President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has stated that Nigeria’s challenges in fighting poverty can only be achieved through a serious collaboration between the public and private sector.
Saraki who spoke at the 24th Session of the Nigerian Economic Summit, organised by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), according to a statement by his Special Assistant on New Media, Olu Onemola, emphasised that government alone does not have the capacity to lift citizens out of poverty.
He said: “Any government coming in next year must be ready to work closely with the private sector to create an enabling environment for business. Taking out loans and building debt cannot solve poverty.
“Free infrastructure by the government cannot take us there. If we continue like this, we will just continue to have these summits. We need the government to see the private sector as a partner in development.
“The most important thing for me is that the government should leave what they are not capable of doing, what they do not have the resources to do and what they do not have the ability to do.
“Those bringing in investments must be able to sit down with the government and the government should not make it difficult for them to invest. If we can do that, we would create jobs and grow the economy.
“We realised quickly at the 8th National Assembly that we must look at economic bills and we came up with a plan in collaboration with the Nigerian Economic Summit Group to look at our existing laws to see those that are outdated and do not apply. We worked on them to create the right enabling environment,” he stated.
Speaking on the Petroleum Industry Bill, the President of the Senate, stated that the National Assembly would put pressure on the Executive to assent to the Bill of the National Assembly, emphasising that such bills must be seen as national priorities.
“The PIB should have been an executive bill. Unfortunately it was not. However, we took the responsibility to drive that bill to a place that has never been achieved before.
A lot of people felt we couldn’t do it but we showed them we had the political will and the commitment to do it. Our intention is make the petroleum sector more transparent and accountable for more efficient performance.
“Right now, the fight to sanitise the sector is so selective. However, if it is transparent and you start from your source there would be less leakage down the line. We are spending over $3.6 billon on petroleum subsidy; apart from the National Assembly, which anti corruption agency is looking at that?
“There must be a systematic, transparent approach. If we can make the petroleum sector to be more efficient — which accounts for a large percentage of revenue — government would be more efficient,” Saraki stated.
The President of the Senate also disclosed that the Senate, and by extension, the National Assembly, would be embarking on a comprehensive review of Nigeria’s tax laws, in order to bring them up to date with current realities.
“One of the reasons that we set up the National Assembly Business Environment Roundtable (NASSBER), was to ensure that we have constant engagement between the legislature and the private sector. I am happy to report to you that I set up a working group on tax reform that has been working for the past eight weeks. On Friday, they submitted a report that includes comprehensive tax reform laws.
“However, we have already passed an amendment to the Stamp Duties Act. We sent it to the President, but it was sent back with observations. On the issue of VAT, we are looking at it because it has a Constitutional aspect to it and will require further collaboration with the 36 States,” Saraki said.