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Arewa chieftains differ on sale of national assets

By Saxone Akhaine, Northern Bureau Chief   |   05 October 2016   |   4:08 am

Some Arewa leaders have argued over calls for the sale of national assets to bail the economy out of current recession.

Former National Publicity Secretary of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Anthony Sani, said those advocating the sale haven’t forgotten that the country sold assets under the guise of privatisation “but Nigerians did not benefit from it, either by way of positive use of the proceeds or good management by the new owners.”

He said any decision by government to privatise or embark on outright sale of the assets might be counter-productive. “No need to sell national assets. Our problem is paucity of foreign exchange. But with patience, disciplined management practices, and foregoing of today’s comfort for the good of tomorrow, the economy will pick up,” said Sani.

Another Arewa leader and People Democratic Party chieftain, Alhaji Idris Shuaibu Mikati, however, said privatisation and sale of public assets would profit the nation, if funds from proceeds were used for national development.

“Government, ‎companies or individuals faced with cash crunch turn over to their assets to raise cash to meet immediate needs and possibly either cover in full or partially existing financial requirements. The idea of buying assets is a means of saving. And when in need, you turn to your assets, either to sell or mortgage, to raise cash. Privatisation, as we view it, however, has to be done with some level of care, caution and patriotism.”

Mikati said: “In the late 1980s, the Bretton Woods Institution sold the gimmick that government has no business in business. All developing countries facing financial difficulties were thus urged to sell their assets to raise needed cash and pay off debts. Many countries including Nigeria took the advice and sold strategic national assets. Sadly, the assets sold were the very ones that were yielding fruits. The assets that were constituted as drain pipes were not touched.”

He added: “In quite a number of instances, what took place was private treaty and not privatisation. There was absence of transparency. Government was thus short-changed and the goal of the exercise was never achieved. The drainpipes continued to drain government resources, while the choice assets were sold to a few at peanuts. Meanwhile in other climates such as Singapore, China and even the U.S. and U.K., indeed most European countries, government businesses were doing extremely well.”

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