Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu and Senator George Akume (APC, Benue) yesterday opposed the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, on his suggestion that the Federal Government should sell some national assets to boost the nation’s shrinking foreign reserves.
Saraki had, on Tuesday, enjoined the executive to increase the dwindling foreign reserves by selling some important national assets, including part sale of the Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG) Holdings and other resources.
But contributing to the debate on the economy yesterday during plenary, Ekweremadu cautioned the Federal Government against selling the national assets in order to raise money to fund the ailing economy.
He pointed out that other economies of the world that experienced recession did not sell their assets to rescue the situation, urging government instead to fall back on oil revenue and perhaps sell the nonperforming assets, in order not to harm posterity. Ekweremadu said, “I have heard about the issue of selling of our assets.
I need to caution that other countries are not doing the same. United Arab Emirates does not even allow you to come close to their 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 while other countries are investing.
“I am sure we will not be fair to the next generation if we sell our assets because of the current state of the economy. So, if we must sell, we have to sell the non-performing assets so that people can turn them around and create employment.”
Akume also kicked against the recommendation by Saraki for government to sell some national assets. He said: “We are making a mistake here, what we are intending to do is to very unpatriotically ensure that those who are within the bracket of the stolen dollars will still come to buy.
I believe that this is not the time to strip these assets. We should rather focus on industrialisation through agriculture and try to revamp this economy.” Proffering solutions to the recession, Ekweremadu called for restructuring of the federation.
“We need to unbundle this Federal Government from the security, to power, to agriculture, to social sectors. A situation where the Federal Government is in charge of everything is not helpful.
We need to unbundle this country, if you like call it restructuring. It might be a long term strategy and it might be in phases, but it is something that we need to do quickly,” he said. The Deputy Senate President further called on President Muhammadu Buhari to take a critical look at his cabinet, with a view to putting square pegs in square holes, to be able to make his ministers and advisers function more effectively “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, but 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 coordinate the strategies for this recovery,” he said.
Suggesting short-term measures to solving the problem at hand, Ekweremadu advised Buhari to release the money in the Treasury Single Account (TSA), and also the recovered looted funds, so that there would be sufficient money in circulation to enable people to do business.
But Senator Shehu Sani, in his contribution, stated that removing the Minister of Finance “won’t be able to get us out of this problem because this recession is not in Nigeria alone; it is in all countries that are dependent on oil revenue.” Other senators who contributed to the debate urged the Federal Government to take drastic and urgent steps to address the economic crisis in the country.