Towards a competition Regime in Nigeria; Are we there yet?
Is this is it? Should we get our hopes up? Nigerians seem to have lost count of the ‘almost there’ feeling that comes with every competition bill that appears to make significant progress at the National Assembly only to get dropped along the way.
A search through the archives of the Nigerian parliament will reveal several abandoned bills on the subject among which are the Restrictive Trade Practices, Monopolies and Price Control Bill, the Nigerian Trade and Competition Commission Bill, and the Nigerian Antitrust (Enforcement and Miscellaneous provisions) Bill. According to a briefing paper on the UK Competition Regime, “competition is the lifeblood of a vibrant economy and fundamental to growth”. What then is it that keeps frustrating the efforts at a substantive competition regime in Nigeria?
The current bill before the 8th National Assembly seems promising, considering that it does not recommend the establishment of an entirely new agency, which has been one of the major reasons for turning down these bills in the past. I commend the relentless efforts of the people who keep proposing these bills, adopting a different strategy each time all in a bid to ensure that Nigeria joins its fellow African nations in curbing practices and actions that have the potential to substantially restrain competition.
The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Bill, 2016 is the new kid on the block and appears to be enjoying an accelerated advantage. The fate of the Bill, which has been passed by House of Representatives, now lies with the Senate. This Bill has not been without competition, but I guess even a competition bill needs a dose of competition. The lower house had to consolidate two bills into one; the Federal Competition (Establishment) Bill and the Federal Competition Consumer Protection Bill. Currently, it is no surprise that yet another bill, the Competition (Antitrust) Commission Establishment Bill was proposed in November 2016 at a time when the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Bill had gone through a second reading at the senate.
Perhaps the obstacle to a substantive competition regime in Nigeria is differing interests. It is unclear how a new bill is proposed after a similar bill on the same subject has gone through two readings at the parliament. It remains unclear what could be so unique and just cannot be proposed as an amendment to the current bill before the Senate. It is also amazing how most of the previous bill now hanging in the archives of the National Assembly all have dissimilar provisions.
Towards a competition regime, Nigeria has become one to watch. According to Addleshaw Goddard:
Nigeria has long been a rarity amongst the large African economies in not having established – or at least created the framework for – a competition law regime. This is not Nigeria's first go at introducing a competition law regime, which it first attempted in the late 1990s and then again in 2000 – with the current iteration having crawled through the legislative process for the last 16 years.
So Nigeria! Is this the chosen one?