Opinion: Dangote and our national assets

by Shittu Yunus Shittu

Before going into the controversy ignited by Aliko Dangote on the sale of National assets, it is necessary to check his background. He is regarded as Africa’s richest man not only in Nigeria. Dangote started his business as a common trader before growing into a manufacturer in Nigeria and other countries. His business group has grown into one of the largest trading conglomerates, trading in cement, sugar, flour, salt, fruit juice and fish among others. It is rare to find any household in Nigeria that does not patronize any of the group’s products.

Apart from being the leading provider of employment in Nigeria, Dangote is also a philanthropist par excellence. He was reported to have donated $500,000 to boost UNICEF’s fight against measles by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). He also donated $6.4 million towards building a world class International Cancer Centre in Abuja and dialysis machines to the Dialysis Centre of the Lagos General Hospital, Marina, to facilitate treatment of patients with acute and chronic kidney disease. In October 5, 2012, he announced a donation of $2.6 million to victims of the flood disaster and for women empowerment in Kogi State.

In view of the above therefore, it beats my imagination that Dangote would suggest the sale of national assets to shore up the needed revenue to stay afloat. In an interview with CNBC, Aliko Dangote suggested sales of national assets as a way by which the nation can generate revenue leading to quick recovery from the economic recession. He said a sale of asset is an easier option to generate revenue than requesting for a loan from IMF or World Bank.

He said “If I had challenges in my company, I would not hesitate to sell assets, to remain afloat, to get to the better times, because it doesn’t make any sense for me to keep any assets and then suffocate the whole organization.”

He further urged the government to sell 100 percent of NLNG and African Finance Corporation so that the government can generate $12bn to $15bn to be deployed in turning around the economy from recession.

Dangote’s advice has generated so many reactions from experts, legislators and various groups. Even though Senate President Bukola Saraki had urged the government to consider asset sales as a viable option to recover from recession, the Senate as an institution has rejected the proposal.

The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udoma, explained that the idea of selling some of our national assets is to raise fund in order to finance the 2016 budget since almost half of the expected revenue by the government has been lost.

Speaking against Dangote’s idea, Senator Shehu Sani condemned the idea, calling the proponents of the sale of national asset as economic predators and parasites who only want to take advantage of economic meltdown to their own benefits.

A respected legal practitioner, Femi Falana described the sale of national assets as an illegal act which is in total conflict with section 16 of the Constitution which has prohibited the concentration of the nation’s wealth in the hands of a few people or a group.

However, government’s spokesperson and Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has said that a decision on the sale of national assets has not been taken by government.
From all indications, opposition to sale of national assets have swelled to the extent that Nigerians want alternative means to fund the 2016 budget in order to restore hope for the economy. Many national assets sold in the past had ended up in the hands of bourgeois and the country is still paying for such mistakes. We are aware of many national assets that were sold at give-away prices but today they are worst off. This is very unfortunate.

It is also an open secret that some public officers connived with vested interests towards the non-performance or collapse of these organizations so that they can be privatized and sold at ridiculous prices. We can’t afford to make such mistakes again. We should therefore reject the attempt to sell our collective patrimony to few billionaires who should donate their wealth for national development.

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Shittu Yunus Shittu is a graduate of Economics from Kwara State University (KWASU)

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