Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, National Budget and Planning, has insisted that the Federal Government’s planned sale of public assets will benefit Nigerians and help to boost the economy.
Ahmed had on 12 January revealed that the government plans to sell public assets to partly finance the N13.58 trillion 2021 budget.
The proposed move has, however, been fiercely opposed by some individuals and groups, particularly by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) which asked the National Assembly to reject such plan.
But speaking in an interview on Friday, Ahmed said some government assets are currently moribund and provide little or no value to Nigerians in their current state.
She explained that the sale of such assets will boost the economy and will benefit Nigerians when put brought back to life by the private sector.
“There are some government assets that are dead that can be sold to the private sector to be reactivated and put to use for the benefit of Nigerians,” Zainab said on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily.
“So we are looking at different – and I am a member of the National Council on Privatisation – we are looking at different categories of government assets that government has not been able to manage, that are lying down and in some cases even completely rundown, to cede them off to the private sector.
“The intention is not just funding the budget, it is to reactivate these assets and hand it over and have them bring contributions to the growth in the economy.”
According to the minister, the Bureau of Public Enterprises will begin to coordinate with other arms of government on the asset sales in the first quarter of the year.
” . . . in the last week of December, we had a meeting of the National Council on Privatisation where we approved the annual work plan, the 2021 work plan, for that Bureau of Public Enterprises.
“And I guess it is in this first quarter that the BPE will now be engaging the Senate committee and other committees they work with to say this is our work plan for the year,” she said.
SERAP had in a letter dated 16 January by Kolawole Oluwadare, its Deputy Director, and addressed to Senator Ahmed Lawan, the Senate President; and Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives, said the National Assembly should, instead, urgently review the 2021 appropriation legislation to stop the government of President Muhammadu Buhari from selling public properties to fund the 2021 budget.
The civil society organisation warned that the sale of the assets would be counter-productive for the country.