By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief

ABUJA—Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, has attracted $7.8 billion Foreign Direct Investments, FDIs, through the sale of 53 public enterprises in the last 18 years.

Alex Okoh, BPE

The agency’s Director-General, Mr. Alex Okoh, disclosed this while briefing the press on its 2018 Work Plan and other initiatives of the bureau in Abuja yesterday.

According to him, from 1999 till date, BPE privatised, commercialised or concessioned a total of 142 public enterprises.

Okoh said with the current wide gaps in infrastructure funding and financing of socio-economic development programmes, sale of assets would be more economical than borrowing, which piles up debt.

He said:  “Besides sentiment, there is no reason to borrow to run your government. Why not release the non-performing assets from which you can realise some capital and allow the private sector to operate them in a more efficient manner?”

Okoh assured that the Aluminum Smelting Company of Nigeria, ALSCON, Ikot Abasi, Akwa Ibom State, would come on stream later this year or latest early next year.

He said:  “Government has revoked the sale to BFIG.  We have reverted to Rusal. We are in the process of conducting a Technical Audit. Rusal has submitted to the BPE what it will take for the plant to commence operation.

“Nothing should prevent the plant from going into production at the end of the year or early next year.  We are not sentimental in this regard. We believe that the best operator should be allowed to put it into operation.”

The D-G explained that the controversy on the issue of the preferred bidder had been resolved by obeying the Supreme Court judgment, which ruled that the company be given to BFIG.

He added, however, that after writing BFIG to pay 10 per cent of its $410 million bid, according to the terms of the offer, it failed, compelling BPE to revert to Rusal.

The BPE boss also announced that the Bank of Industry would soon be recapitalized and privatized, with a view to allowing the private sector to take control of its management.

Under the new structure, the federal government would hold only 40 percent equity and give out 60 percent to the private sector.

According to him, of the 60 per cent, Farmers’ Cooperatives would be given 20 per cent to give them a voice in the management of the bank.

Okoh lamented the reluctance of some Ministries Departments and Agencies of the federal government to let go of enterprises under their supervision, even when such enterprises were inefficient.

“Sentimentally, the MDAs want to hold unto these enterprises.   There is this attitude of wanting to maintain control even if these enterprises are dying under their control,’’ he said.

The D-G regretted that about 36 to 37 per cent of the 142 enterprises so far privatized, commercialized or concessioned failed to meet the objectives.

He said, however, that such failures were due to a myriad of factors , including policies of government which, in some cases frustrated the operators.

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