The Organized Private Sector of Nigeria (OPSN) has voiced concern about the frequent requests for Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) to appear before National Assembly committees for investigative purposes.
The group claimed that the action not only served to divert attention away from organized businesses but also had the potential to demoralize sincere investors, thwart the Federal Government’s initiative to make doing business easier, and create a dangerous precedent that violated Nigeria’s long-standing system of separation of powers.
The Directors-General of the Organization of the People of Nigeria (OPS of Nigeria), which includes the Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria (MAN), Nigeria Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), National Association of Small-Scale Industrialist (NASSI), National Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME), and Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), stated in Lagos that the recent activities of various committees of the National Assembly continue to be an infringement.
The Directors-General expressed concern that it appeared the parliamentarians were not following the regulation, despite the NASS’s rules mandating that cases be heard in court.
The chief executives recommended prudence and a halt to the invites, but they also encouraged the NASS committees to wait for a ruling from the court rather than continue harassing lawful business owners unabatedly.
They mentioned that they had submitted numerous arguments to the various committees and had also applied to the courts for a ruling on the legality, applicability, and breadth of Sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution on Businesses in the Private Sector.
The key issue, in their view, is determining the scope of the parliamentary investigative powers provided for in Sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution, particularly as it relates to private sector firms.
“Businesses are already faced with myriads of challenges and it will be counter-productive for some committees of the NASS to constrain the wheel of the most productive sector of the economy, organised businesses.
Furthermore, by continuing to act on a case that is now being heard in a court with appropriate jurisdiction, the NASS Committees seem to be in violation of the NASS Rule.
“Our expectation is that legitimate businesses should be supported by the NASS committees complimenting the efforts of the executive arm of government by legislating laws that will make the business environment more friendly to attract domestic and foreign investments.
“If the National Assembly committees have issues with the way and manner the executive arm is carrying out its responsibilities of ensuring compliance to various laws and regulations, their focus of investigation should be directed at the relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government rather than the private sector.”
The OPS also warned that the government’s restrictive policies were driving companies out of business.
The body issued an eight-point position paper titled “Proposed Increase in Excise Duty for Tobacco, Spirit, Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic Beverages” in which it warned that multiple taxes, unstable power supplies, insecurity, and rising production costs were further aggravating Nigerian businesses’ problems.
It bemoaned the fact that no less than 17 legislation, which would increase levies on the private sector and have a detrimental effect on corporate viability, were currently pending in the National Assembly, NASS.
The government’s proposal to raise the excise duty on food and drink, particularly on alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and tobacco, was opposed by OPS in the position paper.
In addition to being overtaxed, the tobacco industry also faced non-tax problems such insufficient infrastructure assistance, expensive borrowing costs, unfavorable exchange rate parity, regulatory fees, and many others.
The group claims that costs are to blame for the high cost of production and the economy’s lack of competitiveness, adding that more taxes “would not benefit anybody, but might be the final fatal punch.”
It asked that the government preserve the status quo of not raising excise taxes beyond what was outlined in the Fiscal Policy Measures for 2022 that President Buhari had earlier this year authorized (the three-year roadmap which commenced on June 1, 2022 should remain).
It stated that instead of concentrating on creating an unfavorable business environment that will hinder job creation and boost enterprise competitiveness, the government should concentrate on creating one in order to avoid endangering the successful implementation of the private sector component of the National Development Plan 2021–2025.
It advocated giving OPS representatives the chance to interact with the government and its committees and convey their views on the effects of the existing plan and anticipated future impacts.
It states that, “Retaining the roadmap guarantees that government’s dual objectives of revenue generation and reduced cigarette consumption will be met by raising incremental revenue for the year 2023 and 2024 under the current roadmap and reducing the consumption of cigarettes between two to three per cent yearly.”