Don’t Sell off National Assets, CPJ Cautions FG

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Abimbola Akosile

The Catalysts for Global Peace Initiative (CPJ), a faith-based non-governmental organisation with focus on good governance, has warned the Federal Government not to sell off the nation’s assets, in the interest of development.

The organisation, in a statement issued and signed by its Executive Director, Mr. Henry Onifade, instead urged the federal government to take the more enduring steps of vigorously pursuing peace in the Niger Delta with a view to restoring productive economic activities in the oil sector, get other stakeholders to devote a chunk of the revenues from oil to infrastructure development, and restructure to make the country run on collectible taxes

According to the statement, “Following the national conversation on the recession afflicting the country and suggestions on how to take Nigeria out of it, the Catalysts for Global Peace Initiative (CPJ) has followed with keen interest the controversy generated by an open campaign from powerful Nigerians in public and private sectors to put on sale some important national assets.

Those behind the campaign believe the sale of important national assets is the quickest way to raise foreign exchange, shore up the value of the Naira, and fund the 2016 Budget with a view to getting Nigeria out of recession.

We join patriotic Nigerians in strongly opposing any move to walk this path. We state our opposition to assets sale on the following grounds:

“The proposal appears to be a grand conspiracy by some connected people in the federal cabinet, the parliament and the private sector to short-change the country. It is curious that billionaire businessman Aliko Dangote first suggested the sale of Nigeria’s equities in the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Limited and African Finance Corporation (AFC).

“We found it even more curious that barely a week after Dangote’s suggestion, Senate President Bukola Saraki, CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele, Kano Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II, and state governors after a meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC) separately but publicly supported the call for assets sale. The campaign appears too well-coordinated to be a coincidence; it is too smooth to be for common good.

“We found it strange that Aliko Dangote who first suggested that some assets be sold was very particular about the NLNG and AFC, organisations performing very well and returning huge profits for Nigeria and other shareholders. The NLNG, for instance, where Nigeria has 49 per cent equity has, between 1999 and 2015, made total revenue of $90.3 billion from a capital outlay of $15.6 billion.

“Within the same period the NLNG has paid Nigeria $15.3 billion dividends. Why would Dangote want Nigeria to sell its equity in such a company where there are some other companies that are basket cases? That cannot be in the country’s interest.

“We remember that previous sale of national assets by previous administrations in the past, to a large extent, did not yield the desired results. Indeed those who bought those assets, mostly party loyalists and their business cronies, resorted to asset stripping. There is nothing to show the renewed campaign to sell national assets would end up with a different result.

“We fear that any resort to assets sale could worsen the militancy problem in the Niger Delta, further whittle down our oil revenue, and worsen the decline of the economy.

“We fail to see the wisdom in this step and are inclined to liken this to the ill-advised spending of national savings in the recent past. We agree with the informed opinion of knowledgeable professionals, particularly former CBN Governor Charles Soludo, that the idea is derived from a false foundation, akin to chasing pennies while losing pounds.

“We are without doubt abreast of the deep mess in which the national economy is in at the moment. But we strongly hold the informed view that what the situation requires is not a hasty auctioning of national assets. The re-engineering of the economy requires more deep-seated thought leadership and hard work, not an easy, fleeting measure lacking proper foundation”, the statement added.

The group thus urged the federal government to take the more enduring steps of vigorously pursuing peace in the Niger Delta with a view to restoring productive economic activities in the oil sector, get other stakeholders to devote a chunk of the revenues from oil to infrastructure development, and restructure to make the country run on collectible taxes.

“Indeed, assets sale should be the last resort, when every policy initiative has failed, in getting the country out of recession”, it added.