A Regulatory body is defined by Wikipedia as a public authority or government agency responsible for exercising autonomous authority over some area of human activity in a regulatory or supervisory capacity. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, Regulatory agencies became a popular means of promoting fair trade and consumer protection as problems of commerce and trade became more complex, particularly in the 20th century. Regulatory bodies are usually creations of statutes.
There are quite a number of regulatory bodies in Nigeria regulating various facets of the economy. Some of the major duties of regulatory bodies are as follows; To set standards and best practices; To monitor and ensure compliance with best standards and practices as well as laid down rules and procedures; To receive and address complaints against businesses from the general public accordingly; To collect levies and revenues; To impose sanctions for failure to comply.
A lot of times, the relationship between Regulatory bodies and businesses is somewhat not too cordial. Sometimes, a scheduled or an unscheduled visit from a regulatory body can be one that leaves businesses with a sense of dread. On the other hand, it would appear that sometimes, Regulatory bodies tend to see themselves as overlords over businesses as they can determine their fate.
The need for regulation of businesses cannot be overemphasised, as there is the likelihood of chaos in a society where there is none. An unregulated business environment can easily lead to a total collapse of the economic system. However, a very important issue to be addressed is the way regulation is being carried out by regulatory bodies. A closely related issue is the way regulatory bodies see or perceive their relationship with the businesses which fall under their regulatory purview. There is a need for Regulatory bodies to see themselves as Agents of change that can help strengthen businesses and in turn contribute to economic development.
There is no doubt that regulatory bodies are creations of statute and their powers are derived from the relevant statutes. However, in carrying out their functions as provided under the statute, it would seem to be more beneficial to the economy to take an empathetic stance towards businesses. This is not in any way saying that Regulatory bodies should condone non-compliance or flaunting of laid down procedures. Regulatory bodies should wield the big stick where necessary.
It is however suggested that a case by case approach instead of a one size fits all approach should be adopted putting into consideration the financial standing and proven track record of compliance of the business. The comply or explain approach can be used by Regulatory bodies to carry out their functions where appropriate. A Reward system for compliant businesses should also be adopted to encourage compliance. Consistent periodic engagement and interactive sessions between Regulatory bodies and businesses are also important to foster business growth. It is noteworthy that some of these approaches are already being adopted by some regulatory bodies but there is still room for improvement.
The time has come for Regulatory bodies to see beyond their primary functions and carry out their functions with the bigger picture of fostering business growth and economic development.
Ekwegh is a private legal practitioner with over 15 years legal experience in law firms and as in-house counsel. She is also a fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants.