Investigative Activities of The National Assembly and Implications for The Private Sector and The Economy

AudioAge – Lagos, Nigeria – 13 August 2017 – The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry [LCCI] appreciates the constitutional role of the National Assembly in the promotion of good governance and the advancement of the principle of checks and balances in the polity. We note in particular the responsibility of oversight and investigations as prescribed under sections 88 and 89 of the Nigerian Constitution.  However, we request that these investigative powers be exercised with greater discretion to avoid distraction to private sector players, erosion of investors confidence and collateral damage to the economy.

The LCCI believes, and in fact promotes, the ideals of high ethical standards in the business and would not condone or support infractions against the statutory laws by private sector entities.  However, we would like to see a legislative – private sector interface characterized by mutual respect, fairness, and courtesy.  The LCCI accordingly submits as follows:

  • Allegations and petitions received by the national assembly about infractions by the private sector should be properly verified for credibility before presenting such to the media. The most recent of such public pronouncements was the alleged N30 trillion revenue loss, and missing 288 vessels by the Senate Joint Committee on Customs, Excise, Tariffs and Marine Transport.  63 firms were accused of complicity in the alleged scam. These are grave allegations that needed to be subjected to proper scrutiny before going public.  The implications for the nations image and foreign investors’ perception are severe.
  • The listing of the names of corporate organizations in the media over allegations that are not yet proven has considerable reputational cost and collateral damage to such companies. It has weighty consequences for the brand equity of such organizations.
  • The frequency of summons of corporate organizations by the National Assembly [most of which are in Lagos and other locations outside Abuja] has significant financial implications for such organizations – cost of flight, the cost of hotels and other logistics for appearing before the national assembly.
  • The Executive Time committed to appearance before committees of the national assembly is enormous. This is even more so when most of the Committees would insist that appearance should be at the level of the CEOs of the companies.
  • There is a need for the summons to be focused on specific infractions rather than generic charges of infractions.
  • Statutory agencies of government are most often the custodians of some of the information that the private sector is often required to provide to support legislative investigations. It is more cost effective to access these information from these agencies of government.
  • The notice for appearance are often very short. This has serious disruptive effects on the operations of private sector players in the economy.
  • Where the information demanded are many, we request that ample time be given for such to be gathered. For instance, the current investigative hearing of the Senate Committee on Customs, Excise, Tariffs and Marine Transport covers 10years – 20016 to 2017, covering all export and import transactions of companies over the period.  This naturally requires ample time to put together and present.
  • There is a need to streamline the summons and public hearings to avoid duplications and overlap between the Senate and House of Reps. It is also imperative for the leadership of the national assemble to vet the summons by its committees to ensure efficiency, cost effectiveness and optimization of executive time committed to the public hearings.  This is important when we realize that we have 89 Standing Committees in the House of Representatives and 59 Standing Committees in the Senate.
  • Matters that can be investigated by the statutory agencies of government such as the Judiciary, the EFCC, the ICPC, the FIRS, the National Industrial Court, the Nigeria Customs Service should be referred to such institutions. These bodies have better competences, capacities, and structures for investigation of infringements of the law. This would enable the National Assembly to focus on its core duties of representation and law making.

The LCCI appreciates the role of the senate in ensuring the enactment of enabling laws and review of obsolete legislations to create an enabling environment for investors. We note in particular the senate initiatives under the aegis National Assembly Business Roundtable [NASSBER].  Other organs of the national assembly should take a cue from this laudable initiative.

At a time like these, the economy needs investors to boost job creation and accelerate the economic recovery process.  The Economic Recovery and Growth Plan [ERGP] deliverables are anchored largely on the private sector.  The national assembly should align with this by reducing avoidable distractions to investors in the economy.

SOURCE
Muda Yusuf
Director General
Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry

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