Should National Assets Be Sold?

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The debate on whether or not
government should sell the national assets of the country has continued to generate interest. Our correspondent, Calista Ezeaku went to town to guage the pulse of Nigerians on the issue. Our photographer, Nuieh Donatus Ken, captured their images, Mr. Samuel Ikoya – Retiree
No, they should not be sold. They should be kept so that younger generations will benefit from them. We all know the economic problems the country is facing right now. There is no job, the youth are suffering and if they sell these assets especially LNG and NNPC, the situation will worsen because the new owners of these companies might lay off some workers. Even if they decide to employ it will not be like that of government.
I totally disagree with the reasons given by certain top government functionaries and Niko Dangote that the sale of these assets will help government raise money to finance the 2016 budget. Government should find other ways of coming out of the present economic recession instead of selling these assets which are our national heritage.
Mr. Ben Innocent – Public Servant
I’m not all that comfortable with the idea. However, due to the current economic circumstances in the country, they can sell some and remain same. They can give away some percentage, and retain some. I believe selling some of these assets will help us come out of the present economic quagmire.

Mr. John Ogbonnaya – Public Servant.
Well, if you watch what has been happening in Nigeria, when they privatized NEPA and other public companies we read in the dailies that many of the people who bought these assets did not complete their payment. They only made a little payment.
Now, what is the guarantee that the sale of these national assets will not go the way the previous privatization exercises went? Who are the people to buy these assets? They will still be Atiku, Buhari, Dangote and all the people in the bourgeonisie class.
In the end they will not pay anything. So you see that they are trying to enrich themselves.
So I am against the selling of these assets. If the country is lacking money, all these people are billionaires, why can’t they bail the country out? Each one of them has billions of Naira or even dollars in their accounts, if they so love this country, they should sacrifice some of these billions to enable the country come out of the current economic problem. They can lend the country some money, to be paid back when the economy bounces back.
So I insist that the selling of these assets is not the best. The previous privatization exercise did not profit the masses neither will the sale of these assets. Only the people in authority will benefit. Our past leaders should bail us out afterall they were the ones that stole all the money in these companies that are today termed ‘not viable”.
Mr. Kingsley Iwuagwu- Businessman
To me, these assets should not be sold because we did not benefit from such previous exercises. If they want to sell these assets now, they will share them among themselves, at the end of the day, we will still continue to suffer as we are suffering now.
I think government should revitalise these companies so that they will become viable again. By the time they start doing well, everybody will benefit. Yes, we are facing some economic problems but it is still possible to revitalize these companies. The little money we are getting should be able to put the refinery in order, should be able to make these companies to be more productive.
If they sell these companies to individuals, those individuals will pump money in them to revive them. If individuals can source for money to do that, why can’t a nation like Nigeria do that?
So, in my opinion, those assets should remain for Nigerians and not the leaders because if they are selling them, they will sell them to themselves.
NEPA was sold to themselves. During the previous privatisation exercise, Atiku and others bought so many of companies. So, selling the national assets, means selling them to those in government. Politicians will still buy them.
Yes Indorama was sold and today it is doing well, but I still believe that if they get capable hands to manage these companies they will still do well.
Indorama is being managed by human beings. If they get that kind of management to run these national assets, assets that are no longer productive like the national theatre can be sold but not NLNG, NNPC or any viable company, because for now we are still benefiting from them. And I believe we still have more to gain from NNPC and NLNG.
Mr. Olakekan Ige – Journalist
I am totally in support of the sale of national assets, especially those that are not performing. The basic question we should ask ourselves is these national assets to what level are they performing at the moment? Are they doing well? Are they contributing maximally to the common purse of the country? Is the government a good manager of resources not just in Nigeria but everywhere else? Now, if you look at NLNG, the Federal Government of Nigeria does not own NLNG. The Federal Government of Nigeria owns just 49% of the NLNG, while the International Oil Companies (IOC) own 51%. So technically speaking, the federal government of Nigeria does not own the NLNG. A lot of people have argued why government should sell the NLNG when it is performing very well. Now the question is, is it the federal government of Nigeria that is running the NLNG? The answer is no. The last three managers of the NLNG have come from Shell Petroleum Development Company.
So from 1989 when NLNG exported its first gas, all the Managing Directors have not come from the federal government.
So I’m not saying the Federal Government should sell her entire 49% shares in the NLNG. I’m not saying the government should even sell its shares in NLNG. My argument is that we already have a model that is working in NLNG, the model of public, private partnership. We don’t bring that same model to run the refineries. Let the federal government sell off 51% of its shares in refineries, quantify what is the value of the share holding in the refineries, then off load 51%. If we are happy that NLNG is successful, then let’s copy that model to the refineries.
The truth is this; Dangote is building refinery in Lagos which is expected to come on stream by 2019. If Dangote refinery comes on stream in 2019 and it is able to meet about 40% demand of local consumption of petroleum product in Nigeria, that will be the beginning of the end of all the refineries in Nigeria. The facts are there for us to compare.
Check what happened in the telecommunications sector. Since we liberalised the telecommunications sector what has become of NITEL? Go to every state in Nigeria and see how the asset of NITEL are roting away. We could have sold NITEL when it was still valuable. Look at the Nigerian Airways. Go to all the state capitals and see how the assets of the Nigerian Airways are roting away. We have several assets like that scattered all over the country. The Ajaokuta Steel Company, the Alumunion Smelter Company in Ikot Abasi and a whole lot more. The assets are not performing but emosions wouldn’t allow us off load them.
I’ve heard people say that the assets sold previously are not performing and I want to disagree with that. I can give you several examples of federal government’s assets that were sold and are performing. Apart from the telecommunication, the Eleme Petrochemical was sold to Indorama. Today it is performing absolutely well. The federal government owned NAFCON. I hope you know that NAFCON owed its workers for months. Today NAFCON is performing absolutely well because it has been sold to Notore and Notore is one of the largest producer of fertilizers. The Federal Government sold its shares in Transcorp Hilton, today Transcorp Hilton in Abuja is performing very well. The Apapa Port is the largest container terminal in West Africa, we sold it off to a foreign firm AP Molar from Demmark. Today, by selling that Port the rate of turnover of containers, Cargo clearing has improved tremendously because they brought in efficiency, profitability and serious minded management. Today, Nigeria makes millions of dollars from the port. When the federal government was handling the Apapa Port what were they generating? Fraud, corruption was the order of the day.
Another typical example of where I think the Federal Government should also sell part of its share is our airport. A recent survey rated Nigerian Airports as the worst in the world. Is that a good record for Nigeria? Go to Port Harcourt airport. Even the completed part of it does not look like an airport.
Some of us have been privileged to travel abroad and when you arrive the airport of those countries, whether local or international, you are happy. Let us concession these airports. A Nigerian own Gatwick Airport, the second busiest airport in the United Kingdom. He bought it in 2009 for 1.5 billion pounds.
So if the British Airport Authority was willing to sell Gatwrick airport, it means they are seeing something we are not seeing. It means that they believe that if these things are in the hands of private investors, they will run more efficiently, they will be able to capture taxation more appropriately. It will probably even offer more employment. The busiest airport in the United Kingdom is the Heathrow Airport. This airport is not owned by British government. It is owned by a combination of Spanish, Canadian, Chinese, Singaporian and British investors.
Heathrow airport alone employs close to 15,000 workers and it is efficiently managed. There was a time there was no power at the Lagos airport for nearly one hour.
The only airport that is well run and well managed in Nigeria today is the one in the hands of a private investor which is the MM11 in Lagos. And everybody agrees that it functions well because it is managed by a Nigeria but in private hands.
So why don’t we apply the NLNG model at the airports. So we have numerous examples, I don’t want to believe this idea that Nigerians cannot manage things by themselves. We are not doomed. We are blessed by God. We have Nigerians who are running very successful companies in Nigeria -Dangote, Jim Ovia, Mike Adenuga and many others.
Let us look at the companies that are well run in Nigeria. Can you just give me one example of government owned institution that is functioning well in Nigeria, from education to health to transport sector. Government owning businesses brings wastages and corruption.
What is driving the 21st century economy is not owning asset. It is idea, it is knowledge. So it means that it is incumbent upon the Federal Government of Nigeria to invest in the education of Nigerians. There are many sectors yet to be tapped-entertainment which includes sports, tourism. It’s high time we have government that can think of the future.