FG Says No Decision Yet on Sale of National Assets

  •  Approves new bill to develop water sector

Tobi Soniyi in Abuja

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) is yet to take a decision on whether to resort to the sale of national assets to bail the economy out of recession.

Answering questions from State House correspondents at the conclusion of yesterday’s FEC meeting, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said it was wrong for anyone to conclude that the federal government had concluded plans to sell national assets.

The minister however said government would come out, “very soon” with an elaborate plan to take the country out of the recession.

Mohammed described as “mere speculation” the claim that the federal government had decided to sell the country’s national assets to raise money.

He said: “Government is still working on the most comprehensive manner to reflate the economy and the government will make its position known very soon.

“On what the government will do is to reflate the economy, everything you have heard so far are just suggestions, and until the government makes its position known, all these assets sale, assets leasing, whatever is being bandied about, are nothing but speculations.

“The government is yet to come out with its position on how to bail out the economy and it will do that soon.”

When he was reminded that the National Economic Council (NEC) had already endorsed the recommendation of the president’s Economic Management Team to sell assets to raise money, the minister said: “NEC will recommend but it is the Federal Executive Council that will decide and what we decide will be the position of government.”

Earlier, the Minister of Water Resources, Alhaji Suleiman Adamu, had said that his ministry presented three memos to FEC, namely, the National Water Policy, National Irrigation Policy, and a Draft National Water Resources Bill.

According to him, the National Water Policy seeks to provide strategies that will improve the management and delivery of water in the country with particular reference to water supply.
He said the National Water Resources Bill would consolidate all the existing laws on water-related issues including the Water Resources Act, the River Basin Development Authority Act, the National Water Resources Institute Act, the National Hydrological Services Act and other Acts.
The minister said when passed into law, the bill would open up the water industry for private sector investors.

The minister explained that the proposed bill would form a national law that would conform with international standards and international best practices.

“By so doing, we have been able to streamline many of the overlapping laws, sometimes we have conflicting laws like the one we have with Nigeria Inland Waterways Agency (NIWA) and some laws relating to the environment and mining.

“This bill seeks to sort out all those issues so that we have a standard national law, also so that we can set up a proper regulatory agency to regulate the water sector.
“With that, the door is now open for the private sector to come in in a big way to invest in water supply schemes in this country,” he said.

The minister said the irrigation and drainage policy would seek to recognise and bring in water users’ associations and generally improve not only irrigation infrastructure but irrigation management in the country.

According to him, Nigeria has the potential of 3.4 million hectares of land for irrigation but only 130,000 had been developed formally and only about 70,000 is utilised.
He said there is a huge gap and that government believes that introducing this policy would help the federal government and states to work together to have an all encompassing policy that would also help the government’s agriculture agenda.

“So it is a good thing that we brought the three policies together, and we believe the water resources sector is going to be an entirely different ball game from now on,” he said.
Also speaking on the water policy, the information minister said water had become one of the most important resources with economic, social and political implications.

He said the judicious use and allocation of water for humans, animals, livestock and industry had evolved into one of the serious issues facing humanity.

He said: “As a matter of fact, many countries have gone to war over the issue of water. So I believe it is only timely that Nigeria is proactive and has considered the issue of water resources as one that should not be left in the hands of anyone.”