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Nigeria: Buhari Does Not Require the Approval of National Assembly for Emergency Procurements

If reports currently in the media are to be believed, the Presidency is set to approach the crisis ridden National Assembly (NASS) for emergency powers to reflate our badly battered economy that is desperately in need of oxygen for survival.

The bill, titled the “The National Economic Stabilization Act 2016” is set to be sent to the NASS for approval as soon as it reconvenes in the second week of September. The initiative is perhaps the most potent illustration yet that the presidency recognizes that life is no longer a bed of roses for millions of Nigerians in all parts of the country including the critical and vastly diminished middle class which risks complete obliteration with the Naira exchange rates at unspeakable lows, and inflation rate that continue to defy gravity.

According to the details of the plan which are still emerging, the intended goals of the emergency provisions being sought by the executive arm is to shore up the value of the Naira and to create more jobs. It also intends to boost our vastly diminished foreign reserves by reviving the local manufacturing capacity and to improve the comatose power sector which appears to have defied all solutions up till today.

The option to seek emergency powers was not one the economic team headed by the Vice President Yomi Osinbajo took lightly as it was said to have resulted from the thorough review of all the policies the federal government has deployed so far in the attempt to turn around the economy and how they have impacted on the livelihood of Nigerians so far.

The economic team arrived at the inevitable conclusion that unless radical new measures were urgently deployed, the much respite Nigerians desired from an economy in deep recession may remain an illusion for longer than originally anticipated. For that reason, the Presidency is prepared to approach the NASS for sweeping powers to set aside some extant laws and use executive orders to roll out a cocktail of recovery measures in the next one year.

Critical to the emergency powers the presidency will be asking for which is central to today’s discourse, is the approval to ‘abridge’ the broad provisions of the Public Procurement Act (PPA, 2007) as we currently know it to be able to accelerated the sort of massive spending that will be required in critical sectors considered crucial to the rapid reflation of the economy. To strict provisions of the Act particularly the required that all major projects must be advertised for a minimum of six weeks before the opening of prospective bids is thought to be a major impediment to the plan.

Apart from putting local contractors back to work, the federal government also intends to ‘abridge’ yet again, the process of sale or lease of government assets to generate badly needed revenue to fund various other projects among several other measures, but the disposal of public assets is yet another area where the PPA Act has explicit provisions.

Why not arguing with the other details of the plan I am surprised that the presidency is considering approaching the NASS for approval for emergency procurement because the extant PPA Act already has embedded in it the exact conditions under which it could be done. Sections 39 – 43 of the Act provide at least three platforms on which the presidency could depart from the ‘open competitive bidding’ which is the default method of public procurement enforced by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP).

The three sections include provisions for ‘Restricted Tendering’, ‘Direct Procurement’ and, of course, ‘Emergency Procurement’. Section 43 of the Act unambiguously spells out the exact conditions under which emergency procurement should apply. The Act envisaged a situation why the nation could be “either seriously threatened by or actually confronted with a serious disaster, catastrophe, war, insurrection or Act of God” provided all procurements undertaken under the provision are “handled with expedition ‘along principles of accountability, due consideration being given to the gravity of each emergency.” In other guidelines on the section it is evident that the Act provides for the retroactive review of the emergency procurement procedure since there is a provision for the details to be submitted to the BPP for review. In other words, even breeches of the emergency procurement procedure could still be punished after the fact.

My point, this morning, therefore is that with the current state of the economy, the insurgency in the Northeast, and criminal militancy in the Niger Delta region, the President will be within his rights to undertake emergency procurement to realign the economy if he deems it necessary without recourse to the NASS for approval. The dynamics of the polity provides him with sufficient justification to do so. He does not require to run cap in hand to the crisis-ridden NASS for approval that could take ages in coming.

No one can deny that the situation in which Nigerians find themselves is like a state of war. The squalid nature of the economy and its high inflation and unemployment has also accelerated the spate of violent crimes across the country. To even contemplate otherwise is tantamount to living in denial. The state of the economy is tottering on the brink of disaster and we must not, like the proverbial ostrich, bury our heads in the sand and pretend that all is well when it is not. To me, the debate as to whether or not the Presidency should employ emergency procurement as a tool to stimulate the economy should only be on the fine details.

Is the presidency going to take over the procurement process from the MDAs where most of the essential projects are domiciled or does it intend to seek for blanket approval from the BPP on their behalf? What administrative procedure will be best to achieve its desired goal? In the coming days and months a lot clarification on the matter will be required.

For now though, we can be under few illusions that times are extremely Hard for Nigerians and while it can be argued that Nigeria has handled the sudden collapse in the international price of crude oil better than Venezuela and Angola, the APC administration does not require anyone to remind it that it is running desperately out of time to make the desired impact on Nigerians before the next elections. The current status-quo may not be its making, but Nigerians are becoming increasingly wary of excuses to say the least.

Source: Daily Trust.