Nigerian employers are worried over the effect of lawmakers’ intrusion into the activities of investors under the guise of performing oversight functions. SUNDAY OJEME reports
A few months ago, about 30 chief executive officers of top Nigerian companies were invited by the Senate over certain revenue losses.
Precisely, the Senate Joint Committee on Customs, Excise, Tariff and Marine Transport ordered mobile telecommunication firm, Globacom, to appear before it to explain N30 trillion revenue leakage.
Other firms that were to appear before the Senate along with Globacom were British American Tobacco Company, CCEC Nigeria, Dana Group, African Wire and Allied Ltd, and Admiral Overseas Nigeria Ltd.
Also included are Aarti Steel Nigeria Ltd., Gagsel International, Fries Land Capina, Etco Nigeria Ltd, Encounter Ltd, Edic Chemicals and Allied Distributors Ltd, Don Climax Group and De United Foods.
The Senate committee saddled with probing of revenue loss gave the order, insisting that the firms allegedly involved in the N30 trillion Federal Government revenue leakage must appear before it.
Similarly, the lower house, House of Representatives, also engaged in the act of summoning firms and by extension the chief executive officers to respond to certain findings observed in course of performing their duties.
The action, which has been unsettling business transactions among the investors, came to a head recently when the body of employers, Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (NECA), not only condemned the habit but also sued the House of Representatives to court.
Lamenting the development in Lagos, Director General of the association, Mr. Olusegun Oshinowo, described the trend as unfortunate.
According to him, there has been an unhealthy increase in the incidence of unwarranted investigations by the National Assembly, particularly the House of Representatives, through countless committees and ad-hoc committees, into any aspect of the private sector’s operation that catches their fancy.
Some of the cases currently in court include that involving the House of Representatives’ Committee on Finance instituted in 2013, currently at the Court of Appeal – NECA & 2 Ors vs. Attorney-General of the Federation and five others; the one challenging the powers of the House of Representatives’ Joint committee on Interior, Labour and Productivity to investigate the abuse of Expatriate Quotas instituted in 2012, currently at the Supreme Court – NECA & two others vs. Attorney-General of the Federation and five others.
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.”
Oshinowo observed that the habit was contrary to the Executive and Legislature’s campaign to enthrone a virile private sector entity as the engine of economic progress, attract foreign direct investment (FDI) and improve Nigeria’s ranking on the Ease of Doing Business international index among others.
He said:”In recent past, it has been the practice of one committee/ad-hoc committee or the other of the House of Representatives seeking to carry out investigation into activities of the private sector under the guise of oversight responsibilities.
“Our lawmakers have always relied on their interpretation of Sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution. It is the conviction of our lawmakers that they have unrestricted power to dabble in 1999 any issue or the affairs of any enterprise in the economy, be it public or private.
He said the legislators only listened to themselves and have become law unto themselves.
Oshinowo also queried the scope and extent of the constitutionality of investigatory authority/powers of the lawmakers in Sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution, saying under what circumstance can the legislators exercise oversight power on companies in the private sector and the extent it would entail usurpation of the responsibilities of the executive arm of government and the agencies.
Due process abuse
He said in one instance, a company was currently being hounded with invitations from about seven committees of the House of Representatives on issues that could ordinarily have been sorted out with regulatory institutions that supervise activities in that sector.
Those he alleged have been very active in their disregard of the court processes include 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, National Security and House 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.
According to him, “the continued disregard of the court processes and persistent summons of chief executives of organised businesses to the National Assembly smacks of flagrant disregard for the rule of law and legislative rascality, to say the least.
“We expect the Speaker of the House of Representatives, who is a lawyer himself (and by extension all the Committees and Ad-Hoc Committees within the House of Representatives) and the Clerk of the National Assembly, among others who are all restrained by the sub-judice status of this case to exercise caution until the determination of the matter.
“We are even taken aback by the House Committees’ non-respect for its own Standing Order IX Rule 5 on rules of Debate, which provides that ‘Reference shall not be made to any matter on which a judicial decision is pending, in such a way as might in the speaker’s opinion prejudice the interest of parties thereto.’
In order not to discourage the zeal of investors coming into the country, it is advisable that the legislators stay further action as proof of a responsible legislature as this is not only urgent but needful for the orderly evolution of democracy.
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