• Friday, May 24, 2024
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Organised private sector raises concern over ‘lawmakers abuse of oversight functions’

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The organised private sector of Nigeria, (OPSN) has expressed concern over what it described as the incessant invitation and summons of organised businesses for investigative hearings.

Recently, several letters were received by OPSN companies from the Ad-hoc Committee on Non-Remittance to the National Housing Fund and Utilisation of the Fund from 2011 to Date, and the Ad-hoc Committee to investigate the Compliance of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government and Corporate Bodies with the Industrial Training Fund Act, amongst other Committees.

The OPSN, while addressing newsmen in Abuja, said that the sections of the Constitution relied upon by the Committees of the National Assembly were not applicable to businesses in the Private Sector.

“Such unbridled invitation, threats and harassment from the National Assembly Makes the Nigeria business environment not conducive and will discourage investors,” Director General, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN, Segun Kadir, lamented.

Kadir, said the harassment of private companies by the lawmakers has been a notable challenge since the 7th National Assembly, from year 2012. He noted that all approaches made by the business organizations requesting for dialogue on behalf of their members proved abortive

In his remarks, Tunji Abayomi, legal adviser NECA, argued that the National Assembly should not be the lawmakers and enforcers/implementers of the same laws, hence agencies saddled with responsibilities of ensuring compliance should be summoned and NOT private businesses themselves.

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Abayomi said the continuous invitation from the Committees of the National Assembly compelled them to institute an action in 2012 for the determination of the constitutionality, scope and extent of sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution on Businesses in the Private Sector. “The matter is currently at the Supreme Court with Suit No/SC/734/2017,” he said

“Being parties in the suit did not deter the various Committees of the National Assembly from continually inviting our members for interrogation. Thus, it appears that the continuous invitations and related activities by the various Committees and Ad-hoc Committees are at variance and unmindful of the proceedings in court and the Supreme Court itself. We expect that the National Assembly will stay further action as a proof of respect for the principle of separation of powers, pending the decision of the Court,” Abayomi said.

He reminded that a judgement delivered by Hon. Justice I. L. Ojukwu in May 2019, stated that private companies did not fall within the purview of persons envisaged under sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution.

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While expressing worries over the implications of the lawmakers’ interference on executive matters, Director-General, counsel to Nigeria Employers consultative Association, (NECA), Adewale Oyerinde, said the seemingly extortion of private companies would adversely affect the Nigerian business environment.

“At of one the hearings at the Ad-hoc Committee to investigate the Compliance of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government and Corporate Bodies with the Industrial Training Fund Act, last week, we were shocked at the development and manner in which the Committee imposed financial deficit/liabilities and penalties against many companies and thereafter commenced negotiation. These, by Laws, are not within the purview of the lawmakers. We are anxious that, if this trend remains unchecked, other Committees may adopt the same practice and the situation may degenerate into a bedlam.

He said some of the implications would be the closure of companies in the country, loss of employments by Nigerians, the country’s loss of revenue through taxes and levies from the companies, unrest and increase in insecurity, among others.

“The action creates a duplication of the regulatory functions and activities of the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of Government, with the National Assembly also assuming the roles, functions and responsibilities of the MDAs and the Executive arm of Government, amongst others. We are convinced that this is not the legacy that the 10th National Assembly would like to leave,” he said.

Oyerinde urged the National Assembly, and its various Committees and Ad-hoc Committees to tarry a while for the decision of the Supreme Court as the decision will resolve the issue of the frequent request for information and invitations/summons of private companies by one Committee of the National Assembly or the other under the contentious investigatory authority of sections 88 and 89 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended.

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Considering the economic challenges of the country, he urged the National Assembly to focus on strengthening the capacity of the Executive Agencies to effectively carry out their functions, and refrain from carrying out any activity that could constitute a burden or destabilise law abiding businesses in the form of duplicated audits/regulations.

“The achievement of the 8-point Agenda of the current Administrations requires a conducive environment and active participation of the private sector. We crave the support and partnership of the National Assembly to enable the private sector make its own contribution to this national agenda,” he said.