Organised Labour, weekend, advised the Federal Government to jettison planned sale of national assets, to avoid mass revolt and civil unrest that will be worse than the anti-SAP riots of 1989.
The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC; Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC; the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG; and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, in one accord, told government that it would be playing with fire should it go ahead to sell the assets.
No comment — Presidency
The Presidency kept mum, last night, as Spokesman to the President, Mr. Femi Adesina, in a reply to the text message sent to him, said “no comment.” However, Budget and Planning Minister, Udoma Udo Udoma, said in a statement on Saturday that the Federal Government would not sell critical national assets to shore up its foreign reserves as well as have funds to retool the economy against the current downward plunge.
According to him, government plans to source immediate funds to reflate the economy and implement capital projects in the 2016 budget. Already, NUPENG and PENGASSAN have threatened to shut Nigeria over the planned sale, which they argued, would not profit the nation but a few privileged Nigerians. According to PENGASSAN, the planned sale of national assets is a self-destructive move that would further impoverish Nigerians.
The union said the plan, meant to solve short term financial obligations, was targeted at handing over Nigerians’ collective commonwealth to a few individuals and further impoverish the rest of the people. It advised that instead of selling assets, government should look for other ways of increasing the revenue base of the country, while plugging loopholes and leakages in public finances.
PENGASSAN noted that governments at all levels should reflate the economy through execution of capital projects and payment of workers’ salaries.
We’ll shut down Nigeria — PENGASSAN
It stated: “Any attempt to sell these national assets will be met with stiff resistance from the Association, as PENGASSAN will galvanize every support, including that of our sister union and labour centres, to shut down this country by ensuring that every activity in the oil and gas sector is brought to a complete halt. “Some opportunists in the cloak of businessmen and short-sighted politicians had earlier advocated the sale of public assets such as the NLNG, four state-owned refineries, Nigeria’s stakes in Africa Finance Corporation, AFC, the nation’s airports and reduction of government’s shares in upstream oil joint venture operations and this was approved by the National Economic Council, NEC.”
Ojugbana alleged that the plan was ill-timed and unwarranted as it would not serve national interest, adding that no nation would develop, survive or feel secured after selling all its national assets. He continued: “The proponents of the sale of national assets are those who have been actively involved in the operations of the nation’s economy in the past. They were part of those responsible for the country’s current economic situation.
“Moreover, such sales in the past, including the power and steel sectors privatisation, were just a shift from public to private monopoly which has further worsened those sectors. “It is, therefore, the candid position of PENGASSAN that such plan should be thrown into the trash bin. Government should continue to seek better ways to address the present economic challenges and reduce areas of wastages.”
Enemies of the country at work –NUPENG
On its part, NUPENG, through its General Secretary, Mr. Joseph Ogbebor, said: “We will resist the sale with all our might. It is not in the best interest of Nigerians. It will only compound the unemployment in the country. It will also compound the restiveness and agitation in the Niger Delta. There is no way we are going to accept it. If the President is really a patriot as claimed, he should not yield to the pressure because enemies of the country are at work.
“However, our organs will meet either as NUPENG or jointly with PENGASSAN to deal with it. Certainly, it is unacceptable, unpatriotic, anti-Nigeria and must be rejected and resisted by all. We call on Mr. President to declare a state of emergency on the economy and summon an all-encompassing stakeholders meeting to brainstorm on how the present economic challenges can be quickly addressed.