The Nigeria Labour Congress has said it will mobilise Nigerians for nationwide protests to resist the plan by the Federal Government to sell strategic assets under the guise of using the funds to be generated to get the country out of recession.
The President of the NLC, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, said the consequences of the proposed sale of the strategic assets would be more grievous if Nigerians did not stop the government from carrying out the policy.
He made the comment on Monday in Abuja while inaugurating a think-tank of the NLC and the Academic Staff Union of Universities, entrusted with the responsibility of leading the intellectual engagement with the Federal Government on the contentious move to sell the country’s assets.
According to him, the NLC is making preparations to battle the Federal Government in courts to prevent the planned sale of the assets, explaining that the congress had secured the services of 20 volunteer lawyers, who had offered their services to the NLC on the issue.
The members of the 10-man NLC’s ‘Think-Tank on Socio-Economic Issues’ are a former President of ASUU, Dr. Dipo Fashina; Prof. Toye Olorode, Dr. Mohammed Aliyu, Dr. Mustapha Usman and Dr. Isaac Nwogugu.
Other members of the committee are Dr. Yemisi Bamgbose, Mr. Issa Aremu, Mr. Sonny Atuma, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, and Mr. Auwal Mustapha, who is the secretary.
Wabba stated, “While it is important to rescue our country from the current economic recession, sale of our commonwealth and strategic assets is certainly not a move in the right direction, and all Nigerians must have the courage to oppose it.
“All the (national) assets are under threat depending on the interest of who is speaking; the NLNG, refineries, all the assets are presently under threat. If we work together, then we can try to defend these assets. It will take the effort of all of us to stop them.
“Nobody will buy what is not profitable. That is why people are looking in the direction of the most profitable.”
Wabba stressed that the problem with Nigeria was corruption, which had become endemic in both the private and public sectors, and not the economic model to use.
The NLC president believed that politicians, who stole so much money and had been hiding the loot, were looking for ways to buy the assets with their looted funds.
Wabba assured Nigerians that organised labour was united in the quest to preserve the nation’s strategic assets for Nigerians and future generations.
“We are sure of ourselves; this is of concern to every citizen. We should not allow the bidding of those few who don’t mean well for the country. On the issue of selling out, we are on the same page, we will do everything possible to try to work together.
“We shouldn’t be discouraged because of the fact that we envisage sabotage or an effort to undermine the struggle. In every struggle, there would be moves to sabotage such,” he added.
ACF, economists oppose sale of national assets
Meanwhile, opposition against the plan of the Federal Government to sell some national assets continued to mount on Monday as the Arewa Consultative Forum and the Nigerian Economic Society condemned the proposal, asking the Federal Government to rescind its decision to sell the assets.
The NEC stated that the decision of the government did not make economic sense in the face of the current challenges.
It faulted the argument by the government that the proceeds of the sale would be used to fund the 2016 budget, noting that the sale of the assets would further widen the level of income inequality in the country.
The President, NES, Prof. Ben Aigbokan, stated this in an interview with journalists on the forthcoming national conference of the society on Monday in Abuja.
Aigbokan described the approach being adopted by the government as “generationally irresponsible”.
The conference, scheduled to commence on Tuesday (today), has as its theme ‘‘The developmental state and diversification of the Nigerian economy’’.
The NES president added, “It is an irony that the government is planning to sell some of our national assets at this time because it is a contradiction of one of the policies of government, which is sustainable development.
“The economics of selling national assets now at a time of economic recession is very poor because we will not get a good value for these assets, because people understand that the county is in need of money.
“If you sacrifice our national assets now because we are in need of money, what do you leave for the future generations?
“So, generationally, it is irresponsible to sell these assets without subjecting the decision to a referendum because all Nigerians have a stake in them.”
Also, the ACF on Monday argued that it was needless for the Federal Government to sell off national assets to bail out Nigeria from its current economic woes.
The pan-northern socio-political organisation, through its National Publicity Secretary, Muhammadu Ibrahim, argued that the bloated allowances of public officers, which he said accounted for 40 per cent of the national budget, should be converted to capital allocation to boost the economy.
The ACF argued that selling off national assets to service the economy was completely “unwise” as such move never yielded the desired results in the past.
The statement read in part, “The growing calls by some prominent politicians and business tycoons on the Federal Government to consider the selling of strategic, viable national assets as an option to take the economy out of recession at this material time are inappropriate.
“Past privatisation did not yield the desired result in terms of judicious use of proceeds by the government or management of the assets by the new owners. Moreover, the amount to be realised is not worth the exercise.
“Government enterprises like the Nigeria Airways, Nigeria National Shipping Line, Ajaokuta Steel Company, NITEL, PHCN, etc, that were sold to selected Nigerians and their foreign collaborators in the spirit of privatisation, only succeeded in converting public enterprises to private ones, and some later became comatose. The ones that survived, their service delivery cannot be said to be better.
“ACF therefore considers it unwise for the Federal Government to contemplate the selling of our major national assets like the crude oil refineries, federal airports, NLNG, while we can use them as security against needed funds to boost the economy, as the recession is considered to be temporary.
“In addition, ACF wishes to suggest that unnecessary allowances of public officers and overhead cost that form over 40 per cent of our annual budget should be converted to capital allocation to boost the economy.
“This is the time for national sacrifice in order to bequeath an enduring legacy to the next generation. Positive change usually comes with painful necessary sacrifice.”
On its own, the National Union of Textile, Garments and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria has cautioned President Muhammadu Buhari against the sale of the nation’s assets.
A member of the National Executive Council of the NLC, Mr. Issa Aremu, in a statement in Kaduna on Monday, said Nigeria was not short of resources, arguing that the nation lacked “genuine resourceful leaders at all levels”.