N ot too long ago, the Federal Government (FG) announced its plans to sell off some of the country’s assets. Some of those mentioned included some power plants, the National Arts Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos and the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) also in Lagos. The Minister of Budget, Finance and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, who announced this, remarked that the sale of the national assets was to enable the FG fund this year’s budget.
This was the third time that Mrs Ahmed would be attracting profound attention. New Telegraph recalls that the first was her rationalisation of the purchase of high-profile vehicles for the Republic of Niger by the FG when Africa’s most populous nation was confronted with a multiplicity of challenges. The second was her announcement that Nigeria needed to borrow over N11 trillion, despite her embarrassing huge debt profile. On the three occasions, the FG attracted overwhelming opprobrium to herself for what, at best, could be described as thoughtlessness and rascality in governance.
It is astonishing that the same administration which claims to be passionately committed to the construction of capital projects so that Nigeria would take a giant leap with regard to the acquisition of improved infrastructures can turn around to sell some national assets in order to fund the 2023 Budget.
The sale of some national assets may give Nigerian access to funds to execute part of the Appropriation Bill. But such revenue inflow would be transient and could amount to a pyrrhic victory. Since noncreative and in effective and political leadership has made Nigeria to be attracted to warped policies like the sale of national assets, the country would gradually be reducing her asset base and sovereignty.
The dignity of a country is tied to the quantity and quality of her assets. The liquidation of the national assets through concessioning or sales deprives a nation of such respect and makes it difficult for her to be less-vibrant at the domestic scene let alone in the field of international relations. If this administration goes ahead to sell some national assets, she might inadvertently embolden a succeeding administration to take such an economically- retrogressive path.
The assets that would eventually be sold and paid for will be considered permanently lost to the eventual buyers. No country can afford to deprive herself of assets. Through some assets, a country is able to provide some essential services to her citizens at pocket-friendly rates con-trary to the profit maximisation associated with private entrepreneurs.
For the fact that the citizens of a country are happy, national security is enhanced, as the populace makes limitless sacrifices for the continued economic prosperity of the fatherland. Private entrepreneurs, no matter how philanthropically minded, would not love enough to shut their eyes over profit-maximisation. A government could, for it is like a father. Private entrepreneurs cannot and can never, for they are in business for profitmaximisation.
We wish to state that some assets are decidedly historic or monumental to the extent that the sale of such assets amounts to a liquidation of a country’s heritage. The Trade Fair Complex, National Arts Theatre and Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) all in Lagos fall into this classification.
The Trade Fair Complex is the venue of the nation’s top trade fair – the Lagos International Trade Fair, while the National Arts Theatre was the venue of the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture in 1977 commonly referred to as FESTAC 77.
The National Arts Theatre has continued to host many high-profile events till date. The TBS, then known as the Race Course, was the place where the Union Jack, the national flag of Britain, was lowered for the last time on September 30, 1960 for the hoisting of the green-white-green flag of Nigeria. It was also at the TBS that the instrument of sovereignty was handed over to Nigeria the following day. TBS served as the home of the National Assembly for a long time until the seat of government was moved from Lagos to Abuja on December 12, 1991. New Telegraph recalls that the penchant to sell national assets became unprecedented with the inauguration of the Fourth Republic on May 29, 1999. Rather than find creative ways of managing some public assets, such assets were pencilled down for outright sale. They included official quarters of Federal Government civil servants nationwide.
They are now made to live in far-flung locations from where they navigate through long and stressful journeys to find their ways to their offices. Productivity has become profoundly compromised. New Telegraph enjoins the National Assembly to do everything humanly possible to stop some of the policy formulations of President Muhammadu Buhari that may have catastrophic consequences like the sale of national assets. The Parliament would be able to actualise this if she stops seeing herself as an extension of the Executive Arm of Government – this is a patriotic duty that the National Assembly owes Nigerians.