By Michael Oche
Organised private sector in Nigeria (OPSN) has cautioned that the incessant harassment of business owners under the guise of investigative hearings by the National Assembly will have negative economic consequences for the country.
Nigerian Pilot reports that the OPSN comprises of 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).
Addressing journalists in Abuja on Tuesday, the Director General of MAN, Segun Ajayi-Kadiri who spoke on behalf of the group said the National Assembly does not have the constitutional backing to continually interfere in the affairs of private business owners, adding that there are agencies under the executive arms saddled with such responsibilities.
He said the numerous forced travels of business chief executives to attend the investigative sessions constitutes avoidable distraction, loss of man hour and erosion of confidence in the system.
He said, “Members of Organized Businesses have been inundated with several letters of invitations and summons for different “investigative hearings by various Committees and Ad-hoc Committees of the National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives), premised on section 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, from 2012.”
He explained that recently, several letters were received by member-companies from the Ad-hoc Committee on Non-Remittance to the National Housing Fund and Utilization 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 we appreciate 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, we are of the view that sections 88 and 89 of the Constitution, relied upon by the Committees of the National Assembly is not applicable to Businesses in the Private Sector.
“Some of the implications would be the closure of companies in the country, loss of employment by Nigerians, the country’s loss of revenue through taxes and levies from the companies, unrest and increase in insecurity etc. The 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, amongst others. We are convinced that this is not the legacy that the 10th National Assembly would like to leave“, he added.
He said the continuous invitation from the Committee of the National Assembly compelled the private sector business owners to institute a court action in 2012 for the determination of the constitutionality, scope and extent of sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 constitution on businesses in the private sector, noting that the matter is currently at the Supreme Court.
He decried that despite being parties in the suit, the various committees of the national assemble continually invited their members for interrogation
The OPSN therefore requested that the National Assembly, its various Committees and Ad-hoc Committees should tarry a while for the decision of the Supreme Court, as the decision will resolve the issue of the frequent request for information and invitations/summons of private companies by one Committee of the National Assembly or the other under the contentious investigatory authority of sections 88 and 89 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended.