The National Economic Council, which comprises Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and 36 state governors, has endorsed plans by the Federal Government to sell some national assets as part of efforts to address the current economic recession in the country.
The Senior Special Assistant to the Vice-President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande, said in a statement 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 National Economic Council 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 government also 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.
NLC, TUC, NUPENG oppose planned sales
But organised labour has warned the Federal Government to reject the recommendations to sell the country’s assets, specifically its shares in the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Company Limited and the aviation industry.
The Nigeria Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress of Nigeria and the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, in separate statements on Thursday, described the advice given by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi and Aliko Dangote as selfish and not in the national interest.
They pledged to resist any further sale or concession of national assets under the guise of fighting economic recession. The President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, said government’s investments in the LNLG and Joint Venture oil upstream operations were profitable and should be preserved for the future. Wabba said:
“It is on record that dividends, in excess of $1bn, have accrued annually to the national coffers from the gas company over the past 12 years. These calls are more worrisome when one considers the history of sovereign assets divestiture in the past. Where are the proceeds from sales of the assets in the power sector for instance?”
“With the benefit of hindsight, it is obvious that these assets were distributed to favoured individuals and surrogates of the ruling elite without any appreciable benefits to Nigerians.”
The TUC described those calling for the sale of national assets as enemies of Nigeria. The TUC President, Mr. Bala Kaigama, and the Acting Secretary-General, Mr. Simeso Amachree, said in a statement on Thursday that the suggestion for the sale of the assets was also disgraceful.
“The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria warns those calling for the sale of national shareholdings in Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Company Limited and concession of the country’s airports to drop the idea if they do not want to incur the wrath of workers. Those suggestions are disgraceful and portray them as enemies of the state,” it said.
NUPENG President, Igwe Achese, called on the Federal Government to ignore the advice and encourage foreign and local investors to set up new refineries. He reiterated that the economy could be revived through short-term, medium-term and long-term economic measures to ameliorate poverty and suffering of Nigerians.