The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on Monday urged the National Assembly to expeditiously pass eight privatisation sector reform Bills pending before it.
The minister made the plea at the Stakeholders Media Interactive Forum organised by the Bureau of Public Enterprises and the Stakeholders Engagement Committee of the National Council on Privatisation.
Mohammed who is the Chairman of SEC-NCP said that the reform bills drafted by BPE and approved by the Federal Executive Council had been transmitted to the National Assembly for enactment.
He said the bills centred on Transport, Competition and Consumer Protection and Postal sectors.
He said: “The bills include: The Railway Bill, The Inland Waterways Bill, The Ports and Harbour Bill, The Federal Roads Authority Bill.
“Others are: “The National Roads Fund Bill, The National Transport Commission, The Competition and Consumer Protection Bill and The Postal Bill.
“These bills, when passed, shall liberalise the relevant sectors and lead to the setting up of appropriate regulatory agencies to create the much-needed conducive and enabling environment for private sector investments.
“An expeditious passage of the reform bills and the establishment of the regulatory agencies and institutions created by the bills will greatly enhance the inflow of investment in the sectors.’’
The minister said the committee organised the interaction to get the media to buy in to the reform and privatisation programme and restore public confidence in it.
He noted that the reform process had generated mixed feelings which could only be assuaged by sharing it with the media.
He said: “The BPE, being the Secretariat of the NCP, is saddled with the huge responsibility of reaching out to all its stakeholders.
“That is why it is has become very necessary for us to do all that we can to ensure that the committee lives up to its responsibilities by ensuring that we identify and maintain contacts with various stakeholders and opinion leader.”
Going back the memory lane, the minister recalled that the policy of “Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation” after the civil war aided by oil price boom of the early 1970s, saw government building massive industrial and infrastructural facilities in the country’’.
He recalled that the initiative gave rise to a large public sector when the Federal Government invested more than 100 billion dollars in establishing public enterprises.
He said: “Despite the massive investments and great expectations, Public Enterprises has failed to live up to expectations.
“They consumed a large proportion of resources without providing commensurate services.
“More importantly, they failed to allocate their resources efficiently, even as they consumed more than three billion dollars annually, by way of grants, subsidies, import duty waivers, and tax exemptions.’’
Mohammed said that the abysmal failure of the public enterprises and the decision to halt the unsustainable drain on the treasury led to the introduction of economic reforms and privatisation by successive governments.
He said: “Privatisation in Nigeria began between 1986 and 1987 when the Federal Government created the Technical Committee on Privatisation and Commercialisation and also promulgated the Privatisation and Commercialisation Decree No. 25 of 1988.
“The TCPC privatised 89 out of the 111 enterprises slated for full or partial privatisation, offered some 1,486,722,063 shares to Nigerians from all walks of life and in the process, raised N3.2 billion as revenue for the government.”
The minister noted that at the moment, the programme consisted of reforms and privatisation in various sectors of the economy.
The sectors, according to him, included Telecommunications, Development Finance Institutions (Bank of Industry and Bank of Agriculture), the Nigerian Commodity Exchange, Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, Federal Housing Authority, National Parks and the River Basin Development Authorities.
Other sectors were: Power, the Postal sector, Federal roads, Railways, National Inland Water Ways and a host of other enterprises.
Mohammed said that the BPE had initiated and executed far-reaching reforms in Telecommunications, Pensions, Sea Ports, Debt Management, Solid Minerals, and most recently, the Power sector reform.
He said the power sector reform had led to the successful unbundling and privatisation of the successor companies of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria.
He said some of the reforms also led to the establishment of both regulatory and other agencies such as the Nigerian Communications Commission, Pension Commission, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission and Debt Management Office.
The minister said that the reforms had also achieved many goals including the abrogation of monopoly laws that restrict private sector participation and creates public sector monopolies.
He said it liberalised the sector as a matter of policy and law, and allow private sector participation in the sector.
The reforms, according to him, led to the setting up of independent regulatory agencies that will police operations in the sector.
While thanking journalists for attending the event, the minister solicited their support in restoring confidence in the privatisation reform process.
He said: “There is no better confirmation of your interest and support for the reform and privatisation programme of the Federal Government.
“You remain our valued ally since the inception of the programme and as the mirror of the society, we look up to you to at all times convey our messages to the general public.’’
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the Director-General of BPE, Alex Okoh, made presentations on the public objectives, transactions, initiatives, achievements and constraints of the organisation.