Companies may cease operations in Nigeria – OPSN


By Abiodun OBA

Ongoing threats and persistent disruption of work hours by the National Assembly committees and ad-hoc committees may force many companies to cease their operations in Nigeria and relocate to neighbouring countries.

The Organised Private Sector in Nigeria (OPSN) made this known in an address presented in Abuja on Tuesday by the Director-General of MAN, Mr Segun Ajayi-Kadir.

OPSN comprises the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Nigeria Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines, and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Nigeria Association of Small-Scale Industries (NASSI), and Nigeria Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME).

The group further stated that the overbearing attitude of the National Assembly committees and ad-hoc committees through various invitations, summons, and threats of arrest has hastened many businesses’ plans to exit due to the “inhospitable business environment” they pose to their operations.

However, OPSN expressed a strong desire for constructive engagement with the leadership of the Committees and sought the urgent intervention of the National Assembly’s leadership to bring about an amicable solution and deepen collaboration for the country’s good.

They lamented that these threats, apart from disrupting work hours, have greatly impacted business growth, the establishment of new businesses, and caused substantial financial loss to many companies.

The organised private sector community cried out about being inundated with several letters of invitation and summons for different “investigative hearings by various Committees and Ad-hoc Committees of the National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives), premised on Sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.

“This has been a notable challenge since the 7th National Assembly, in the year 2012. Recently, several letters were received by our member companies from the Ad-hoc Committee on Non-Remittance to the National Housing Fund and Utilisation of the Fund from 2011 to Date and the Ad-hoc Committee to Investigate the Compliance of Ministries, Departments, and Agencies of Government and Corporate Bodies with the Industrial Training Fund Act, amongst other Committees.”

While appreciating the efforts of the National Assembly and its various Committees and ad hoc Committees to investigate and carry out oversight functions on Ministries, departments, and Agencies of Government, they emphasised that sections 88 and 89 of the Constitution, relied upon by the Committees of the National Assembly, are not applicable to Private Sector Businesses.

The implications of the threats by the National Assembly committees are significant, potentially leading to the closure of companies in the country, loss of employment for Nigerians, loss of revenue through taxes and levies from these companies, unrest, and an increase in insecurity, among others.

The OPSN further added that the NASS action creates a duplication of the regulatory functions and activities of the various Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) of Government, with the National Assembly also assuming the roles, functions, and responsibilities of the MDAs and the Executive arm of Government.

In light of the foregoing, OPSN respectfully urged that the National Assembly, its various committees, and ad hoc Committees await the decision of the Supreme Court on the matter.

They emphasised that the decision will resolve the frequent requests for information and invitations or summonses of private companies by one Committee of the National Assembly or another under the contentious investigatory authority of Sections 88 and 89 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended.

“At a time when the economy is undergoing major macroeconomic and structural challenges, as well as struggling with the fallout of recent economic reform measures, we urge the National Assembly to focus on strengthening the capacity of the Executive Agencies to effectively carry out their functions and refrain from carrying out any activity that would burden or destabilise law-abiding businesses in the form of duplicated audits or regulations.

“We seek the support and partnership of the National Assembly to enable the private sector to make its own contribution to this national agenda.”

Furthermore, the statement explained that there are Statutory Agencies of Government in the Executive Arm that have been saddled with responsibilities to engage, inspect, audit, and apportion penalties for defaults (if any), ensure enforcement and compliance of provisions of laws and/or legal instruments within their jurisdictions, institute legal actions against businesses in the private sector where necessary, etc.

“The Agencies have been engaging businesses in the Private Sector and also carrying out their responsibilities. Thus, they should be invited to give information and account for the levels of compliance as they relate to the provisions of their enabling laws, not private businesses. In other words, the National Assembly should not be the lawmakers and enforcers of the same laws.

“Despite the above position, businesses in the private sector are continually being inundated with letters, invitations, and summons from the National Assembly, some of which are laced with threats.

“It should be noted that the various invitations, summonses, and threats of arrest have the potential to further dampen the interest of foreign direct investors in the Nigerian economy.

“Also, it should interest you to note that many businesses have relocated out of the country, and many others are rounding off their exit plans because of the inhospitable business environment.

“These summonses have become, to a large extent, a duplication of the functions of the Agencies created under the Executive arm of Government.

“Also, the numerous forced travels of business chief executives to attend the investigative sessions constitute an avoidable distraction, a loss of manhours, and an erosion of confidence in the system. All of these have a negative impact on business activities.

“At one of the hearings at the Ad-hoc Committee to Investigate the Compliance of Ministries, Departments, and Agencies of Government and Corporate Bodies with the Industrial Training Fund Act last week, we were shocked at the development and manner in which the Committee imposed financial deficits, liabilities, and penalties against many companies and thereafter commenced negotiation.

“These, by Law, are not within the purview of the Lawmakers. We are anxious that if this trend remains unchecked, other Committees may adopt the same practice, and the situation may degenerate into bedlam.

“In response, we have, over the years, written several letters to the Committees, requesting dialogue on behalf of our members, to no avail. We have approached the Committees as business membership organisations and through our Lawyers, all to no avail”.

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