By Abdulwahed Omar
We are disturbed by the statement by the Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, Mr. Benjamin Dikki, who was reported to have announced that plans have been concluded by the BPE to privatise refineries as well as commercialise the Nigerian Television Authority, the Federal Radio Corporation, the News Agency of Nigeria, Nigeria Films Corporation, Skypower Catering and Hotels Services and the Commodities and Exchange Commission as well as the partial privatisation of Bank of Agriculture and the Bank of Industries. He also announced the commercialization of National Parks.
The haste with which government seemed determined to sell off public properties to members of the ruling class and their cronies under the guise of making them more efficient is alarming. There is the need for caution because these properties belong to the Nigerian people as a collective wealth and the people have never been consulted and their interests considered before the sales.
It is scandalous that the same government who had always promised to use the gains from petroleum price increases, which it has received over the years, to reactivate existing refineries and build additional ones can turn around to announce the privatization of refineries. This is clearly unacceptable, and the public have strongly opposed this attempt several times in the past, even on the floor of the National Assembly.
There is no evidence that previous privatisation exercises have succeeded. The major privatisation exercise that was implemented against public interest recently is electricity and ever since that exercise, electricity supply have worsened, while consumers pay higher even as the lights have gone off under excuses that questions the competence of the new electricity companies.
Government should not abdicate its social responsibilities by selling off everything that delivers services to the people. This is unwarranted, especially in a country where poverty and unemployment has become endemic coupled with the collapse of industries.
What we need in Nigeria is not a blind adoption of neo-liberal policies that mortgage the interests and future of our people.
Our national economy depends largely on the oil industry and if we allow the industry to be handed over to private individuals, it would then mean the entire economy would become private property run by private individuals, mostly cronies of those in government, against our collective interests.
We therefore advise the BPE to stop the proposed sales , while we call on the National Assembly to probe all previous sales and retrieve public properties that may have been sold to private interests. We must not allow the continuation of the robbery of our collective interests.
Private individuals can build their refineries, but government must reactivate, maintain and take full charge of existing public refineries and also build new ones.