The House of Representatives Wednesday summoned the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, over the depreciation of the naira.
This came the same day the lawmakers passed for second reading, a bill seeking to amend the Nigeria Communications Commission Act to regulate the powers of the police and other security agencies to track, intercept, monitor and record conversations, text messages and internet communications involving suspected terrorists operating in Nigeria.
In a resolution passed yesterday, the House mandated the Committees on Finance, Banking and Currency, and National Planning and Economic Development to invite the duo and obtain explanations on the measures being taken to curb the free fall of the currency against the United States dollar and other foreign currencies.
The decision followed a motion sponsored by Hon. Odebunmi Olusegun Dokun on the “need to check the continuous devaluation (depreciation) of the local currency over the years.”
Dokun traced the history of the introduction of Naira and Kobo as the country’s legal tender in 1973, stating that the naira at inception was more valuable than the US dollar and a little less than the British pound sterling.
He observed that with the depreciation of the naira, the nation’s economy was exposed to serious danger.
“There has been a continuous decrease in the Naira value over the years against major currencies in the world.
“A critical look at these last few years, taking the US dollar as a basis for comparison shows that around 1990 to 1993, it was about N28 to a dollar; around 1994 to 1996, it was about N40 to a dollar; around 1996 to 1999, it was about N80 to a dollar; around 1999 to 2007, it was about N140 to a dollar; and around 2007 to date, it is about N158 to a dollar.
“This has shown that a continuous devaluation in the naira without any improvement, and if this downward trend persists, it will affect Nigeria’s economy and the future of the nation in general,” he said.
The motion was passed without debate and the issue passed on to the relevant committees to handle and report back to the House in six weeks.
Also yesterday, the House took a bold step towards regulating how the police and other security agencies would track and monitor telephone and internet communications of citizens and residents in the country.
The relevant legislation came from an amalgam of four different bills on the same matter. The consolidated bills were sponsored by the Minority Leader of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, Hon. Abonta Nkem, Hon. Rotimi Makinde and Hon. Dakuku Peterside.
In approving the amendments, the House said allowing security agencies to eavesdrop on the citizens had become necessary because of the prevailing insecurity in the country.
The lawmakers, however, said there was need to regulate the procedures to avoid abuses.
Gbajabiamila, one of the co-sponsors of the bill, said security agencies already had indiscriminate and unlawful access to telephone and internet communications made by Nigerians without their consent or public knowledge.
Gbajabiamila said such an intrusion contradicts the provision of Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution, which states, “Right to telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby private and guaranteed and protected.”
He argued that Section 45 of the 1999 Constitution on the other hand provides that such right to communication privacy can only be abridged through a law vis-à-vis an act of parliament and not through presidential fiat.
The lawmaker said there was need to amend the NCC Act to regulate access to communication data of citizens suspected to be engaged or aiding terrorism to avoid its abuse by security agencies.
The regulation, he said, would guarantee citizen’s fundamental human rights, as the security agencies would only be lawfully granted access to telephone and internet conversation of citizens or suspected terrorists after getting a court order upon application for such data.
Furthermore, the security agency must produce evidence of such communication details gathered to the court within 30 days after the initial court order.
This caveat is expected to also prevent the Snowden spy controversy and ensure there were no abuses of innocent citizen’s rights in the cause of tracking communication among suspected terrorists.