To convince Nigerians that this administration is reform minded, President Muhammadu Buhari needs to sign some critical reform bills, already passed by the National Assembly and awaiting his assent. Some of these bills include the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, PFIB, the electoral act 2010 (amendment) bill and the Companies and Allied Matters bill.
The PIGB is one of the oldest bills in the Nigerian legislature and is one of four parts of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which seeks to reform the petroleum sector along sound corporate governance and institutional best practices. It has suffered delays, antagonism and nitpicking and was only passed recently by the Eight National Assembly. However, it was rejected by president Buhari in July 2018 on the excuse that it reduces his powers as the minister of petroleum, among others.
Also redrafted is the electoral act 2010 (amendment) bill, rejected four times by the president, over the inclusion of card readers and other contentious issues.
The National Assembly, even with over 500 bills still pending in the two chambers, bent over backwards to rework the bill, with six others, to address concerns raised by president. Although most of them disagreed with the president, but due to political exigencies, the National Assembly could not muster the majority to override the president and pass the bill into law. They were therefore forced to rework the bills to address the concerns of the president. As the Senate leader, Ahmad Lawan, indicated, “the rationale for withholding assent on the bills have been addressed by the technical committee of the Senate.”
Now that the President’s concerns have been addressed, he has no reason to continue to withhold assent to the bills. These are critical bills that will improve transparency in the petroleum sector and improve the efficiency and integrity of elections in Nigeria. Sadly, if the bills fail to become law before the Eight National Assembly prorogues, the bills will lapse and the process begins afresh with the Ninth assembly. Nigeria cannot afford that rigmarole.
Another critical bill that has been waiting for presidential assent for a while now is the revisedCompany and Allied Matters Act, CAMA, Bill 2018, which was meant to replace the CAMA Act 1990 to improve Nigeria’s doing business environment and activate growth and kickstart expansion in the fledging MSME subsector.
The CAM 2018 bill is perhaps one of the single most important legislation passed by the National Assembly to reform Nigeria’s opaque business operating environment and laws. It was achieved through a conscious effort and collaboration among the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) chaired by Vice-President Osinbajo and the Enabling Business Environment Secretariat (EBES), the National Assembly Business Environment Roundtable (NASSBER) which was created as a platform for the legislature and the private sector to engage, deliberate and take action on a framework that will improve Nigeria’s business environment through a review of relevant legislations and provisions of the Constitution, the Nigerian Economic Summit Group and Nigeria Bar Association’s Section on Business Law, supported by the defunct ENABLE II programme of the UK Department for International Development (UK-DfID).
It then beggars belief that the same presidency that facilitated the passage of the CAM bill 2018 is withholding or delaying assent to the bill.
President Buhari has so far refused assent to 41 bills passed by the Eight Assembly. Some of the reasons he gave for withholding assent are not altruistic enough, and even at that the National Assembly had done its best to address most of his concerns. He needs to be prevailed upon to sign these critical bills into law before the expiration of the tenure of the Eight Assembly, else it will be a monumental waste of critical resources and time and the postponement of critical reforms necessary to transforming Nigeria’s economy and business environment. We cannot be so relaxed and postponing reforming governance and business environment while others who are doing far better than us are busy further reforming their economies to attract more investments.