A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Sebastine Hon, has advised President Muhammadu Buhari, to immediately declare a state ofemergency on the nation’s ailing economy.
Mr. Hon, who gave the advice on Tuesday in Abuja, said the action was necessary to forestall national upheaval.
“Following the abysmal performance of the oil sector in the past one year, as a result of the ongoing oil glut which sounds more like an international economic conspiracy, the economic fortunes of the state, nay people of Nigeria, have continued to nosedive freely,” Mr. Hon said.
“The modalities for the proclamation by Mr.President and the National Assembly should, in my respectful judgment, include but not be limited to assembling a crack team of economic, financial, agricultural, legal and technological experts who will work with Mr.President’s economic team and come out as soon as possible with a working document within a given timeframe.”
Since the government is laying emphasis on agriculture, Mr. Hon said proclaiming a state of economic emergency would stimulate massive cultivation of food and cash crops.
He said the nation’s economic woes were further compounded by individuals who cornered public funds and are shamelessly sabotaging recovery efforts by the federal and state governments.
Mr. Hon cautioned that the failure to halt the continued recession of the country’s economy as a matter of national urgency could trigger crisis of unimaginable proportion across the country.
“Historically and empirically, all shades of democratic governments have declared one form or the other of economic emergencies, depending on the local conditions of each geo-polity,” Mr. Hon said.
“For instance, due to the asphyxiating economic and balance of payment crisis in the US in 1970, President Richard Nixon, backed by the US Congress, declared an economic emergency, which empowered the President to ‘ issue such orders and regulations as he may deem appropriate to stabilize prices, rents, wages, and salaries.’
“Mr. President was also authorised to delegate ‘the performance of any function under this title to such officers, departments, and agencies of the United States as he may deem appropriate.’”
Mr. Hon further drew attention to Russia, where its parliament empowered the then President, Boris Yeltsin, to issue decrees necessary for the protection of social security.
Recently, too, he said, former Argentine President, Carlos Menem, was given wide powers by parliament to enable him undertake emergency regulatory powers to overcome the collective risk caused by the serious economic and social circumstances of that country.
In France on February 22, he said the President, Francois Hollande, declared a state of economic and social emergency and unveiled a 2billion euro plan to rev up the ailing French economy.
According to him, the programme included the training of 500,000 jobless persons, financial aid to companies to enable them hire labour and greater utilisation of apprenticeships in the economy.
“It must be noted that this proclamation has been made, notwithstanding the ongoing public state of emergency declared in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in France. The effect is that the two proclamations are running concurrently,” he said.
He also called attention to the Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, who declared a 60-day state of economic emergency aimed at reining in the worst ever inflation in that country.
He, therefore, urged Mr. Buhari to commence the procedure for the proclamation of a state of emergency as spelt out in Section 305 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
The legal practitioner also called on the National Assembly to invoke the relevant provisions of the law to stem further decline of the nation’s economy.
“It must be noted, too, that in any constitutional democracy, the discretion of the named authority to proclaim a state of emergency is sparingly questionable in court, even if the proclamation is suspect,” Mr. Hon said.
He cited two cases, namely: Williams vs. Majekodunmi(1962) 1 All NLR 413 S.C. and Adegbenro vs. Attorney General of the Federation(1962) WNLR 150 at 160, where the Supreme Court of Nigeria held that courts had no jurisdiction to question the discretion of parliament to proclaim a state of emergency made pursuant to the provision of the Constitution.