Barely 24 hours after the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, advised the federal government to consider selling off some key national assets, including the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Holdings, as way out of the current economic recess, some senators yesterday kicked against the proposal, describing it as unwise.
Similarly, they also noted that the Treasury Single Account currently being operated by the federal government has greatly contributed to the recess the nation presently passes through.
Saraki had, on Tuesday, suggested some measures to bring the nation’s economy out of doldrums. These, he listed to include; part sale of NLNG Holdings, sale of government’s stake in financial institutions and privatisation and concession of airports and refineries.
But the idea did not go down well with some lawmakers, who also called for the sack of Minister of Finance , Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, and her Budget and National Planning counterpart, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, for allegedly lacking the required expertise and professional qualifications to manage the economy,
Specifically, the Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, said, selling assets from our oil investment for quick capital in tackling the recession will put the country in messier economic situation, just as he called on President Muhammadu Buhari to take a critical look at his cabinet and put square pegs in square holes.
According to him, Udoma, a lawyer by profession, would do better if posted to a ministry relevant to his profession, so also Adeosun, who he said is an accountant and not economist.
Ekweremadu, a strong advocate of restructuring of the federation, also reiterated the call, saying it should be done based on the template of fiscal federalism and diversification of the economy, for lasting solution against economic crisis of the present magnitude.
He said: “The president needs to look at his cabinet. He has to put square pegs in square holes. Your Excellency, distinguished colleagues, Udo Udoma is my friend, an accomplished lawyer for that matter. But in fairness to him, I believe he can do better in another ministry, especially like trade and investment, certainly not Budget and Planning.
“The minister for finance can do much better in another ministry. At this critical time, we need somebody who is more experienced to man the ministry of finance so that he can be able to coordinate the strategies for this recovery.”
On suggestion for assets said, the lawmaker said, “I have heard about the issue of selling of our assets. I need to caution that other countries are not doing the same. UAE does not even allow you to the oil wells talk less of selling them. And of course, a country like Saudi Arabia, their budget each year is run by investments from their oil revenue not even the air, while other countries are investing and with all the investments we have, and I am sure we will not be fair to the next generation.
“So, if we must sell, we have to sell the non-performing assets so that people can turn them around and create employment. We need to amend section 162, especially from 3,4,5,6 where money in the federation account is enjoined to be shared among the other levels of government.”
Senator Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West), who also called for a re-jig of the federal cabinet with the right people in the right positions, condemned the existing situation of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) not having a Board.
Senators Bassey Akpan (PDP Akwa Ibom North East), Samuel Anyanwu (PDP Imo East) and Mao Ohuabunwa (PDP Abia North), called for a re-think by the federal government on the implementation of the TSA as, according to them, it is one the factors that triggered the recession.
He said between August and November last year, as a result of the implementation of the policy, about N1.8 trillion was withdrawn from the banking system, which increased to N2.8 trillion in January this year and N3.4 trillion now , leading to drastic reduction in lending capacities of the commercial banks with attendant effect on the country’s economy.