THE Muhammadu Buhari administration is set to dispose of no less than 36 federal properties. The main purpose of this is to raise funds between January and November this year to finance the N13.58 trillion 2021 federal budget.
The imminent sales, private/public partnership, PPP, arrangements, concessions and shares/splitting will cover areas such as communications, infrastructure, energy, industries and others. It is obvious that some (if not all) of our moribund refineries might be sold, contrary to the campaign promises of the All Progressives Congress, APC. This entails embracing Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s openly declared template to reduce the cost of governance and inefficient governance.
One of the advantages of this exercise, as hinted above, is that it will reduce the size of the self-imposed institutional heavy load the Federal Government is carrying. The Federal Government will no longer have to shoulder the salaries and annual overheads of these institutions. Also, some of them will be better managed by the private sector.
This seems a re-enactment of the privatisation and commercialisation programme of the General Ibrahim Babangida military government which unburdened government of the heavily corrupt and inefficient communications and other sectors. As a strong supporter of the reduction in the size of government, we believe this exercise could be a positive way forward.
We are, however, worried, for several reasons. This disposal of Federal Government assets does not appear a visionary regime’s economic strategy to achieve any other objective except merely to raise money to finance the 2021 budget. It is more like a panicky last resort measure to cope with the heavy shortfalls in federal revenue. It is a budget-support measure, as the humongous local and foreign borrowings by the Buhari regime have reached the saturation point.
The question is: What else can we sell to finance 2022 and subsequent budgets?
Another major point of worry is the transparency and sense of equity that will be deployed. The Buhari administration, from Day One, declared its intention to favour the parts of the country that gave him votes and marginalise those which did not. It has been assiduously implementing this unacceptable policy in terms of appointments and distribution of the spoils of power.
What guarantees do we have that the imminent sales of federal property will not go the same way, thus putting our commonwealth in the hands of a privileged few from a favoured section of the country? We are also worried about the labour implications of these sales. We hope the Federal Government has sat down with Organised Labour over this.
The National Assembly and the Federal Character Commission, FCC, ought to ensure equity in the disposal of these federal assets. The big question is: Will they rise to the occasion?