The Nigerian government is proposing to sell or concession no fewer than 36 of its properties, cut across energy, industries, communication and infrastructural sectors to raise funds, largely to finance the N13.58 trillion 2021 budget.
The first hint of sale or concessioning of some properties came to the fore during the BPE’s budget defence session in November 2020.
In a document submitted to the National Assembly by the Executive and titled “NCP Approved 2021 Work Plan, the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), the Abuja International Conference Centre (ICC), some unnamed refineries, the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Abuja Water Board, Nigerian Film Corporation, among others are top among national properties to be disposed.
According to investigations, while some of the assets are ‘core investor sales’, a few others are for ‘share sales’. Some are for ‘concessioning’ and others for ‘full or partial commercialization’.
A core investor sale is the transfer of at least 51 per cent ownership, accompanied by management control, in a company from government to new private owners.
The core investor, according to the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE), may be individuals or firms, Nigerian or foreign, with the money required to buy and operate the company, and the technical and managerial capacity needed to ensure that the company is profitable.
Similarly, a concession is a form of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) where a government-owned asset is being operated and maintained by a private investor for a period of time on terms contained in a concession agreement.
Although documents presented to the Senate committee on privatisation by the BPE showed plans by the federal government to sell the Integrated Power Plants in Geregu, Omotosho, and Calabar at N434 billion in 2021, among others, the panel said it was not aware of the plan to sell or concession the properties.
The chairman of the committee, Theodore Orji, had said the panel was not aware of the planned transactions and complained that the Director General of BPE, Alex Okoh, “refused to carry members of the panel along.”
However, weeks later, the same panel confirmed that some properties will be sold or concessioned. This was after the panel and the BPE “resolved” the matter.
Already, the process has begun for the concessioning of four properties; the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos International Trade Fair Complex, and the Calabar and Kano Special Economic Zones.
Meanwhile, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), like many civil rights organizations, has written to the National Assembly asking it to stop the president from selling off national properties – an act which it said would amount to a fundamental breach of constitutional and fiduciary duties.
SERAP said the process would be vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement, undermine the social contract with Nigerians, leave the government worse off and hurt the country in the long run.