By Mofoluwake Omololu, Abuja.
Economic experts raised an alarm that Nigeria could be heading for doom as far as inclusive growth and development are concerned.
Except, of course, if the necessary enabling environment is given the private sector to drive the nation’s economy which is down the rung, if available figures are put on the table.
Raising the alarm amidst the country’s gross infrastructural deficit, experts, at a meeting in Abuja with federal lawmakers and other stakeholders declared that to beat the government’s appalling inadequate funding, N31 Trillion was needed annually for infrastructure spending.
N5 trillion is presently being spent annually by the government across its three tiers.
The experts made this known at the first anniversary of the National Assembly Business Environment Roundtable (NASSBER) held at the National Assembly.
In his key note address titled: “Exploring the Contribution and Impact of NASSBER to business and the Nigerian Economy”, Dr Doyin Salami said that NASSBER should, considering the facts on ground, concentrate on infrastructure legislation in ways that give the private sector the enabling power to drive the process of economic growth and development in the country.
This is because, according to him, the public sector is already overwhelmed with attendant infrastructural deficit and low development index generally.
“Government cannot on its own fund infrastructure, available statistics revealed that Nigeria needs $100bn or N31trillion on yearly basis to fund infrastructure as against the N3trillion to N5trillion being spent by government across the three tiers on yearly basis with attendant infrastructural deficit, high rate of employment and other worrying indices like over 17% inflation rate.”
“Others are Nigeria’s low ranking in Human Development Index across the globe which is 152 and 169 in business indices in terms of ease of doing business aside ranking 158 in global competitiveness”, he said.
He added that though government officials at some point come out to declare that the country’s economy is growing, what they always fail to realize is that the factors of growth are not the same as those of development and inclusiveness which makes the declared growth not reflect in the welfare of the people.
He therefore advised the federal lawmakers to ensure that laws or legislations made by them impact positively on ordinary Nigerians.
“NASSBER should not just be about legislation but about impacts of such legislations on the people and in this wise, until we see improvement in the lives of our Nigerians, NASSBER cannot be said to have achieved its aim”, he said.
He warned, specifically, that all sleeves must be pulled up and single minded to make the private sector the engine room of Nigeria’s economic growth and development.
Failure in this direction may spell doom for the country in no distant time from now.
Mr. Richard Ough, the representative of Country Head, Department for International Development (DFID), said in his goodwill message that Nigeria needs to make the private sector the engine room of its economic growth and development, as the public sector no longer has the capacity to shoulder the responsibility any longer.
According to him, in the area of employment, two million school leavers enter into the labour market on yearly basis yet the public sector only has about 200,000 or less capacities for provision of jobs, leading to millions of unemployed graduates in the land.
Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, said that the achievements recorded by the National Assembly Business Environment Round-table (NASSBER) through which legislations that will reshape the national economy have been passed were clear indications that the nation can only develop if there is co-operation between government and the private sector.
“For us in the 8th National Assembly lawmaking is not about the number of bills, it is more about impact and we will continue to focus on quality and impact on our people over any other considerations,” Saraki said, adding that, “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.”
He noted that for the first time in the history of the country, 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 in the nation’s business environment.
“We want to see that these bills can actually help us create jobs, mobilize private sector investment and promote made in Nigeria goods,” Saraki said. “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.”
The Senate President thanked the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG), Department for International Development (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 facilitate constructive engagement and collaboration between the National Assembly and the Private sector.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, represented by the Deputy Speaker, Yussuf Lasun, noted that the NASSBER initiative was a right step in the right direction towards the enhancement of the economy.
Dogara said: “A little over a year ago when NASSBER was inaugurated, we were very confident it was the right step to take if we were indeed committed to bringing our economy out of recession, and stimulating long term economic growth that is inclusive and sustainable for the shared prosperity of all Nigerians.
“For the National Assembly, it was a road not travelled before, but we were willing to embark on this journey, not minding the risks, considering the promises it held. Looking back the last 12 months, NASSBER is but a success story of novel synergy, dialogue and engagement between the legislature, development partner, the private sector, the bench and citizens.
“The National Assembly will continue to play a central role not only in governance but also ensuring that we deliberate and act on frameworks that will improve Nigeria’s business environment through the review of relevant legislations and provisions of the constitution.
“As a result of this effort, I am more confident that our economy would attract ‘agile private sector that can innovate and respond to global opportunities’, as contemplated in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) of this government,” he said.
OUgh added; “But even beyond NASSBER, the cooperation that we have seen between the National Assembly and the Presidential Business Environment Counsel (PBEC), has been excellent, and it is clear that this important collaboration will be critical in getting even further in the next year.
He said that the UK remains committed to its partnership with the National Assembly, the Executive and the Private Sector in helping Nigeria make progress in business environment reforms, “We look forward to an even more successful next 12 months. We wish you a fruitful deliberation here today.”
On his part, the Chairman of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, Mr Kyari Bukar, represented by his deputy, Asuen Ighodalo, said that the 8th National Assembly and its partners in the NASSBER process have diligently demonstrated their commitment to contribute to the reform of the Nigerian economy into a “transparent, efficiently regulated, private sector led, globally competitive economy. It is a commitment that the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) is proud to be a part of.”
He added that the success of NASSBER in the last one year is evidence of the determination and commitment at the highest levels of government.
He said: “For the first time in our nation’s recent history, all arms of government are working assiduously with other stakeholders towards enhancing the country’s economic growth and laying a strong foundation for sustainable development.
“This is no doubt a systematic approach to reforms and we are confident that it is critical to dealing with the problems faced by the private sector. There could not have been a better way of navigating the complex web of policy, legal, institutional and regulatory conditions that govern business activities in Nigeria.”
President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN, who was represented at the event, commended the leadership of the National Assembly especially the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, for the unprecedented collaboration with the private sector and development partners to bring about ease of doing business in the country.
High point of the event was the panel discussion on “Legislative Internventions to unleash economic opportunity for local manufacturers, the inauguration of the NASSBER Steering and Technical Committees, Working Group and the launch of the NASSBER Annual Report by the Senate President.