By Udeme Clement
The calls for sale of national assets from the Senate President, ex-governor of the Central bank of Nigeria and other economists have sparked controversy in the country.

While some people said the Federal Government can sell Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), the refineries and other assets, in order to inject more money into the economy, others stressed that sale of the nation’s assets is not the solution to worsening economic recession facing Nigeria. The managing director and chief executive officer, Bascon Nigeria Limited, Mr. Bassey James a popular entrepreneur and National President, Southern Youth Development Forum, advises President Muhammadu Buhari on ways to manage economic recession.

Government is considering concessioning of some airports in the country, sale of NLNG and other national assets. Can sale of national assets get Nigeria out of the current economic recession?

When it comes to sale of nation assets, I will advise the government to tread with caution. I disagree with the sale of national assets because these assets are very important to the country. These assets we have as a country must be cherished.  There are other measures we can use to boost the economy. The assets we sold in the past, what did we use the money for? NLNG is among the biggest assets we have and it is very viable because it has to do with gas.  When there is economic recession, prices of goods collapse, so how much are we going to realise from such sale that will turn the economy around? I do not want a situation where the sale will go to few people without favouring the entire country and young entrepreneurs.

With the present economic crisis, government has to increase income flow by injecting more money into the economy. Don’t you think asset like the national theatre can be sold off?

There are other measures we can use to revamp the economy aside from selling national assets. We must look for other areas where we have competitive advantage like investment in agriculture, entrepreneurship, manufacturing and industrial production as measures we can use to rejuvenate the economy, instead of selling our national assets.

The President has said that the economy will bounce back, let us support him through investments in non-oil export sectors. We should look at export activities to earn foreign exchange, rather than depending on importation of almost all the goods we consume locally.

 Now many financial experts are saying that the CBN should reduce interest rate and inject liquidity into the financial system, while others warned that additional liquidity may further weaken the local currency. What is your take on this?

In tackling recession, it is important to ensure policy consistency in the system. So, the monetary authority must take cognisance of rising rate of inflation, which is about 16.5percent. It is only when we have policy consistency that we can restore the confidence of investors in our economy. Monetary policy instruments can be used as short term measures to boost economic growth. However, there must be effective coordination of monetary and fiscal policies to ensure stability in the system. This is paramount because monetary policies alone cannot guarantee sustainable growth.

For example, the economy is experiencing high inflation and low productivity, so the commercial banks should be willing to lend to manufacturers and entrepreneurs to boost economic activities across the country. Lending to entrepreneurs will add value to the economy and create jobs for the citizens, rather than giving out money for importation of goods that can be manufactured locally.

There must be clear monetary policies in place to crash high interest from banks and to ensure easy access to credit facility. Right now, many banks are not giving loans to entrepreneurs as well as operators of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). The few banks willing to lend to entrepreneurs give very stringent conditions for obtaining loans, which is not helping the economy.  So, the right thing is for banks to lend to entrepreneurs and manufacturers.

At this point, we should also talk about capacity building to address the challenge of capacity deficit in the system. Capacity building can enhance entrepreneurial development as a way of resuscitating the economy.  The interesting thing is that Buhari made a good choice in appointing the managing director of NDDC, because the current managing director understands a lot about youth development and entrepreneurship.

Some people are also calling on the President to reduce his cabinet as a way of managing recession. Do you agree with this?

The cabinet is not the problem. Let us come together and brainstorm on how to revive our economy through an economic conference. This is the time for us to come together to talk about the situation we are in and ways we can get out of the recession. We can do this through a national economic forum where experts can deliberate on how to diversify the economy into agriculture and manufacturing to boost export. That is why we are putting together what is called the ‘National Youth Impact Conference’, which will soon take place.

What is the significance of this conference and what do you want to achieve at the end?

With the present economic situation, it is imperative for youths from all ethnic groups in the country to unit, support economic growth and sustainable development.  The conference will enable entrepreneurs across the country to have a common platform to discuss ways we can support the President to move the economy forward. It will also provide a good platform for youths and young entrepreneurs to discuss how our energy can be channelled into economic activities, rather than destruction of public goods and national assets in our economic environment.  The youths who are the leaders of tomorrow have a crucial role to play in nation’s building and national development. We must also realise that national unity is paramount to economic growth and development.

Nigeria is the only country we can call our own, therefore, the youths must rise to support the President in his efforts to make positive changes in the country. National unity will promote economic growth, sustainable development and stability in various sectors. The conference will be held in strategic places like Kaduna to cover the north,

Abuja for entrepreneurs within the federal capital territory, Lagos to cover the South West and Enugu to cover the East. It will be a tool for national unity among our young entrepreneurs from different parts of the country. The youths must realise that carrying arms will not do us any good as a nation. We should promote national development irrespective of our ethnic background, religious organisation and political affiliation.

Our refineries are not working, don’t you think government can sell such plants to generate revenue and invest in other sectors?

We can allow private investors to manage and turn around the plants. This will reduce the pressure on getting forex for importation of petroleum products. Going forward, there must be a development plan in place to allow policy consistency for sustainable growth. We can follow the example of Malaysia, China and other advanced countries in promoting manufacturing as well as industrialisation to curtail excessive importation of goods into the country.


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