Thekla Advisory, a public affairs management firm, has said that the repeated invitation to private companies in Nigeria by various committees of the National Assembly was negatively affecting businesses.
It therefore called for a review of the practice in view of its impact on the country’s ‘ease of doing’ business objectives, reminding the lawmakers of the judicial challenge on the matter by the Nigeria Employers Consultative Assembly (NECA), currently before the Supreme Court.
In a statement, the firm’s founder, Godson Ogheneochuko, said that though the National Assembly’s powers of oversight were duly acknowledged, but the extent of such powers in relation to private companies had been disputed repeatedly.
He said inviting private companies to appear before committees and then have their compliance practices investigated by the committee and their consultants, was outside the scope of the oversight powers conferred on the National Assembly and their committees by the constitution.
“Such investigation is the responsibility of the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government (MDAs). Very often…the companies end up being the parties under investigation even though these same companies undergo the usual audits/records reconciliation by the government agencies empowered to do so,” it stated.
As a first step, it recommended that the leadership of the National Assembly and the committees should put the national interest first and allow the private companies to be investigated through the proper channels, which are the MDAs that are specifically empowered to do so.
The statement noted that if truly concerned about the outcomes, the National Assembly committees can through their oversight review of the MDAs, look at whether such audits were properly conducted.
It also drew the attention of the National Assembly leadership to the financial burden that such invitations impose noting that most times, invitations are sent to the managing directors, which means at very short notice, they or other senior representatives must abandon their usual course of business.
“The cost of such trips to human resources involved in responding to such investigations, together with the associated business disruption is too much for Nigerian businesses to bear, especially as they are already suffering from the economic downturn.
“Accordingly, to the extent possible, virtual interactions e.g. video conferences, should be utilised to save time and cost of travel, as well as to minimise the attendant disruption to business,” it said.
It also advised private businesses to work with their public affairs advisers and lawyers to devise a strategy for dealing with requests from committees of the National Assembly, going forward.
Ogheneochuko called on the presidency to take more urgent and practical steps to protect businesses that have braved the odds to remain in Nigeria.