The Senate and the House of Representatives will commence debate of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) by laying it in their respective chambers next week as a demonstration of the synergy existing between both Chambers of the National Assembly.
Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki stated this in Abuja at a Business Environment Roundtable on the economy hosted by the National Assembly.
Saraki said this has become necessarily to gain speed in the consideration and passage of the PIB and to prevent dissipation of time, energy and scarce resources that was prevalent in the past.
He said: “We have said that the present National Assembly would not be business as usual. More importantly is the presence of the Honourable Speaker represented by the Chief Whip of the House at this event. The message from this is that the National Assembly – both Senate and House of Representatives, is working very closely together in the 8th National Assembly and as such some of these processes would not be bogged down in any of the chambers.
“We are both committed. We have both come out with our agenda and as part of this commitment, you will all see next week, when we lay the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill. You will see that the Bill we are going to lay in the House is the same Bill we are going to lay in the Senate because for the first time, we are committed to work together as one to achieve results,” he said.
On the purpose of the roundtable, he said: “Our dear President Muhammadu Buhari has laid down for us the vision for a diversified economy away from too much dependence on the volatile oil, to ensure security of our people’s lives, block revenue leakages, create employment for our people, expand our people’s economic opportunities and close the gap on our infrastructure deficit.
“The National Assembly has in tandem made these the vision, the anchor-point of its legislative agenda but we know that being a mere agenda is not enough, that no mantra or talk can make this happen without commensurate purposeful action.”
He lamented that the nation’s business environment is running largely on obsolete laws, weak governance framework, fragmented regulatory structures bogged down by inhibiting practices with very weak accountability mechanisms.
He said that the research that led to the business environment report was necessitated by the desire to create a new architecture for businesses to thrive in Nigeria.
He said that the special business environment roundtable was meant to further “interrogate the report, validate its conclusions, get the buy-in of key stakeholders including the organized private sector, key government agencies, policy makers, regulators, the media, civil society and other stakeholders.
“We have gone this route because we believe that if we deliberately involve and continuously engage our people in lawmaking, the edicts and policies we make will be greatly enriched and accepted having been a product of collective consensus,” he said.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, represented by the Chief Whip of the House, Hon. Ado Doguwa, commended the initiative of the roundtable “which could not have come at a better time than now because we need the support of the private sector to turn around our economic fortunes.”
He said that the House would support the initiative which he said was in tandem with its legislative agenda and the agenda of the 8th National Assembly to create enabling business environment in the country, boost investors confidence which will in turn create the needed jobs.
He said: “I want to believe that this is a very critical period in this country where the contribution and support of investors and business people is needed to help turn around our economy.
“I said it is critical because at this time when our economy is perfectly at a standstill, we really need the contributions of investors and business professionals within and outside the country to help support the economy and make it a better economy for the benefit of all,” he said.
The Minister of State for Trade and Investment, Mrs Aisha Abubakar, in her goodwill message noted that the roundtable was a clear demonstration of the synergy that exists between the National Assembly and the Executive aimed at improving the nation’s business environment in order to grow the economy.
She said it has become imperative to identify and correct obsolete laws impeding the doing of business and investments in Nigeria and to correct them just like the 8th National Assembly seeks to do through the roundtable by involving relevant stakeholders.
On his part, a commercial law expert, Professor Paul Idornigie said it is key for the 8th National Assembly to pass 15 identified critical bills that would greatly enhance the ease of doing business in Nigeria.
“The public now has a template to judge the success of the 8th National Assembly by how many of the 15 identified bills they will pass before the end of their tenure,” he said.
The Chairman of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), Mr. Kyari Bukar stated that the report is an embodiment of a canvassed shift for government to create a competitive business environment.
Bukar commended the visionary leadership of the 8th National Assembly for engaging the citizenry for effective legislation to make the nation’s business environment competitive and enhanced national growth.
President of Heirs Group and Chairman of United Bank for Africa (UBA), Mr. Tony Elumelu, said the roundtable initiated by the National Assembly further demonstrated that the nation’s laws are not perfect and that they needed to be reviewed to bring them up to speed and to enhance doing business and investment in the country.
Elumelu who is also the Vice Chairman of the Competitiveness Council of Nigeria, noted that the involvement of the private sector in the project is critical as they represent the engine room for business growth and creation of jobs in any economy.
He said the best results could only be achieved from legislation if citizens are allowed to partake in the formulation and presentation of necessary legislation for passage by the National Assembly as being done by the 8th National Assembly.
“What we do in Nigeria will set example for other African countries and the National Assembly will help a great deal by moving away from talking to passing the legislation that would help to move the nation’s economy forward,” he said.
Elumelu added that it would be a great achievement if the National Assembly can review and the Land Use Act and pass a new law this year, as it would greatly change the economic trajectory of the country.
Major parts of the report which were critically reviewed during the breakout technical sessions include the laws on competition, doing business, roads, rail and maritime infrastructure, public-private partnerships, taxation, finance and investment, arbitration and dispute resolution, e-business and intellectual property and Constitution review.