Recession: NLC, TUC vow to resist sale of national assets

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Nigeria’s labour movement has kicked against the planned sales of the share holdings in the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) and other national assets by the Federal Government as part of measures to exit from the current economic recession.

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The two key labour unions, Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) yesterday vowed to resist any attempt by the Federal Government to sell the national assets.

The Labour expressed reservations over the calls by business mogul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, and Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, for the sale of national assets.

Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma had, at a cabinet retreat hosted in Abuja last week, disclosed plan to sell government’s shares in Joint Ventures (JVCs) and the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) to raise $15 billion to rescue the country out of economic recession.

The national assets to be sold include the four refineries in Kaduna, Warri and Port Harcourt, as well as some aircraft in the presidential fleet.

Udoma, in a document entitled “Turning a Crisis into an Opportunity: the Economy and the 2017 Budget,” explained that the sale of government assets, Advance Payment for License renewals, infrastructure concessioning and use of recovered funds from corrupt officials were part of strategies put in place by government to bridge the huge funding gap.

But NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, in a statement titled “We say no to the sale of national investment assets,” said such calls were unacceptable to the Congress.

“On our part, we are ready, in partnership with other progressive and nationalist forces in our country, to resist the further attempt to plunder our common patrimony,” Wabba said.

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On its part, TUC said it would work with other like-minded progressives to resist the sales.

“The Congress will mobilise and resist any further sale or concession of our national assets under whatever guise,” TUC said.

NLC said such proposals would further weaken the revenue capacity of government in the future and weaken the economic base of the nation.

The NLC President called on Nigerians to resist what he described as new scheming by those waiting and wishing to lap up “these lucrative national assets.”

According to him, “we need to preserve these assets for our children and future generations.”

Wabba said: “While we recognise that there is need to take urgent steps to stem the dwindling fortunes of the national economy, we are convinced that the proposals in question will further weaken the revenue capacity of government in the future and weaken the economic base of the nation.

“These calls are more worrisome when one considers the history of sovereign assets divestiture in the past. Where are the proceeds from sales of the assets in the power sector for instance? With the benefit of hindsight, it is obvious that these assets were distributed to favoured individuals and surrogates of the ruling elite without any appreciable benefits to Nigerians.

“For example, it was the accrued dividend payments from NLNG shares that provided the resources for the first bail-out to states when many states could not pay salaries under this present regime. It is on record that dividends, in excess of $1 billion, have accrued annually to the national coffers from the gas company over the past 12 years.

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“There are lessons to be learnt from some other OPEC countries which invested their oil revenues heavily in the acquisition of sovereign assets, both domestically and internationally. Such countries, today, are deriving a steady stream of earnings from those assets and are, therefore, less vulnerable to the fiscal crisis occasioned by failing oil revenues.

“What we need is to leverage on the stream of potential earnings from these investments in seeking to turn around the economy.”

The TUC, in a statement issued by its President and acting General Secretary, Comrade Bobboi Kaigama and Barrister Simeso Amachree, respectively, warned those calling for the sale of national shareholdings in NLNG and concessioning of the country’s airports to drop the idea if they do not want to incur the wrath of workers.

It said those suggestions were disgraceful. The labour union portrays those in support of the sales as enemies of the state.

In the statement titled “We say no to sale of national assets,” TUC said the two sectors – aviation and oil and gas – drive economies all over the world, except in Nigeria.

According to TUC, “Aviation is Ethiopia’s cash cow. Likewise so in countries blessed with oil and gas. Nigerian Textile Mill (NTM), Nigerian News Print, Oko Buku, Daily Times Newspaper, Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria Ltd., Ikot Abasi, etc. were sold, yet they have not been functioning well till date. We expect the advocates of sale of our other assets to know better.

“In addition, these are critical assets which, expectedly, should be bequeathed to generations unborn. It is our thinking that if those clamouring for the sales pay their appropriate taxes, there would be enough money to bring the country out of the woods without sacrificing our national assets.

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“Truly, we appreciate the concern of some sincere people in government, especially President Muhammadu Buhari who is working tirelessly to fix the economy. But we get worried when people suggest we sell investments like NLNG, which provided the money for the bailout of states when they could not pay salaries and concession our airports.

“And on what grounds? Just because the toilets and air-conditioners are not functioning well? Would these people sell off their houses simply because the toilets and airconditioners are faulty? If they would not, why are they pushing for sale of the few national assets we have left?”

The Labour union lamented that the country has witnessed job losses against creation of employment promised by the present government.

“In case those canvassing for the sale have forgotten, it is imperative that they realise that this administration promised to create a minimum of three million jobs yearly. Unfortunately, instead of generation of more jobs, no less than four million jobs have been lost in the last one and half years, a development that has led to serious security issues.

“All over the world, the oil and gas and aviation industries are viable ventures if well managed. While we urge government to ignore these calls from the “enemies of the state,” we demand that ministers and lawmakers should justify the humongous sums of money they earn by making pro-people policies and proffer ways out of the recession,” TUC said.

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