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Governors Endorse Plans to Sell National Assets, Falana Kicks

Arising from a meeting, between the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo and the 36 state Governors, Thursday, they all agreed to dispose off some national assets to raise funds for the troubled economy.
The meeting, under the auspices of National Economic Council, the Governors endorsed plans by the Federal Government to sell some national assets as part of efforts to address the current economic recession in the country.
However, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana has kicked against the plan, rather he told politicians to trim down their allowances to raise the needed funds.
In a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the Vice-President on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande, said that the sale of national assets was one of the recommendations of the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma (SAN), during the meeting on Thursday.
Other recommendations, he stated, included the diversification of the economy and the use of recovered loot.
The statement added that as part of measures to revive the economy, “the President’s Economic Management Team is working on plans to generate immediate larger injection of funds into the economy through assets sale, advance payment of licences renewal, infrastructural concession, use of recovered funds etc. to reduce funding gaps; and implementation of fiscal stimulus/budget priorities.”
The statement also said that the government wants to “fast-track procedures through legislation and implementation of Strategic Implementation Plan of the budget; and engage in the meaningful diversification of the economy and cut down importation.”
In her presentation, the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, revealed that the balance of the Excess Crude Account was $2.453bn as of September 20, 2016.
On the budget loan support facility for the states, Adeosun told the council that N50bn had so far been disbursed to the state governments.
In the area of housing, the finance minister noted that there was a target of N1bn to operate a Public-Private Partnership (N500bn initial) to create a blended pool of long term funds to intervene in housing development finance and mortgage provision.
She said the aim was to deliver family housing priced from as low as N2.5m up to N18m, delivered in a ‘‘ready-to-occupy’’ condition with essential services, including water and electricity.
Adeosun added, “The delivery target is 400,000 to 500,000 housing units per annum. The ultimate aim of the programme is to channel funds from savers to borrowers so that builders have the required capital to construct and prospective buyers can access credit to purchase.
“The fund will attract low cost local and international capital, including from domestic pension and insurance funds, FG funding as well as contributions from state governments and other agencies.”
The Governors of Kebbi State, Abubakar Bagudu; Oyo State, Abiola Ajimobi; and the Deputy Governor of Ogun State, Yetunde Onanuga, told journalists after the four-hour meeting that the council members commended the Economic Management Team and supported the plan to steer the nation out of recession.
Bagudu added, “The National Economic Council met today (Thursday) at its sixth meeting of the year, which is the 70th National Executive Council meeting and the Ministers of Budget and National Planning and the Central Bank Governor all made presentations and the highlights of the presentation were the sad news that the economy was in recession largely due to the dependency on single commodity, which is crude oil, which prices we do not control.
“And in particular, it was noted that our economic managers, the National Economic Team, are responding in competition with economic managers elsewhere; so, it’s not an easy task, it is a very difficult task and we crave the indulgence of our nation to give them a chance for the measures to take effect.”
Ajimobi said the Presidential Technical Committee on Land Reform presented the draft regulation on Land Use Act 2013 to NEC.
According to him, the regulation seeks to make provisions to streamline mortgage transactions and clearly delineate the rights, duties and obligations of a mortgage.
Onanuga stated that Adeosun and the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, briefed NEC on the best options for managing floating Forex policy introduced by the CBN.
Highlights of the presentation, she said, included CBN introduced cautious Monetary Policy orientation as dictated by consumer price and exchange rate, adoption of policy tightening measures for flexible Forex rate to address persistent pressures occasioned by scarcity and speculative demands, improving market dynamics by CBN, interventions to states in the area of salaries and in commercial agriculture.
Some of the Governors at the meeting included Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna); Ayo Fayose (Ekiti); Abubakar Bagudu (Kebbi); Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta); Abubakar Mohammed (Bauchi); Willy Obiano (Anambra); Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu); Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara); Yahaya Bello (Kogi); Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo); Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto); Badaru Abubakar (Jigawa) and Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State.
The Governors of Ogun, Rivers, Nasarawa, Katsina and Lagos were represented by their deputies.
However, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), has called on members of the Senate to trim their high allowances and curb government spending instead of calling for the sale of national assets to address the economic recession.
In a statement on Thursday, Falana said Nigeria had never benefitted from the sale of national assets in the past because they were undervalued and sold to unscrupulous politicians.
Falana said, “If the Senate genuinely desires to contribute meaningfully to the debate on the economy, it should, as a matter of urgency, propose a substantial reduction in the jumbo emoluments of federal legislators which are said to be the highest in the world.”
He recalled that the official residence of the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives were sold to Senator David Mark and Mr. Dimeji Bankole respectively at less than quarter of their true value.
The senior advocate also recalled that the Nigerian External Telecommunications building in Marina, Lagos, was sold to the father of a lawmaker for less than 10 per cent of its value.
He, therefore, wondered why the Senate would advocate for the sale of national assets.
Falana reminded the senators that since they had sworn to always put the interest of Nigerians first, the lawmakers should ensure equitable distribution of national wealth.
He argued that selling the nation’s assets to a few individuals would further impoverish the nation.
Falana added, “It is pertinent to point out that the suggestion is in total conflict with section 16 of the 1999 Constitution which has prohibited the concentration of the nation’s wealth in the hands of a few people or a group.
“Indeed, by virtue of section 44 of the constitution, the nation’s natural resources shall be held in trust for the Nigerian people by the Federal Government. One would have expected the senators who swore to protect the constitution to kick against the suggestion to sell the assets of the nation to a few people.
“But for selfish considerations, a few legislators who may be queuing up to participate in the purchase of the nation’s assets are not prepared to defend the constitution.”
Falana disagreed with the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi (II), who advocated for the sale of national assets.
He said instead of demanding that the remaining assets of the nation be sold to the beneficiaries of intervention funds and fuel subsidy, Sanusi should assist the Asset Management Company of Nigeria and anti-graft agencies to ensure the liquidation of over N5tn toxic debts and the recovery of huge funds given to banks and the private sector by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

About Editor

Otunba Sayo Akintola is a 1992 graduate of Linguistics from the University of Ibadan, Oyo State. He holds a post-graduate diploma in Financial Management and MBA from Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi. He started his 12-year sojourn in journalism at the Nigerian Tribune in 1993 as Business and Economy reporter. He rose through the ranks to become the Group Business Editor of the nation’s oldest surviving private national newspaper, the Nigerian Tribune. He set up World Street Journal magazine in 2018.

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