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Yes, let's sell off national theater, TBS and keep the change

The federal government intends to sell off some of its assets in Lagos like the national theater. I say sell away.

When the Director General of the Budget Office, Ben Akabueze, appeared before members of the House of Representatives this week, he told them that in a bid to be able to fund the nation’s budgets in three years, a few national assets have to be disposed of.

Top on the list of assets to be sold are the National Arts Theater in Iganmu and the Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos. Others are power generation plants, non-core assets from the mines and steel sector, estates and houses.

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Some Nigerians are kicking against the entire idea of auctioning off our decaying national assets. I don’t get it.

Emotional outbursts

“The proposal to sell off the National Theatre and Tafawa Balewa Square in order to finance the 2018 budget is unacceptable. These are our national monuments and priceless edifices of our history. I will stand against it in the floor of the Senate”, Senator Shehu Sani who represents Kaduna South in the upper legislative chamber, screamed from his Twitter page.

Who national monuments epp?

It’s a good thing to attach plenty of emotions to assets some of us grew up watching from Molue rides. It’s a good thing to belch nationalistic fervor when discussing nostalgic assets like the National Arts Theater or the National Stadium for instance.

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I used to be in that place as well.

However, for each day I drive into the National Stadium in Surulere for some pepper soup and lager in the biting sun while waiting for traffic to ease up—in an edifice that once hosted some of the biggest soccer games on the continent—the conclusion that government shouldn’t be trusted with managing anything, is strengthened within me.

Govt can't maintain anything

The grounds of the Surulere Stadium have been ceded to louts and miscreants and the whole place reeks of urine and faecal matter.

The National Theater was built in 1976, in time for the Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) in 1977. Today, its walls and plumbing works have given way to cockroaches and all sorts of crawling creatures and a church.

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TBS was built in 1972 as replacement for a horse racing track. But before 1972, TBS hosted Nigeria’s maiden Independence Day celebration in 1960. It stands so abandoned and derelict today, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa must be rolling in his grave.

All federal government owned houses and structures in Ikoyi are falling apart and decaying. That’s plenty of money going down the drain with each passing day.

The Abuja National Stadiumis on its way to becoming the Surulere Stadium.

Government is bad at managing or maintaining anything. Why task government with a job it has failed at since independence?

What then?

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The solution is in taking these assets off government control and tasking private concerns with the responsibility of managing or maintaining them. If ‘sale’ is such a steep word to use in the circumstances, may I suggest concession or a public private partnership where the private sector manages these assets and pays taxes or a stipend to government?

We can’t keep fighting what isn’t working just to burnish our pseudo nationalistic catharsis. Commonsense says put the national assets on OLX and reinvest proceeds in other areas of the economy begging for attention.

No point fighting a decision whose time has come.

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