Civil society and labour groups have risen with one voice calling for a halt to the planned sale of historical national assets by the federal government. The government through Mr. Ben Akabueze of the budget office had hinted that the sale of the national assets, including the National Theatre and Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos, was to fund the 2018 budget.
The convergence of groups that met in Lagos earlier this week said they would resist the move and called on Nigerians to say no to the plans. The groups, including Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Service Employees (AUPCTRE), Centre for Social Change and Citizenship Education (CENSOCHANGE) and Joint Action Front (JAF), made this known at a press conference anchored by the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) in Lagos.
Deputy executive director of ERA/FoEN, Akinbode Oluwafemi, queried the sale of the national monuments, questioning what would happen when government has no more assets to sell.
In his words: “After selling the national assets, what else? Probably they would resort to selling citizens to finance budgets,” he said.
According to him, even America, the capital of capitalism, cultural national assets and monuments are still preserved.
The national president of AUPCTRE, Benjamin Anthony, said the union is against the sale of Nigeria’s national assets, pointing out that if the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) generated over N1 trillion in 10 months as reported and with the revenue from crude oil, selling the assets to fund the budget was unnacceptable.
Anthony insisted that, corruption was at the root of the plans.
In the same vein, National secretary-general of AUPCTRE, Yusuf Zambuk, said that with all the resources in Nigeria, human and material, how could a government not generate enough money to fund budget?
“If you have serious set of people in government, would they leave the old Federal Secretariat in Ikoyi to be rotting away?” he asked. “That can be converted to a hotel and generate capital therefrom.”
Capitalism, he added, is about borrowing from banks to produce goods and make profit; “it is not about selling national assets.”
Achike Chude of JAF, a coalition of about 25 CSOs, said the Nigerian government is peopled by a rapacious set with no interest other than theirs.
He lamented that “they have continued borrowing to finance budget deficit for over 25 years”, adding that it is not sustainable.
Describing government’s privatisation policy as assets stripping, he noted that “we have been complacent for over issues like this for too long. We need to properly mobilise because we believe we will win this war.”
The pioneer chairman of AUPCTRE, Lagos chapter, Ayodele Akele, commended AUPCTRE, adding: “I am stigmatised across governments and I don’t have any apology for that.”
Akele vowed to mobilise as many groups as he could to join AUCPTRE in the agitation to stop the sale of national assets if the government failed to rescind the plans.
“We will never accept this scam”, he stressed.