The Minister for Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), has said that most government-owned enterprises sold to private entities through the privatization policy have either failed to live up to expectations or disappeared entirely.
This is just as the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, and members of the House Committee on Privatization and Commercialization, as well as the Nigeria Labour Congress President (NLC), Mr Ayuba Wabba, and other key stakeholders have blamed the failure of privatization and commercialization of public enterprises by the government on infrastructural decay in Nigeria.
These came to the fore on Monday during separate presentations at the hearing organized by the Hon. Ibrahim Makama Misau-led Committee on Privatization and Commercialization.
The hearing was on proposed legislation titled: ‘A Bill for an Act to Repeal the Public Enterprises Privatization and Commercialization 1999 Act, Cap P38 LFN 2004 and Enact the Public Assets Reform Bill 2021 For Improved Efficiency and Management of Public Assets in Nigeria and For Related Matters’
According to the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila who declared the hearing open “the change we need in public enterprises calls for a legal framework that would maximize the value of existing assets.”
Gbajabiamila who was represented by the House Leader Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa said that stakeholders at the public hearing are capable of bringing out the positive outcome in the public sector with respect to public assets.
Earlier in his remark, Chairman of the House Committee Hon. Ibrahim Misau said with a repeal of the Privatization and Commercialization Act 1999 that public deficit amounting to $1.3 million will be bridged with the enactment of a new law — the Public Assets Reform Bill.
The lawmaker noted that other countries are using public-private partnerships to deliver infrastructural projects to their citizens, saying that ministries, departments and agencies of government will have the opportunity to bridge the infrastructure gap in the country with speed.
Also in a presentation at the hearing, Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, SAN, said that once there is a private sector-driven economy, there is a need for strong regulation of private enterprises and activities.
He noted the key sectors of the economy such as banking, telecommunications and consumer goods production are in dire need of a strong legal and regulatory framework in Nigeria
“I am not against privatization but the role of government in privatization is just policy.
“I looked at the list of privatized entities and found out that most of them had disappeared. Where are the scanners after sixteen years of privatization,” he said?
Other critical stakeholders at the hearing such as the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, led by its President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba said privatization means taking resources from the poor fund government infrastructure.
The NLC said privatization is against the provision of section 16 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, and states that the state must protect the economic interest of the citizenry.
Also in a memorandum presented at the hearing, the DG of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, Mr Alex Okoh said it is not all public assets that need to be privatized.
He added that those assets slated for privatization need to be guided by legislation.
He however said that a total of 234 public enterprises had been revitalized through privatization and concessions of these assets.
On his own part, Director General of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, ICRC, Mr Michael Ohiare, said the enactment of the Asset Reform Bill in its present form will result in the repeal of the agency’s enabling Act.
Chairman of the House Committee Hon Misau and his colleagues assured him that the National Assembly would not pass any legislation that will take over the role of any government agency in Nigeria.