“Growing” the Naira and Tackling Unemployment: The Dogara Perspective (by Rinsola Abiola)
Lately, in the face of dwindling economic fortunes and a currency more unstable than the seemingly-undecided harmattan, many analysts have called on all citizens to buy made-in-Nigeria products in order to revive the economy. While this is certainly a good thing, as it has enabled home-grown businesses showcase their products and benefit from the publicity, it will take more than a media buzz to stimulate business growth in the country.
A critical aspect that many seem to have overlooked is that which entails job creation; with an estimated population of 180 million and a dangerously high unemployment rate, we will require not only indigenous firms, but foreign ones as well, so that our huge labour force may be absorbed. This is why it is essential to not only seek to promote made-in-Nigeria goods, but to create an enabling environment for these Nigerian businesses to thrive, and for foreign investment to be attracted. This enabling environment would be one with reliable power supply, improved security, modern infrastructure, and good business laws and policies.
In recognition of the importance of good legislation to economic development, the Eighth House, led by Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, has identified those laws which govern business in the country and need to be amended or repealed as required in line with global best practices. In a meeting with council members of the Section on Business Law of the Nigerian Bar Association, the Speaker acknowledged that Nigeria has lost the competitive edge as many businesses have left for neighbouring countries such as republics of Benin and Ghana, among others, who are reaping from our loss due to better laws and improving infrastructure. The Speaker also called on the business lawyers to engage the Ad-Hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution and contribute to the process of amending those extant but inefficient and ineffective laws governing business in Nigeria.
The Speaker’s approach to economic development is one which is not only holistic but also offers a permanent solution, as it addresses the root causes of the current economic challenges and proffers effective legislative solutions. Dogara, who has a Masters’ degree in International Commercial Law, is passionate about enhancing the business climate in the country by not only taking steps towards fixing our laws, but by engaging stakeholders too. During a recent visit to the Speaker by a delegation from NACCIMA – the National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture – the Speaker revealed plans by the House to aid diversification of the economy by organizing sectoral debates, in which ministers and heads of agencies will be called upon to address members on the prospects and challenges of their ministries/agencies – and how to solve these – so that the required legislation which would enable each sector actualize its full potential may be enacted.
The job of growing the Naira is an arduous one which cannot possibly be left to Nigerians alone, as the country is in this situation due largely to the failure of successive administrations to do the needful – improve power supply so that the cost of production/doing business may reduce and home-made products may cease to be more expensive than imported ones, offer incentives to local producers, improve infrastructure so that transportation, for instance, may cease to be both dangerous and tedious, among others. It would, therefore, amount to dereliction of duty for the task of stimulating the economy to be left to citizens without the government fulfilling responsibilities which entail making production easier, and empowering the people with jobs so that they may earn the income needed to buy these products.
To this end, the House of Representatives, under the leadership of Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, is keying in to President Buhari’s efforts at attracting investments and solving unemployment by working on our laws. The onus, therefore, lies on other government institutions to do the needful regarding easing business processes within the country. The Speaker also seizes every opportunity to invite foreigners to invest in different sectors of the economy such as agriculture, solid minerals and renewable energy, as he recently did during a meeting with the Ukranian ambassador, Mr. Villari Alexandruk.
With the budget set to be passed just weeks or even days from now, one can only hope that steps taken to grow the Naira while also tackling unemployment will be commensurate to the level of discussion that has been generated. The Dr. Bukola Saraki-led Senate must also be commended for proposing legislation which will give indigenous firms an edge. The National Assembly is key to bringing the much-desired change, and with leaders of both chambers focusing on reviving the economy through legislation, the change may be here sooner then we expect.
Rinsola Abiola is Special Assistant to the Rt. Hon. Speaker on New Media, Acting-President of the APC-Young Women Forum, and one of three youth representatives on the Board of Trustees of the governing party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).