House of Reps, recession and constituents’ poverty
When the growth figures in the country showed the economy contracted by 2.06 per cent between April and June last year, many did not suspect that Nigeria would months later slipped into recession.
They had thought that based on the so-called body language of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and the policies they were rolling out, the economy would be bouncing back almost at the same time. But it turned out to be a wild dream.
At the moment, Nigeria has witnessed two consecutive quarters of declining growth, with her oil industry being hit by weaker global prices, according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
Statistics show that crude oil sales account for 70 % of government income. Glaring indicators of recession at the moment include high inflation, high interest rate, fall in aggregate demand and mass unemployment.
As a result, there are huge job losses, low economic activities and intense hardships being experienced by Nigerians. Concerned by this development, chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Rules and Business, Mr. Emmanuel Orker-Jev raised a motion on the floor of the lower chamber in January this year, calling on the House to make efforts towards the stabilization of the economy.
The motion was adopted, with the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara setting up a team known as Tactical Committee on Recession, comprising 12 representatives to begin engagements with relevant agencies of government on possible ways of dealing with the economic crisis.
The team is expected to come up with practical suggestions to policy and decision makers, products’ regulators, service providers, manufacturers and distributors, among others, on what they can do respectively to enhance food security, job and career opportunities, economic activities and general security.
Four other lawmakers were admitted into the committee following the interest they indicated in contributing to the success of the committee. Last week, Dogara inaugurated the 20-member panel chaired by Mr. Olabode Ayorinde in Abuja and charged members to be frank and thorough in their engagements with relevant agencies of government.
He explained that the decision of the House to contribute its quota towards savaging the economy and ameliorating the sufferings of citizens followed its resolve at its inauguration in March, 2015 to consistently collaborate with the government in checking and balancing the executive.
“As a Parliament, we are committed towards ensuring that the sufferings experienced by the ordinary Nigerians are alleviated. Today, our people can no longer afford to feed like before. School children are dropping out of school due to inability of parents to pay school fees.
“Transportation and foodstuffs are difficult to afford by the ordinary citizens. There is general anguish on the faces of Nigerians due to poverty and hunger. In spite of our responsibility for checking and balancing the executive, good governance can only be effected when all arms of government are working in harmony and partnership to bring about the changes voted for by Nigerians on March 28, 2015,” he stated.
The Speaker affirmed that the centre point of the legislative agenda would be to collaborate with the various arms of government and the Senate to legislate for the common good of the Nigerian citizens with emphasis on reforms that will promote rapid national economy growth as well as tackle poverty and unemployment.
He lamented that the costs of living for the average citizens have soared so high beyond their reach, with many youths unable to get jobs or be assisted to engage in careers of their choices, thereby resorting to crimes of all sorts.
These were part of the reasons the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and other relevant stakeholders were invited to the inauguration ceremony of the committee.
General Secretary of the NLC, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson hailed the House initiative in setting up the committee to interface with relevant public and private institutions over the economic downturn in the country. His words: “This has always been our desire because the legislature cannot fold its arms and watch the economy slip deeply into recession.
“We are grateful for this opportunity and we hope to take full advantage of it. We have a think tank and we’ll be utilizing it at the appropriate time to share our thoughts with the committee on how to handle the economic situation.”
Ayorinde explained that apart from government agencies, the House committee would rely on inputs from the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), civil society organizations, among others.
In addition, he disclosed that the committee is planning tours of major public and private establishments in the country, as well as infrastructures, as well as a retreat for members.
The ad hoc committee hopes to visit major projects and public utilities that are currently in use and those that are moribund, with a view to compiling, assessing and evaluating them for better performance and revitalization as the case may be.
Emphasis would be on public and private companies and factories involved in manufacturing, processing, packaging and storage across the country particularly those that have been inactive for 10 years or more.
The committee chairman is optimistic that resuscitating them would lead to increased, economic activities, employment generation, career opportunities, food security and the attendant less indulgence in crimes and restiveness.
He added that during the tours and afterwards, the committee would further suggest ways of enhancing activities in companies and industries that are in operations.
The committee’s findings would be captured in a report to the House at the end of the duration of the exercise, he said. “This committee is considered tactical because of its critical role in the tackling of recession in Nigeria.
“You will agree with me that many that are in operation require support and expansion while those that are not will require overhaul. “This has to be done as soon as possible to provide jobs and other opportunities and keep youths out of criminal activities,” he explained.
According to him, the banking institutions also need to be assessed to find ways of halting the rising job losses, high interest and exchange rates and inflationary trends in banks.