Nigeria should afford to get the best possible deals out of its assets sale
Last week, we called out the trio of Senate President Bukola Saraki, Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele and business mogul cum Africa's richest man Alhaji Aliko Dangote for daring to suggest sale of our national assets as panacea to our present economic woes.
Well, to put it nicely, we lost that war. We were half expecting the Muhammadu Buhari led federal government to bin Saraki, Dangote and Emefiele's proposals, but it's now a matter of when, not if the assets will be sold.
The federal government swallowed the proposals from the very powerful Nigerians, lock, stock and barrel.
Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun--three formidable pillars of Buhari's economic team, have revealed what everyone feared--goodbye NLNG, refineries and airports. We won't be missing you.
The fiscal stimulus strategy as designed, will not lead to the sale of ALL national assets, Udoma explained, as he sought to allay widespread fears.
Our opposition to the sale of the assets at Pulse, had nothing to do with the anathema to privatisation as a policy. Heck, some of those assets like the refineries for instance, should have been long auctioned, seeing as we can't maintain anything around here.
We do love privatisation and liberalisation as economic concepts. We just weren't comfortable with the guys who were leading the "sell the bloody assets" chorus, given their reputation for 'cronyism' and monopoly.
But we've given up. Like, really given up now.
Hear Adeosun: "The infrastructure challenges we face are so serious and the kind of money that we need, we can’t borrow because when you have an accumulated deficit, you need to look for the money that will sustain what you are doing for the next three to four years. So, that is what we are looking at and having a more strategic approach so that, over time, we will borrow less, which, of course, is good in the long run.
"I think there are lots of assets being considered. There are some unused assets that are just lying idle and people have come and said, ‘These things you are not using, can we lease it from you?’
‘‘I think when you are looking for money, some things that government is sitting on, we don’t have money to do them and so it makes sense for me to unlock those things as it will bring money to the economy at these difficult times so that we can move forward".
The guys who'll end up purchasing these assets are the Dangotes of this country, let's not even kid ourselves.
So, before we hand them these assets, the economic team has to take a few points into consideration:
1. These assets shouldn't be sold on the cheap. I mean, we know we are broke and dying but we should afford to get the best possible bargains from the sales.
2. The bids to sell them should be publicly auctioned. Meaning everyone, including you and I can know the dates for the bidding processes and compete with Saraki and his friends (I'm not even kidding) for the same refinery. The point is, it should be a level playing field for the pursuit to acquire these assets.
3. There should be a 'buy back' option for some of the assets. The refineries should be outrightly sold though, because our Turn Around Maintenances (TAM) since independence have been pure jokes and have yielded just below 60 percent capacity for all three refineries! We are really that much of a joke!
The refineries are obsolete anyway, so dispose of them to some private sector guy who can upgrade same and make money off them. And the National Stadium rotting in Surulere Lagos? Please bring the money as fast as you can. We'll take it.
But for some other assets like the NLNG (which is a money spinner) and airports, we can insert a clause that says, "hey Nigeria can buy these assets back from you in the future when it is no longer broke", or something like that.
I'll also suggest concession for assets like airports for instance. What this means is that a private guy gets the airport on some kinda lease basis, he runs it like his own property, but shares the proceeds from sale between himself and the federal government based on an agreed sharing percentage. And then, if we don't like the way you're running this thing, guy, we collect our property.
All of these should be explicitly stated in the pre-sale contract.
4. The opposition against sale of these assets from the labour unions stem from the fact that there'll be job losses. A private guy who buys a bureaucracy like the NNPC for instance, will want to make his workforce leaner and more efficient. So, he downsizes--a code for sacking workers like there's no tomorrow.
The last thing the Nigerian economy needs right now, are more job losses. Is there a way the federal government can mitigate the effect of the downsizing that is to come?
Because, in a recession, you don't want more people wailing about losing more jobs.
After taking all these factors into consideration, let everyone of us pour into Abuja as we make a mad dash for our beloved national assets.
Cry, the Beloved Country!