The first requirement for most investors before they commit money to a foreign country is stability. The fact that Nigeria has now enjoyed a decade of uninterrupted civilian government, unsullied by military adventures, counts as a major plus for corporations considering their options.
Underpinning the stability of the country is the rule of law and a predictable method of creating laws. In that respect, the House of Representatives has been a vital institution in putting Nigeria on the correct trajectory.
In the course of a visit to Nigeria, the Country Director of the National Democratic Institute (USA), Mr Robert Nakamuro, stated that the political will of the House of Representatives, and the Speaker in particular, was evident in pursuing transparency, due process and good governance. He went on to say that this was complemented by a president in the executive who was willing to cooperate.
In the ten years since the inception of the democratic constitution of 1999, the House of Representatives has passed many laws designed to bring stability to the country and predictability to the financial markets. In addition, it has passed crucial legislation that has helped kick-start vital areas of the economy, for example, banking and telecommunications.
The massive privatisation process that is gradually transforming Nigeria into a private enterprise driven economy is underpinned by enabling legislation, much of which has its origins in the House. The Investment Security Act outlines the property rights of investors, and gives details on repatriation policies.
Foreign investors also need to know that steps are being taken to tackle corruption in Nigeria, and on that score the House of Representatives has been active. Several acts have been passed bringing anti-corruption commissions into life, and a major bill such as the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) Act of 2007 represents a landmark in ways of dealing with the oil industry. The EITI is an international benchmark.
Finally, the House has played a pro-active role in holding the executive, ministries and government agencies to account with regard to finance.
Conflict in the Niger Delta is a source of concern to all Nigerians. Residents of the area believe that they don't get sufficient government services and they don't believe that they receive enough monetary compensation for the oil extracted from their area.
While expenditure on health and education are actually the concern of the state governments of the region, the House of Representatives has taken steps to assist in resolving the situation. For example, the Niger Delta Development Commission Act brought the NDDC into being with the intention of delivering services. Thus federal money would be allocated in addition to whatever state governments were spending.
Two of the most significant markers in Nigeria's battle against corruption came with the passing of acts in the National Assembly for the establishment of two bodies: the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC).
Both of these organisations have achieved some remarkable things, although not all has been plain sailing. Certainly, the idea of 'untouchables' in Nigerian political life is becoming a thing of the past. Not only have electoral tribunals overturned state election results (and turfed out governors thought previously to be impervious to sanctions) but the House of Representatives itself has taken on the role of a seeker out of corrupt practices through its various committees.
One House committee public hearing in particular proved very embarrassing to some 200 public agencies, state departments and statutory corporations. It was found that many were not remitting their revenues to the federal coffers.
On the issue of the general direction of the Nigerian economy, the message from the executive and the legislature has been consistent for many years - private enterprise will be the driver.
The Bureau of Public Enterprises is the lead agency in overseeing the privatisation of state agencies. The Privatisation and Commercialisation Act passed by the House of Representatives underpins the nation’s approach to the process. Some agencies are seen as national assets which should not be wholly privatised.
The state's monopoly on power was divided up into three companies responsible for transmission, generation and distribution. In this way, core competencies can be focussed on.
The Nigerian Communications Commission Act empowered the NCC to license telecommunications companies. This liberalising legislation – ending decades of state monopoly – has created the fastest growing telecommunications industry in the world. New undersea cables are being laid to Nigeria, satellites are being launched and Nigerian citizens are reaping the benefits in improved personal and business communications. This boom is in turn kick-starting downstream businesses like the printing of recharge cards, financing and training.
With a trained economist in the Speaker's chair, the House of Representatives is in a better position to interrogate the national budget than in earlier times. Recent interventions suggest that members of the House are not averse to asking searching questions. The Fiscal Responsibility Act enjoins all arms of government to ensure that money allocated in the budget is indeed spent as intended but there are still concerns that members of the House of Representatives (especially members serving first terms) are short on the necessary skills to analyse, review and monitor the budget. This is being addressed through skills training and the establishment of a National Budget and Research Office.
OFFICE OF THE SPEAKER
National Assembly Complex
Three Arms Zone
Office of The Speaker
Three Arm Zone
Tel: +234 (0)9 460 25158
Fax: +234 (0)9 460 25189