FEC Yet To Decide On Asset Sale | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe


FEC Yet To Decide On Asset Sale

Posted: Oct 3, 2016 at 6:39 am   /   by   /   comments (0)


It was announced following the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting which was held on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 that while it is true that the Government is working on Fiscal Stimulus to facilitate the country’s exit from the unwelcome recessions that a position has not been taken on whether or not to sale national assets as one of the complement of policies to be pursued. It is also a matter for the records that the National Economic Council had earlier endorsed the sale of national assets as means to rapidly replenish the reserves which is now depleted as the struggle to shore up the exchange rate continued. The Senate has also by popular sentiments voted not to support the sale of national assets as a strategy to enable the country get out of the ongoing recession even if the Senate President had early registered his personal support.

The organised labour, particularly within the oil sector, reached beyond its purview as it pledged its resolve to shut down the country should the Government attempt to sale any of the national assets. We are of the view that the mandate of the organised labour is to protect and safeguard the welfare of its membership first of all, by securing stability of employment and when there is retrenchment, that there is a fair deal and that their retired members are protected through guaranteed investment vehicle to ensure sustenance of  regular payments. But when it threatens to bring down the roof if assets are sold, in my humble opinion, is to exceed its mandate and rather encroached in the territory of the Executive that has the mandate to pilot the affairs of the nation.

It is not farfetched to seek to identify why negative sentiments surround the intention to sale some national assets. Citizens look at the record which the country has had with the sale of assets and are discouraged by the incidences of conflict of interests which pervaded and undermined the realisation of the goals and objectives which informed the sale of the national assets and believe that it’s their patriotic duty to refuse to support the sale of national assets as its being proposed this time around. There are of course those who are futuristic in their thinking and are genuinely concerned with the issue of inter-generational equity who have asked the question regarding what then would happen if, down the road, we now have another recession; what then would be available to sell? Some are also concerned that these assets would be sold and the proceeds deployed for current consumption or even misapplied. No doubt these are genuine concerns but we must endeavour to unshackle ourselves from the past, otherwise we would never have the courage to take decisions that might lead us to the Promised Land.

What is most important is that we must adopt a mindset that enables us to live in the present circumstances of Nigeria. The country has been certified to be in a recession which, in effect, means that there are massive job losses with the citizenry being strangulated for loss of purchasing power. To compound matters there is also unprecedented hike in the prices of goods and services across board, meaning that the country is really experiencing stagflation which compounds the misery index in the land. Our prayer is that matters do not deteriorate so that the country does not transit into depression.

As the Government cannot just sit on its hands and watch things deteriorate; a development which would spell doom for all concerned, there is the need for urgent action. The country is challenged to find some low hanging fruits it could pluck in this respect. The low hanging fruits which should be attained from rapid and focused implementation of Budget 2016 is begging because of the inability of the Government to source needed resources by way of borrowing as programmed in the fiscal plan and therefore even at this point in time in the fiscal year, the fourth quarter, we are still discussing approval to borrow and where to borrow from and even if we succeeded we might still not be able to borrow the required amount needed to make the desired impact.

And this is the perspective which compels us to believe that all options are on the table including the sale of national assets. While we await the articulation of the stimulus package my take on the matter is that nothing, in the circumstances, should be considered as being off limit even including the offloading of particularly national assets which, in my carefully considered view, should include the refineries which have proven to be veritable drain pipe on resources.

It is a fact that we had incidences of conflict of interest when we privatised some of our assets in the past and even as we discuss; the sale of the power holding companies and the Nigerian telecommunications company are still embroiled in some controversies and it remains a fact that the objectives that informed the sale in the first place have not been realised; but we must not allow ourselves to be held captive to that experience when we are faced with the sort of challenge confronting the country now. We have a President who is generally scored high regarding his integrity and whose body language is bound to put fear into would be miscreants that we should give the benefit of the doubt and be merchants of hope expecting that with regard to the unethical practices we encountered in the past that the narrative is bound to be somewhat different this time around. The issue regarding the future should also be put in perspective. If we do not have today there will most certainly be no tomorrow. Therefore, let’s do all it takes to secure today and no doubt the future will be assured as we succeed.

And as far as I am concerned it does not matter who buys the assets provided the terms of sale are determined at arm’s length and the transaction supervised by experienced professionals in the area. If Aliko Dangote wants to take the refineries off us we should indeed be grateful because the narrative in this regard is that we have not proven ourselves capable of managing the refineries profitably and, therefore, if any of our citizens is able to do so; sustain production, obviate the need to import using scarce foreign exchange, make a profit, pay taxes and create employment we should be celebrating that development because that is the assured path to national progress.

By Boniface Chizea