Presidency vs Senate Face-Off Threatens Economic Reforms in Nigeria
The deteriorating relationship between the Presidency and the Nigerian Senate could end up impact negatively on Nigeria’s economic recovery.
Yeterday the Senate declined to consider the President’s nominees for the position of Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) on the pretext that the Presidency has not responded to its decision to reject the nomination of Ibrahim Magu as the substantive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
After a close-door meeting yesterday, the Nigerian Senate signalled it was in a “war mood” as it vowed that it would not be intimidated by external forces.
The Senate also vowed that it would protect its integrity by doing whatever it takes to ensure that it is not taken for granted.
The Senate’s position follows recent face-offs with key members of the executive, particularly the Comptroller-General of Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Hameed Ali (retired), Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) David Babachir Lawal, Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami and Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu.
Last week, the Senate called for the resignation of the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Hameed Ali, who they described as unfit to hold public office, even as they criticised the Attorney-General of the Federation Abubakar Malami, for writing to the Senate, asking them to put on hold, their investigation of Hameed Ali, over his directive on customs duties payments on imported cars.
In the same week, the Senate also clashed with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, who declined to attend a public hearing called by the Senate on allegations of having awarded contracts to companies that he had interest in, as head of the Presidential Initiative on the North-East. He has denied the allegations.
Even as the relationship between the Senate and the Presidency deteriorates; the 2017 budget is yet to be passed, three months into the year.
Senator Danjuma Goje, chairman of the budget appropriation committee in the Senate, says that the budget will be passed before May, almost two months later than the promised March, though many believe this set date is unrealistic.
This is going to in turn slow down the economic recovery of the country. As a result of this face-off the Nigeria’s Economic Growth and Recovery Plan (NEGRP), which has several critical implementation components, contained in the 2017 budget, will be delayed.
Businesses also waiting on the 2017 budget to rev up their operations would now have to wait until the second quarter of 2017.
There is the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) which the oil industry is hoping will be passed in April, as promised by the Senate, but is now concerned that it may delayed. There are also the “National Collateral Registry Bill’’ and the “Credit Bureau Services Bill’’ which the National Assembly had promised would be passed by the end of April, to ease access to credit. It is part of 60-day ease of doing business initiative of the Federal Government.
Sources in the business community are also increasingly concerned that the Senate could delay the consideration of the 2017 budget if the relationship between it and the Presidency deteriorate further. Many people in the business community are surprised that a party that controls both the President and both chambers of the National Assembly, will have such a negative relationship with the House, wondering if the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) can agree on a common direction and pursue it.
“The economic situation is too delicate for us to continue to have these quarrels between the executive and the National Assembly. They should put their acts together, so that we can have a common purpose and direction. The most urgent issue that should be on everyone’s mind right now, is how to put the economy back on the path of growth and not over minor issues” said a business analyst with one of the banks.
The increasing conflict between the Presidency and the Senate is seen as a reflection of the strangers that came together to form the APC and are now finding it difficult to work together as one government.