The governance and policy vacuum that existed at the beginning of President Buhari’s first term, due to the absence of a cabinet for almost seven months led to an economic collapse that the effects are still evident today. The negative effects of this policy vacuum were furthermore compounded by an impractical and incoherent foreign exchange policy which depleted Nigeria’s foreign reserves and led to multiple exchange rates. With these came about the loss of investor confidence and a near-total shut-off of both FDI and portfolio inflows to manufacturing and other sectors which resulted in massive unemployment and economic stagnation. Nigeria’s economy was on the precipice and there was an urgent need to address the economic challenges that were affecting everyday Nigerians and leading to unprecedented levels of poverty and job losses.
To a large extent, it took the visionary ability of the 8th National Assembly to step in the gap and begin the task of saving the Nigerian economy from total collapse. The economic legislative agenda of the 8th National Assembly was a reformative plan designed to correct factors and anomalies impeding growth and development in the Nigerian economy. To successfully tackle the issues and power the economy through legislative instruments, it identified the problems and challenges limiting the growth of the economy from the inception of the new administration and the effects of the actions and inactions of the government since then. Having determined the nature and specifics of the issues affecting Nigerians and the economy, and concerning which needed interventions, the National Assembly devised ways to systematically handle the issues through targeted and specially crafted legislation.
One of the first areas this plan focused on was improving the ease of doing business and addressing the issue of youth unemployment. To correct issues relating to these, the 8th National Assembly explored and put forward legislative proposals to bring about a holistic structural remodeling to aid access to capital, development of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and the provision of infrastructure to reduce unemployment and drive enterprise development. The National Assembly was now set to put in place laws that would enable local investment, enhance infrastructure development, ease the cost of doing business in Nigeria, improve the performance and development of our private sector especially as a job-creating market and broaden our base for economic opportunities. In drafting the bills that would enable these laws to come into existence, the National Assembly relied heavily on the involvement and input of various private sector bodies such as the Nigerian Economic Summit Group and the Nigerian Bar Association at interactions such as the National Assembly Business Environment Roundtable (NASSBER) where the groundwork for economy-stimulating bills such as the Companies and Allied Matters (CAMA) amendment bill and the Secured Transactions in Moveable Assets Act.
Supporting local manufacturing and local content also featured heavily in the plan of the National Assembly to provide a lift for the economy and in keeping to its “Made In Nigeria” agenda, it passed the Public Procurement Act 2007 (amendment) bill 2016 which gave first priority to locally-produced goods and services in government procurement. The bill apart from boosting Small and Medium Enterprises also aided job creation and human capacity development as it ensured there was a steady demand for local personnel input into the production of goods and services. Beyond the bill, the National Assembly, under the leadership of Dr. Bukola Saraki, also launched online advocacy to promote the adoption of Made in Nigeria product and held various consultations with local producers such as the Made In Aba good manufactures, Innoson Motors Nigeria Ltd and industry watchdogs such as the Standards Organization of NIgeria.
It was clear that the focus was to further diversify Nigeria from being a mono-product economy largely dependent on oil revenues, which continued to dwindle with the global oil slum. To further this goal the 8th National Assembly identified the risks that existed with the presence of monopolies and the absence of a competitive business landscape; most importantly how these would affect the choice of Nigerian consumers and the ability to afford goods and service while their purchasing power was being depleted during an economic recession. In response, it passed an amendment to the Consumer Protection Act and established the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and the Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal which repealed the existing Consumer Protection Act. The revised Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Bill seeks to promote competition in Nigerian markets at all levels by eliminating monopolies, prohibiting abuse of dominant market positions and penalizing other restrictive trade and business practices. In promoting competition, not only is it expected that monopolies and undue profits will be prevented, but it is also expected that efficiency in goods and service delivery will be enhanced as competition between businesses has been shown to increase efficiency, expand choice for consumers and drive down prices.
Much of the economic policy reforms spearheaded by the 8th National Assembly has helped to create a healthy rivalry between the executive and legislative arms of government, which has led to more the executive adopting some of the policy recommendations of the national assembly to advance major economic inteventions. This has been to the benefit of Nigerians as a whole. For instance, due to reforms undertaken as a result of the National Assembly Business Environment Roundtable (NASSBER), the Presiential Ease of Doing Business Commission (PEBEC) chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo launched a series of National Action Plans. These plans sought to improve the business environment in three broad respects; the entry and exit of goods; entry and exit of persons into Nigeria, and then general government transparency- transparency and efficiency in government agencies, parastatals. According to Vice President Osinbajo who noted the work that had been done by the leadership of the National Asembly to improve the Nigerian business environment “The whole idea is that we are able to provide an environment for those who want to do business in Nigeria- local businesses and of course, foreign businesses.’’
In 2017, the World Bank Doing Business Report announced that Nigeria had risen 24 places on its Ease of Doing Business Ranking, highlighting the various reforms and legislation that Nigeria had passed to remove critical bottlenecks and bureaucratic constraints to doing business in Nigeria. The result also noted that Nigeria had become one of the top 10 reforming economies in the world. The effects of these has been the emergence of an economy that is gradually being spurred back to life by the proactive and collaborative solutions provided by the 8th National Assembly.
Israel-Ayide wrote from Abuja