Sale Of National Assets: Civil Organizations, Union Berate FG

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  • Say Nigerians Dealing With A Fascist Govt …As Sale Will Erase Nation’s History
  • Challenge FG On Innovative Budget Funding Options

By ‘Dotun Akintomide

Civil society organizations and labour union leaders have decried plans by the federal government to sell off key national assets and symbols of nationhood in the country for the purpose of financing the 2018 budget deficit.

The leaders who spoke to journalists on Tuesday in Lagos said the proposed sale has not only portrayed the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari as a ‘recalcitrant’ government ‘tending towards fascism’, but has also exposed it as the one who lacks ideas to drive salient economic initiatives.

According to Deputy National Director, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Akinbode Oluwafemi, “it’s rather unfortunate that the government is planning to sell off our national symbols.

“How on earth can a government decide to sell a place like TBS where the nation derived its nationhood or an iconic monument like the National Theatre?”

The plan has been drawing barrage of criticisms since last month when the Director General of Budget Office, Ben Akabueze told the House of Representatives Joint Committees on 2018-2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF)/ Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) that the government will embark on the sale to generate revenue for the funding of N2.005 trillion deficit in the yet to be passed 2018 appropriation bill.

Key monumental assets to be sold are the National Theater and Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) all in Lagos.

Other assets slated for sale include the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPPs) as well as some listed items in the mines and steel sector.

L-R: Achike Chude of Joint Action Front, Akinbode Oluwafemi of ERA, Comrade Benjamin Anthony and Leke Zambuk – both of Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) at a press briefing in Lagos.

“The Nigerian politicians are so crafty that they tactically buried several organizations over the years so as to later make the public see reasons why they must support their privatization ideology.

“We are not going to allow them sell TBS and assets like National Theatre because if they succeed doing that, all the history of this nation would have become erased,” said the national Chairman, Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), Benjamin Anthony.

While kicking against the decision, Leke Zambuk of AUPCTRE challenged the Buhari’s administration to explain to the populace what it intends doing with the internally generated revenue declared by the FIRS to have reached N3.3trn, (38% of the N8.612trn proposed budget) and above the N2.005trn projected deficit.

“With the rise in oil prices at $60 (per barrel) and the OPEC cut for Nigeria, what’s the need for any asset sale again? How about the N3.3trn internally generated revenue by the government?

“If government sells off TBS and others to finance 2018 budget, what would they sell to finance 2019 budget? The lagoon or sand dunes in the North West part of the country?” He demanded.

Speaking further, Zambuk also expressed his displeasure over the proposed sale of NIPPs, saying “tell me the reason why the government will be building NIPPs, only to sell them off to themselves.

“If those who claimed to have come to save us are perpetuating this in office, it means anyone who wants to go to government in 2019 will be doing so to buy and sell.”

“Just imagine London selling off its national museum or America selling off its monumental assets.”

On the plan to fund the 2018 budget deficit with proceeds from the assets’ sale, Achike Chude of the Joint Action Front (JAF) wants government to take itself to task on sundry innovative ways of funding budget deficit rather than embarking on the sale of citizens’ joint patrimony.

“The nation has been having budget deficit for the past 25 years and nothing has been done about it, except the recent announcement to sell these national assets” to finance it.

“Now the people have learnt from the privatization experience of the Nigerian Airways, Daily Times among others national assets, so Nigerians know these are all schemings from the top.”

“Despite the powers they have got, they remain the architects of their own downfall through mal-administration and corruption,” Chude stated.

“Nigerians have never had it this bad before, I believe they want to sell the assets to themselves

“The government is highly recalcitrant, tending towards tyranny and fascism,” said Ayodele Akere of Labour, Health and Human Rights, Development Centre (LHAHRDEV)

Akere added that the facts must be revealed to the Nigerian people with proper organization coming from civil societies and labour unions to mobilize the populace against the assets’ sale by the federal government.

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