•Selling of national assets not acceptable
By: Luka Binniyat
Professor Ango Abdhullahi, Spokesman of Northern Elders’ Forum, NEF, has scoffed at the proposed sale of national assets as a way out of Nigeria economic recession. The former Presidential Adviser on Agriculture and Food Security, argued that only the laying off of 50% of the Nigeria public service workforce or the reduction of its recurrent cost by 50% or both would set Nigeria free from its present grim economic situation.
Speaking to Saturday Vanguard in Kaduna, former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria, said that the 2016 budget with 70% for recurrent expenditure and only 30% for capital expenditure contributed to the economic recession.
He said: “The Present recession was hinged on the fact that 2016 budget was pegged at N6 trillion with recurrent taking N4 trillion, while N2 trillion is set aside for capital project.
“Nigeria is a poor country and it is consumption based. We import and consume and we hardly produce.
“Yet we have a very unproductive workforce. Nigeria workforce is not the productive type, but it takes a good chunk of the budget every year.
“This year, they said that of the N6 trillion appropriated, only N2 trillion will be generated. The rest N4 trillion would have to be sought from somewhere else. And now we are in a recession. So, I will suggest two ways from which we can get out of recession. We must cut down unproductive spending.
“And I am suggesting two ways in which we can do this and they are simple. The first one will not be socially and politically good. I will advise we go for the second one.
“The first one is that we have to reduce the workforce by 50%. We are talking of a large unproductive workforce with a minimum wage of N18,000 per month both at the Federal, State and Local Government levels. But, I know that it will be difficult to achieve that one.
“The second one is that we can cut salary and allowances of the workforce by 50%. Nigeria has become poor, so we have to consume less.
“What kind of workforce do we have that cannot produce 5000Mw of electricity, that cannot fix broken schools, roads etc?
“The idea of the National Economic Council, NEC, that our national assets should be disposed of is bad and unacceptable. Their argument cannot fly. Look at NEPA. It is a public company that is over 100 years old. It was sold to the same people who vandalised the economy and made it not to work. Is NEPA any better today?
“They have stolen enough dollars and rubbished the Naira. In short time, the Naira has been devalued by over 200%. These are people who have stashed away dollars. They want Nigeria’s assets to be sold to them as scraps. NEC is not serious.
“If Government is serious about the economy, the best sector to give attention is agriculture. Agriculture alone makes 40% of our GDP. But this year, only 1.2% of the budget was committed to agriculture.
“Agriculture is the solution to our economy not oil. From 1914 to 1974 everything this country got to develop the oil sector was from agriculture. They are not serious about diversifying the economy. They are only interested in a bloated budget.
“Today Nigeria is broke. As I have said, the recurrent should be cut down. Labour, Federal Government, the National Assembly and all relevant sectors should dialogue over this. Our National assets must never be sold.
“It is unfortunate that all the campaign promises made by this government are not being kept. They told us during their campaigns, ‘Nigeria is an oil producing country why should we buy fuel for N87 per litre? When you vote us to power, we shall sell fuel for N55per litre. Today Fuel is officially N145 per litre.’
“In place of a strong Naira, within weeks the Naira went from N197 to a dollar to about N420. And they are the ones who had the money to mop up the dollar. Now, they want to sell our collective heritage so that they can come out with their dollars and buy. That is unacceptable.”