Senate approves bill to end business monopolies

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• World Bank report on Nigeria’s reforms excites FG
The Senate has approved a bill seeking to end all forms of business monopolies in Nigeria and promote trade competition in the 36 states of the federation.

The upper legislative chamber, therefore, approved scrapping of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) and ratified its replacement with the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.

Passing the bill sponsored by Senator Andy Uba (PDP, Anambra South), yesterday, through a second reading, the Senate directed its Committee on Trade and Investment to conclude all legislative work on the issue and report back within four weeks.

The Federal Government, meanwhile, is ecstatic that it’s reforms for instituting a vibrant business environment may have started yielding dividends, as Nigeria’s ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business remains static, halting a falling trend in the past years.

A statement signed by Laolu Akande, Senior Special Assistant to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, yesterday, said the latest 2017 report released Tuesday, October 25, and which ranked Nigeria 169 out of 189 countries was good indication that the focus and tenacity of President Buhari to reposition the nation’s business and economic environment was working.

While Nigeria’s position remained the same last year on the index ranking, it has recorded confident outlooks in four critical areas namely: Starting a Business, Dealing with Construction Permits, Registering Property and Access to Credit.

The Senate believed promotion of business competition would be achieved by provisions of the bill, which would “control existing monopolies, discourage the abuse of dominant market position, and other restrictive trade and business practices.”

The proposal is part of Reform Bills, highlighted by the 8th Senate at the inaugural National Assembly Business Environment Roundtable in March 2016.
Leading the debate on principles of the bill, Uba said its essence was to promote: a balanced development of the Nigerian economy; welfare and interests of consumers, providing them with competitive price and product choices; competition and enhanced economic efficiency in production, trade and commerce; expansion of opportunities for domestic enterprises, to participate in world markets; ability of small and medium enterprises to compete effectively; and restriction of business practices which prevent or distort competition or constitute abuse of a dominant position of market power in Nigeria.”

Uba said the bill was initiated because “It is necessary to ensure through legislation that monopolistic enterprises in our country do not take undue advantage of and hurt consumers at will.”

The issue of resale price maintenance is critical in every market, and because it is well known that Nigeria is the largest market in Africa, it is crucial to ensure we do not allow our country to become a dumping ground for inferior products or be seen as promoting unfair trade practices.”

According to the bill, it is unlawful for any two or more enterprises that are suppliers of products to enter into or carry out any agreement where they “withhold supplies of products from dealers (whether parties to the agreement or not) who resell or have resold products in breach of any condition as to the price at which those goods may be resold; refuse to supply products to such dealers except on terms and conditions, which are less favourable than those applicable to other dealers carrying on business is similar circumstances.”

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