One Month In Office: Five Major Decisions Made By President Tinubu

Exactly one month ago, on May 29, 2023, President Bola Tinubu was sworn into office as President and Commander in Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He pledged to protect the citizens and cater for their welfare. And unlike his predecessor, he kicked off his administration with bold steps from the very day he was inaugurated.

Removal of Fuel Subsidy

Tinubu started by announcing that the fuel subsidy you enjoy today, whether real or imaginary, you shall enjoy no more. The subsidy has enabled Nigerians to get petrol at cheaper prices for over a decade, with the federal government bearing some of the market cost on behalf of the people. Since the removal was announced, the price of fuel has risen from N185 to over N500.

Although many Nigerians support this move as a necessary evil, there were pushbacks from the faint voices of opposition parties and especially Labour unions. The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) threatened to go on strike, but quickly suspended the plan after a meeting with the President.

The new administration as well as supporters contend that the subsidy was merely a pipe for siphoning public funds, and a bogus burden on the country’s purse. This move has however imposed financial burdens on ordinary Nigerians who were not prepared for the drastic step. The sudden rise in prices of commodities especially food and transportation has forced many households into austerity.

Thankfully, the President has openly acknowledged the ripple effect of the decision on poor Nigerians, and he promised to take steps in mitigating the hardship. “I admit that the decision will impose an extra burden on the masses of our people. I feel your pain,” he noted in his June 12 Democracy Day broadcast. He pledged that his government would “reward” the people’s sacrifices with “massive investment” in transportation infrastructure, education, regular power supply, healthcare, and other public utilities that will improve their quality of life.

Student Loan Act

Like he announced the subsidy removal on his swearing-in day, on another remarkable day, June 12, Tinubu signed the Student Loan Bill into Law. The bill which was sponsored by the immediate past Speaker of the House of Representatives and Tinubu’s new Chief of Staff, Femi Gbajabiamila, had been passed by the 9th National Assembly. While this should be celebrated as “finally, something for the poor masses”, it signals that federal universities may now justifiably hike tuition without any resistance from the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), and this is playing out already as federal universities like the University of Benin, University of Abuja, and Obafemi Awolowo University have all announced new tuition fees racing above N150,000.

The Act, according to its provisions, allows Nigerian students in tertiary institutions to access interest-free loans from an Education Loan Fund, which is charged to administer, supervise, coordinate, and monitor the management of student loans in the country. The body is expected to receive applications for student loans through higher institutions on behalf of the applicants and screen them. “The fund shall be domiciled with, managed and administered by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through the money deposit banks in Nigeria for the purpose set out under section 6 of this act,” the act reads.

Data Protection Law

Also signed into Law on June 12 is the Nigerian Data Protection Bill, 2022 whose objectives include, providing for the regulation of the processing of personal data; promoting data processing practices that protect the security of personal data and the privacy of data subjects; ensuring that personal data is processed in a fair, lawful and accountable manner; to protect data subjects’ rights, and provide remedies and means of recourse in case of breach of those rights; ensure that data controllers and data processors fulfil their obligations to data subjects; minimize the harmful effect of personal data misuse or abuse on data subjects and other victims; and also to contribute to the legal foundations of the digital economy of Nigeria and its participation in the regional and global economies through the beneficial, trusted use of personal data.

Now an Act, its key provision is the establishment of the Nigeria Data Protection Commission, which replaces the Nigeria Data Protection Bureau (NDPB) established by immediate past President Muhammadu Buhari in February 2022.

The commission is empowered, among others, to regulate the deployment of technological and organisational measures to enhance personal data protection; to foster the development of personal data protection technologies, in accordance with recognised international best practices and applicable international law; to conduct investigations into any violation of a requirement under the Act; and impose penalties in respect of any violation of the provisions of the Act or subsidiary legislation made thereof. 

Lifts Restriction of Domiciliary Accounts

Following the arrest of the Governor of the Central Bank, and on the instruction of President Tibunu, the apex bank lifted the restrictions on cash deposits and withdrawals with Domiciliary accounts. Domiciliary account holders now have the liberty to withdraw up to $10,000 per day.

Cash deposits into domiciliary accounts will also no longer be restricted, subject to deposit money banks conducting proper due diligence and adhering to the spirit and letter of extant laws and other relevant rules and regulations.

Recall that the CBN under Godwin Emefiele had restricted Domiciliary account holders to a daily limit of $10,000 deposit either by inflow or cash deposit and a monthly cumulative of $20,000 (cash deposit) into their domiciliary accounts.

The CBN said it aims to promote transparency, liquidity, and price discovery in the FX market in order to improve FX supply with the changes in its policy.

This, the apex bank said, would discourage speculation, enhance customer confidence and ensure overall stability in the FX market; adding that more guidance would be conveyed to authorised dealers and the general public in due course.

“All visible and invisible transactions (medicals, school fees, BTA/PTA, airline, and other remittances) are eligible for the investors’ and exporters’ (I&E) window, ” the bank noted in a statement. 

Electricity Act 2023

Earlier this month, the President also signed into law the Electricity Act 2023. The new law replaces the 2005 Electricity and Power Sector Reform Act and seeks to promote private-sector investments in the power sector.

The new law decentralises the generation and distribution of electricity, empowering states, companies, and individuals to generate, transmit and distribute electricity.

Electricity generation licensees are obligated to meet renewable generation obligations as may be prescribed by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission. The Act also states that anyone may construct, own, or operate an undertaking for generating electricity not exceeding one megawatt in aggregate at a site, or an undertaking for distribution of electricity with a capacity not exceeding 100 kilowatts in aggregate at a site, or such other capacity as the Commission may determine from time to time, without a license.

States are also allowed to regulate their electricity markets by issuing licenses to private investors who can operate mini-grids and power plants within the state. However, the Act precludes interstate and transnational electricity distribution.

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