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BUHARI SEEKS EMERGENCY POWER TO DEAL WITH ECONOMY

In the face of recession and the attendant economic hardship in the country, President Muhammadu Buhari is seeking emergency powers to reflate the economy. The emergency powers are to last for one year.

Impeccable sources told New Telegraph that the president will submit an executive bill to the National Assembly this week for consideration, although the legislature is on break.

The bill, titled: Emergency Economic Stabilisation Bill 2016, is in three parts: Objectives and application; Timeliness, thresholds and other limitations; and miscellaneous.

In the bill, the president wants to carry out radical reforms that have both executive and legislative components. The executive orders will involve issuance of visas, registration of businesses, granting of waivers, process of tendering and sales of non-core assets.

The emergency powers that have the legislative components include the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) Act, procurement process and virement of budget allocations.

The objectives of the emergency powers are to reflate the economy by creating more jobs, boost foreign reserves, ensure inflow of foreign exchange, strengthens the naira, resuscitate the manufacturing sector and get contractors back to site.

A source in the Presidency confirmed to New Telegraph that the radical reforms are in the executive bill, which will be tabled before the National Assembly this week. According to the source, “the president is worried about the state of the economy and attendant hardship in the country.

And to tackle some of the challenges, President Buhari is seeking for emergency powers to carry out radical reforms in the polity. “Buhari must respond frontally to the challenges of recession. He can’t do it under the extant conditions.

He is now seeking powers to enable him roll out some economic packages. “In three days’ time, Buhari will be seeking from the National Assembly powers to amend procurement process in order to support stimulus spending in critical sectors; he is seeking power to favour local suppliers/contractors in contract awards.”

In the area of budgeting, Buhari plans to issue executive orders to allow virement of budgetary allocations of projects within Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) that are of topmost priority.

The source said that the president is concerned about the delay in the procurement process, which takes more than six months. Hence, Buhari is seeking the suspension of Section 34(3) of the Public Procurement Act.

 

This, according to sources, is to ensure that the administrative encumbrances in the procurement process and award of contracts are done away with. The president is also considering sales of noncore assets to raise money.

“Nigeria has a lot of noncore assets that can be sold to reflate the economy. But the process to lease or sell the assets will take one year. So, the president wants to fast track the pro-He believes that there is no need keeping those assets if the nation can generate over $50 billion through lease and sales,” a source in the know told New Telegraph. The president is seeking reforms in the issuance of visas.

It was learnt that Buhari is proposing two approaches to issuance of visa. One is visa on arrival while the second one is to ensure that henceforth, tourist and business visas are issued within 48 hours at all the consular offices of Nigeria.

In the bill, the president is seeking powers to give contractors 50 per cent mobilisation fees unlike 15 per cent obtainable today. “The 15 per cent is grossly inadequate.

This is why most projects are abandoned because the 15 per cent the contractors get is not enough to substantially execute projects,” an aide of the president said. Buhari is also seeking the nod of the National Assembly to amend the UBEC Act so as to free the N58 billion trapped in the Fund as a result of the inability of the states to pay 50 per cent counterpart funding.

The president wants an amendment to the Section 11(2) of the UBEC Act. “Today, N58 billion is trapped in UBEC Fund. The law states that states must pay 50 per cent counterpart funding. Unfortunately, many states can’t pay because of their financial situation. You know payment of workers’ salaries is a big issue for most of the states.

“So, the president will be seeking amendment to the UBEC Act which manufacturmandates the states to commit 50 per cent of the counterpart fund. With the proposed amendment, the states will only be required to contribute 10 per cent instead of 50 per cent,” the source told New Telegraph.

Buhari is seeking powers for radical reforms of the business climate. This involves powers to prepare agencies to respond promptly to licence registration. This will allow entrepreneurs to apply for registration and get approval within seven days.

Failure of which, the applicant is deemed licenced after seven days without hearing from the agencies such as the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). Also, any staff that failed to respond promptly to the applications will be punished.

The government is planning to ensure ease of doing business by improving/ harmonising airport processes. That is harmonising the functions of Immigration, Customs and Department of State Services (DSS) at the airports.

 

The emergency powers will also entail the president authorising the use of barges to supply gas to power plants. “Though this approach is costlier than using pipeline, but this is to ensure that the power plants are not short of gas. So, the president will authorise the use of barges to supply gas to the power plants,” a source familiar with the programme said.