The Nigeria Labour Congress has advised the Federal Government to halt any plans it has to sell off public properties.
It also urged the National Assembly to investigate the recent privatization of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria and all previous sales and reclaim those properties that might have been sold to private interests.
The NLC President, Abdulwaheed Omar in a statement on Sunday said, “The haste with which government seems 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”.
The labour union’s position was in response to a statement credited to the Director General, Bureau of Public Enterprises, Mr. Benjamin Dikki that the National Council on Privatisation had listed the nation’s four refineries for possible privatisation this year.
The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Deizani Alison-Madueke, had earlier in the year reiterated her position that the Federal Government was ready to privatise the refineries. However, following strong opposition from organized labour, the government was forced to deny knowledge of any such plan.
But later, Dikki said the NCP had approved the partial privatisation of the Bank of Industry and the Bank of Agriculture; the privatisation of the Nigeria Commodity Exchange, Skypower Catering & Hotel Services and commercialisation of the national parks.
He further said that efforts were geared towards concluding the guided liquidation of NITEL/MTEL and the policy/legal and regulatory framework review to prepare the grounds for the commercialisation of the media enterprises including the Nigerian Television Authority, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, National Films Corporation and the News Agency of Nigeria.
NLC in a statement titled “Stop selling public properties,” said, “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 the petroleum price increases, which it has received over the years, to reactivate existing refineries and build additional ones can turn around to announce the privatisation 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”.
The NLC noted that there was no evidence that previous privatisations yielded positive results as electricity supply had deteriorated under the recent privatisation of the power sector.
“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 have 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”.
While advising the BPE to stop the proposed sales, the union urged the National Assembly to probe all previous sales and reclaim public properties that might 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”, the statement added