By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA- Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, on Tuesday signed the instrument for the sale of 21 percent of the federal government’s interest in the Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Company, NSPMC.
The instrument, which was signed by the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, and the Director-General of the BPE, Alex Okoh, transferred 12.4 billion federal government shares in the NSPMC to the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Speaking at the ceremony, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who is the Chairman of the National Council on Privatization, NCP, said the idea behind divesting 21 percent public interest in the NSPMC was to bring synergies that could come from public and private sector coming together, especially in complex projects that require cutting-edge technology.
According to him, “Security printing has taken new dimensions; it is no longer what it used to be. As a matter of fact, there are those who think that today there is more of technology than merely security printing.
“If you look at some of the cards that are being printed today, that in the chips are not just security they are actually technological assets.
“So, there are new assets and there new dimensions and there are new ideas and it’s just the private sector that can really be at the cutting edge of technology and innovation.”
The Vice President said over 140 publicly-owned companies have been privatized in the past 30 years, explaining that government’s divestment of its interest in the companies was to bring in the needed expertise to run them.
He said, “Government should stick to its regulatory role and its incentivizing role and allow the private sector to do business, allow the private sector to take the risk where possible.”
He said the CBN and its technical partner, De La Rue, who is the private company in the deal, would bring in the innovative edge in the NSPMC.
In his remarks, the CBN governor, Emefiele, said the NSPMC is an asset with the capacity to produce currency for not just Nigeria but also for the West African region, also to produce sensitive security documents for government and for private companies.
He said, “The capacity of the mint has increased and expanded and it now produces all the currency that is needed in the country. The mint capacity has been expanded to where it has idle capacity that can produce for other ECOWAS countries.
“We intend to embark on aggressive marketing to see to it that it not only produces for itself but also produces for other important stakeholders that may require its services in the area of currency printing.
“In the area of security document, we are working assiduously given the fact that the mint was in the past producing passports and produced visas and other very sensitive security documents.
“Our next phase is to see to it that the NSPMC eventually begins the printing of the digital Nigerian passport.”
Speaking earlier, the Director-General, BPE, Mr Alex Okoh, stated that CBN’s strategic investment in the company was a success, achieving its objective of turning around the fortunes of the company and returning it to profitability.
He said there were indications of the progress recorded by NSPMC under the strategic engagement of CBN, adding that the Federal Government was handing over to CBN a company with tremendous potential to achieve significant growth.
He said, “Following the expiration of the strategic investment period, the CBN indicated its strong intention to acquire the company on an arm’s length basis, noting the sensitive nature of the security printing and minting services rendered by the company which include immigration and electoral materials.
“Accordingly, after a careful consideration of the pertinent issues, the Bureau made a proposal to the NCP to formalize the sale of 21 per cent of the Federal Government’s interest in the company to the CBN whilst government would retain an equity holding of 10.1 per cent.
Okoh said that the transaction would contribute a net sum of over N17 billion to the treasury.