REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA HIS EXCELLENCY (DR.) ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, AT THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT ROUNDTABLE (NASSBER), TODAY 5TH OF JUNE 2017
1. Let me begin by thanking all of you for honouring our invitation to this year’sedition of the National Assembly Business Environment Roundtable (NASSBER). I want to especially thank our partners, the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG), DFID ENABLE project, and the Nigerian Bar Association – Section on Business Law (NBA, SBL) for their steadfastness and commitment to the vision and purpose of NASSBER, which is to facilitateconstructive engagement and collaboration between the National Assembly and the Private sector.
2. When the 8th National Assembly was inaugurated, we immediately set in motion modalities to give ourselves a clear legislative focus by adopting a legislative agenda.
Our legislative agenda made the issue of the economy the number one priority on our list. Our decision was compelled by the need to enable us find a way out of the circle of volatility we continue to experience in our economic fortunes as a result of over reliance on oil. We understood that our biggest task was to help strengthen the private sector to drive the economy and deepen its diversification.
3. The NASSBER platform became the veritable tool for mobilizing the private sector to the deliberation. We considered it important that we hear from the private sector, their thoughts on how best to frame the legislative interventions needed for creating opportunities and jobs for our people. We also knew that, in order to achieve this twin objective, it would require making our business and investment environment much more attractive. It was clear that while not being the only way, a legislative review was one of the surest ways to influence the market to createjobs, boost investor confidence, improve the security of our people, plug revenue leakages, improve accountability and energize our infrastructure base.
4. Mr. Speaker, Distinguished Colleagues, Honourable Members of the House, our invited guests, before I go further, let me put a historical perspective to what we are
doing today at the 8th National Assembly. For the first time in the history of our democratic experience, the National Assembly, in partnership with the private sector, through the NASSBER, initiated a research study to review the legislative instruments impeding doing business in Nigeria and received a report detailing the necessary legislative action required to begin the process of changing the unsupportive legal structures, weak institutional base and obsolete regulatory frameworks we have in our business environment.
5. With the aid of this report we were able to make informed choices and decisions on what should be given legislative priority. What this means is that, our lawmaking became focused and methodical with a clear impact to change the fortunes of our people and put Nigeria on the map of countries ready for investment.
Make no mistake, be it public or private, domestic or foreign, small or large, for us to grow investment and promote doing business in Nigeria, a sound, transparent, well thought out and predictable legal, regulatory and institutional regime that protects investment is an imperative. This is the global direction of most successful nations.
6. Mr. Speaker, Distinguished Colleagues, Honourable Members of the House of Representatives, our invited guests, there is a wise saying that he who wears the shoes knows where it pinches. The implication today is that most of our laws are now mostly products of an evidence-based approach to determining global good practices relevant to the Bills and their adaptation to the Nigerian environment. The outcome of these engagements has led to the improvement of the quality and effectiveness of our economic bills. it is our expectation that with the able hands we have in the executive, we will also see a faithful implementation of this bills once signed into law.
7. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, in a nutshell, our priorities have successfully created the legal framework to enable us tackle our infrastructure deficit, expand access to finance in a manner that enables our youths to unleash their entrepreneurial abilities within an enabling business environment.
8. PwC recently reported that businesses wishing to invest in Africa are now more worried about the state of our infrastructure than any other factor in our business environment. The National Assembly has put together 6 important infrastructure reform bills to help revamp our infrastructure. These include The Nigerian Railway Bill, The Nigerian Ports & Harbour Bill, The National Road Funds Bill, the National Transport Commission Bill, the National Inland Waterways Bill and the Federal Roads Bill. These laws draw from the experiences of other countries with similar demographics with Nigeria. Leaning h
eavily on enabling the participation of the private sector in the construction and maintenance of roads, railways and ports as well as their operations. The net effect will be more investment in the country, reduced pressure on the forex market and public funds will be channeled towards more governance oriented public services.
9. Apart from helping to modernize our infrastructure base, these bills have the potential to add over 580 thousand new jobs for our people within the next 5 years. They will also save lives, reduce wasted man-hours while reducing the cost of food and other essential goods and services as a result of cheaper logistical costs. As a result, it is envisaged that we shall see a 2.5% reduction in poverty levels due to the impact of these infrastructure bills.
10. I am happy to report that these bills are on the verge of being passed into law. The following have already been passed by the Senate; The Nigerian Railway Bill, TheNigerian Ports and Harbour Bill and The National Inland Waterway Bills. We expect to have the Federal Roads Authority Bill, The National Roads Funds Bill, the National Transport Commission Bill all passed within this month of June 2017.
11. The 8th National Assembly has also placed significant focus on helping our SMEswho employ over 88% of our workforce to expand their opportunity to raise funds for their businesses as well as reduce the regulatory burden our startups face today.
In this regard, we have passed the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act Repeal and Re-enactment Bill, the Electronic Transactions Bill, the Credit Reporting Bill, the Independent Warehouse Regulatory Agency Bill and the Secure Transactions in Movable Assets Bill. All of these bills we estimate, when signed into law will revolutionize access to credit and reduce the barriers to commercial transactions across the broader spectrum of doing business in Nigeria. Studies have already shown that we should expect a 50% increase in the capital availability to MSMEs as a direct result. We expect an average of about 1.57m additional jobs and MSME income growth by an average of 5% per annum over five years.
12. In the petroleum and gas industry, we have just successfully passed the first tranche of the reform legislation for the petroleum industry, the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB). This bill makes a bold statement to the world that the Nigerian petroleum industry is now ready to compete with its counterpart across the world. It creates an entirely new regulatory and institutional regime for the oil & gas industry.
The bill targets high levels of efficiency and independency that is at par with international best practices. With this bill, our revenues leakages will be a thing of the past and the confidence of investors in the industry will be further enhanced.
13. We are further opening up the Nigerian business space with the passage of the Electronic Transactions Bill and the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act amendments to ensure that our framework for business does not work against Nigerians who are doing internet based businesses and ease insolvency cases in Nigeria.
14. We are hard on our heels to pass the Federal Road Authority Bill, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Bill, the Companies and Allied Matters Act Amendment and the Investment and Securities Act Amendment Bills. These are critical priority Bills which we believe would further aid the structural reforms necessary for us to become once again the toast of investors across the globe.
It is already estimated that as a result of the competition law we would see about 10% drop in prices in uncompetitive sectors of the economy; a price level reduction, manifesting as increased income, especially for poor households across the country, with almost a 150bn in income effect and 11.8% poverty reduction level over the next five years.
15. Distinguished Colleagues, Honourable members of the House of Representatives, Honourable Ministers here present, our invited guests, what has been unique with the approach of the 8th National Assembly to lawmaking is not that we identified and earmarked a list of priority bills that could enable us exit recession and sustain our economic growth, as significant as that is, it is the fact that we have faithfully pursued these bills in a bipartisan manner and continue to consult widely across the various spectrum of stakeholders we have been most remarkable. This is even more so as most of these bills are very complex. I must pause here to congratulate all the members of the National Assembly both in the Senate and in the House who have worked tirelessly over the last one year to get us where we are today for their devotion and commitment to the cause.
16. To put this in context, the project of passing these bills into law has not been a walk in the park. before we came on board, previous National Assemblies had tried to pass some of these bills but were unsuccessful. However, we are not only on the verge of passing all of them, but more importantly they have all been brought to a level prompting acknowledgments from other countries who are now seeking to adopt them as benchmarks in terms of innovation and conceptual completeness.
17. In truth, some of these bills are over half a century in the making, these including; the Railway Bill, the Customs & Excise Bill, the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, the Federal Roads Authority Bill. Others are long overdue including theCompanies and Allied Matters Act and the Investment and Securities Act. All of these bills are considered by the NASSBER report as imperative to changing the business environment. Today, all are on the verge of becoming law.
18. As I have said in recent times, I repeat here also that the present economic challenges as hard as they have hit us, have been a blessing in disguise as it has helped to create an unprecedented momentum for change and a broad political consensus has formed to bring about this change, we cannot allow it to go to waste.
19. The steps we have taken on the reforms we have embarked on are considered necessary to usher in a fairer and more globally competitive Nigerian businessenvironment that is able to meet the needs of a 21st century Nigerian economy.
20. I made a promise on behalf of the National Assembly that we will immediately roll up our sleeves to begin work to implement the recommendations of the report and the passage of the identified legislation. It is clearly a good measure that we have achieved the above and are running up to the finish-line.
21. Our partners; the NESG, ENABLE, development partners and other key private sector stakeholders deserve the credit for keeping tabs on this and working with us to make it happen.
22. Our goal at this moment is to go further, not just on bills that enable businesses generally but those that enable our people and the world to produce in Nigeria. The Made-In-Nigeria enablers. In this light, the Procurement Act comes to mind. Yes, we have had the local content in the oil and gas industry but this needs to be replicated in other key sectors with a view that signals to the world that there is greater advantage in investing and manufacturing in Nigeria.
23. We are also sending out a clear message to those who have kept faith with us by investing in the local market and providing jobs to our people that we care about their survival.
We are assuring our own citizens that the jobs we create from consuming other people’s goods will now be recovered to Nigeria through a deliberate policy of government patronage and support for locally made goods. This singular amendment has had the effect of reducing by half the time it takes to turn around government contracts. It has increased the ability of our small-scale businesses to partake in government contracts by increasing the mobilisation fees by more than half. This amendment in our view represents a shift in attitude of government to recognize and enable our local businesses survive and create jobs in a sustainable way.
24. Another point that needs to be made here is that all of this shows the critical role that law can play in enabling economic growth, diversification, recovery, and private sector development. Law brings clarity, predictability, guarantees and confidence in the economic space.
25. Today as I speak to you, we are looking at creating policy laws that are targeted at certain policies of government from agriculture to solid minerals and electricity generation. We are of the view that we must strengthen government policies and reduce the constant problem and complaint about policy summersault. These legislations being proposed will look to underpin certain government policies to time limited legislation that would further build confidence in the Nigerian market.
26. The NASSBER gives us the ability now to review this kind of approach with the private sector and get constructive feedbacks on initiatives like this. In that way, there is greater engagement, understanding and better management of expectation and support for both sides of the aisle.
27. This is what makes the 8th National Assembly unique as we are determined to only make laws that will have positive impact on our people.
28. We are indeed happy that this platform has within one year provided the National Assembly with tremendous technical resource that has helped improve the quality of the bills we are passing.
29. We also hope to hear today from other experts who are not members of the National Assembly, talk to us about the implications of the bills we have passed or are passing as part of our priority bills. We want to see that these bills can actually help us create jobs, mobilize private sector investment and promote made in Nigeria goods. We would expect that the breakout sessions will offer us a new set of legislative interventions that will help further to cement the impact the first tranche of our work is having.
30. For us in the 8th National Assembly lawmaking is not about the number of bills, is more about impact and we will continue to focus on quality and impact on our people over any other considerations.
31. With this few words of mine I welcome you to the first anniversary and second session of the National Assembly Business Environment Roundtable (NASSBER).
32. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE