The Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, on Friday, said the Federal Government’s planned sale of public assets will benefit Nigerians and help to boost the economy.
In an appearance on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, Mrs Ahmed, who is also the Minister of Budget and National Planning, said some government assets are currently moribund and provide little or no value to Nigerians in their current state.
“There are some government assets that are dead that can be sold to the private sector to be reactivated and put to use for the benefit of Nigerians,” the Minister said.
“So we are looking at different – and I am a member of the National Council on Privatisation – we are looking at different categories of government assets that government has not been able to manage, that are lying down and in some cases even completely rundown, to cede them off to the private sector.
On January 12, Mrs Ahmed had revealed the government’s plan to sell public assets to partly finance the N13.58 trillion 2021 budget.
On Friday, Mrs Ahmed stressed that the “intention is not just funding the budget, it is to reactivate these assets and hand it over and have them bring contributions to the growth in the economy.”
She added that the Bureau of Public Enterprises will begin to coordinate with other arms of government on the asset sales in the first quarter of the year.
” . . . in the last week of December, we had a meeting of the National Council on Privatisation where we approved the annual work plan, the 2021 work plan, for that Bureau of Public Enterprises,” she said.
“And I guess it is in this first quarter that the BPE will now be engaging the Senate committee and other committees they work with to say this is our work plan for the year.”
In a statement on Sunday, civil society group SERAP had asked the National Assembly to stop the federal government from selling public assets to fund the 2021 budget.
The group said the government should, instead, look to identify areas in the budget to cut, such as salaries and allowances for public officials.
On Monday, Osun State Lawmaker had defended the federal government’s plan to sell public assets to fund the budgets.
“The issue of the sale of assets is not new,” he said during an appearance on Channels Television’s Politics Today.
“Even in the previous budgets, there have always been other sources of revenue and the sales of assets is one of such.”
But he stressed that the government must be transparent throughout the process.
“ . . . the critical issue we need to look at, is ‘What assets are we selling?’ Some assets are already liabilities, so what are we keeping them for? That is my humble opinion,” the lawmaker added. “You have to tell us which assets we are looking at.”
A deficit budget
President Muhammadu Buhari signed the 2021 budget into law in late December after it had been passed by the National Assembly.
About one-third of the budget is devoted to capital expenditure but critics maintain the government hasn’t done enough to curb unnecessary spending, especially around cuts in salaries and allowances for public officials.
With oil revenues still affected by the pandemic, the government has said it will borrow N5.6 trillion from domestic and foreign lenders to fund the budget.
The sale of moribund assets is expected to provide additional funding.
The National Arts Theatre and the Tafawa Balewa Square are some assets that could be put up for sale by the government.