforts such as tax harmonization, infrastructure renewal/development and robust system of accountability.

 

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