Confab: Delegates fault privatisation exercise

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The privatisation exercise in the country came scrutiny as delegates at the ongoing National Conference on Friday faulted the entire exercise being carried out by the federal government.
stated that the processes were not transparent as well as lacking the appropriate legal framework that backs the deals.
Delegates in proffering amendments to the report of the Committee on Economy, Trade and Investment, argued that the haste with which the privatisation exercise being carried out, accounts for the failure the entire process had witnessed.
According to the committee report, the, “privatisation of existing refineries for greater efficiency and accountability and the proceeds of all privatisation exercise should be reinvested in identifiable and sustainable infrastructural projects”.
However, Magdalene Dura, a delegate from Benue State, in her submission said, the appropriate law for privatisation is non-existent in Nigeria. “We do not have the legal framework for privatisation in Nigeria, we are always putting the cart before the horse. There is no enabling law to allow us to privatise, what was used was the National Council of Privatisation and some aspects of the Bureau for Public Enterprise Act, she said.
The delegate proffered a solution, saying,  “We need to have a legal framework for privatisation, which would have all the legal provisions to protect and provide all the conditions that a company needs to meet before privatisation.
“One of the key conditions is the capacity to deliver. And that has been proven not to carry out by groups or that have bought holdings. In this wise, we need to call on the government to review the entire privatisation exercise and where any group is seen not to have met the conditions then the whole exercise should be revisited and investigated,” she said.
Speaking with newsmen thereafter, Terseer Tsumba, a delegate on the platform of the former Speakers Forum, said the real intention of government in privatising its holdings had been defeated as the buyers of these companies or government holdings have rather ruined the companies.
“Benue Cement Company when it was ran by the federal government, state and individuals who bought shares of the company, the entire staff of the company were Nigerians. And anybody around that area knew that the economy of the Benue people depended on that company.
“The people there said they did not know then that government existed, as they were satisfied with what they were getting albeit sufficiently from their work at the company. People didn’t even know there was a government in Makurdi.
“But now that it has been privatised to the richest person in Africa, the situation is different, some of the staff that were laid off are even dead. Now there is abject poverty in the place, 90 per cent of the trailers that lift cement from the factory to customers are owned by Dangote, these trucks park on both sides of the road, this has caused many accidents, claimed many lives and there is no garage for them. The economy has completely collapsed.
“All the trucks that do business there are owned by the company owner, the local transporters who hitherto had a means of livelihood and were doing well now live in penury just because the amount of money these people should pay is huge and they cannot afford it.
So this is the ill of privatisation, because the amount of money being demanded before anybody can become a transporter is huge. This has completely destroyed the economy of the locals, and worse there are Asians that are working in the factory, depriving those who should have been gainfully employed of the opportunity. The local content is completely violated,” Tsumba said.
Another delegate, Princess Rabi Ibrahim, a delegate on the platform of the National Council of Women Societies said the privatisation exercise as carried out in Nigeria does not reflect transparency nor accountability as most of the institutions are being undervalued,
Using the Nigeria Insurance Corporation of Nigeria (NICON) as a case study, she said ” NICON used to be the toast of Nigerians, it was an institution that was feeding millions of Nigerians with assets in every part of Nigeria, all thriving well. But today it has been privatised with the intention of making it better.
“But unfortunately most of the affiliated companies are not doing any better, the dependency on the company for survival by many Nigerians as it were has dropped drastically. So privatisation is not in our interest,” she said.
Others that spoke said that the lack of transparency in the whole process had marred the good intention that comes with it, as most of the institutions hitherto owned by the federal government but sold to private individuals have rather collapsed. (Thisday)