The office of the Nigerian president has come out to deny a stream of news reports suggesting that President Muhammadu Buhari wishes to confer on himself broad emergency powers that would shunt proper legislative processes or the rule of law.
Reports in local news media have continued to allege that President Buhari is considering granting himself sweeping emergency powers, which he apparently considers necessary to halt the Nigerian economy’s downward spiral. A fall in crude oil prices and a slide in the value of the naira have combined to give Nigeria its worst economic performance in decades. In July, Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun finally admitted that the country was in a recession.
A statement issued by Laolu Akande, special assistant to the vice-president on public affairs, said an Economic Management Team is working on a bill among other economic proposals which are meant to revive the economy. Akande maintained that that the bill is still in its development stage, however, and has not been forwarded to the legislators for approval. He further added that President Buhari had not yet been briefed about the content of the bill and its recommendations.
“The Economic Management Team has indeed been considering several policy options and measures to urgently reform and revitalize the economy. Some of these measures may well require legislative amendments and presidential orders that will enable the Executive arm of government to move quickly in implementing the economic reform plans,” Akande said. “As far as I know, this has not been passed on to the President, the Federal Executive Council or the Legislative arm of government.”
However, The Nation writes that many stakeholders in the economy continue to infer that the proposed bill would include a request for broad emergency powers.
It is believed that the emergency bill would grant the president powers to abridge the procurement process, guarantee stimulus spending, and even suspend extant laws governing some aspects of the economy from the National Assembly, among other things.
Opinions continue to be divided about the president’s need for emergency powers. Many Nigerians – including the NLC, the umbrella body for organised labour – have lauded the proposal, believing that extreme situations such as Nigeria is experiencing at the moment call for extreme measures.
Others have voiced their concern, preferring to look at it as a slippery slope that would herald a slow descent into a complete disregard for the rule of law and a consequent abuse of office and position if the president is granted such broad powers with no oversight from the lawmakers.