Senate to FG: Don’t sell national assets

The Senate has rejected the planned sale of Nigeria’s assets to shore up the foreign reserves as one of the ways out of the current economic recession.This is coming a week after Senate President Bukola Saraki and a business mongul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, called for the sale of the assets.

Similarly, the news was rife with a list of assets which are already in the market for outright sale or privatisation. However, while considering the recommendations of the Senate ad-hoc committee, the Senators unanimously voted against the planned sale.

Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, who moved the amendment motion, however, added that the executive was free to decide on whether or not to sell, but that the Senate must be seen to take a position. Although the recommendation of the committee did not directly oppose the sale, lawmakers moved and adopted an additional prayer opposing the sale of the assets.

In all, 20 recommendations were adopted by the Senators. Part of the recommendations reads: “The executive, as a matter of urgency, prepare an Economic Stimulus Bill containing all the fiscal stimulus packages, investments and incentives designed to pull the country out of recession, to the National Assembly for accelerated consideration and passage.

“The fiscal and monetary authorities must meet to harmonise all policies that lower interest rates for genuine investors in the real sector as well as medium and smallscale farmers and processors.”
The Senate also recommended that contract with its oil handlers, the Joint Venture Companies/Partners (JVCs) be reviewed in terms of cost of production and profit sharing.

However, a prayer seeking the review of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy of the Federal Government was opposed. The Red Chamber also agreed to amend Section 162 of the Constitution to make it mandatory for the Federal Government to save money from the Federation Account before sharing among the three tiers of government.

Other motions adopted are urgent raising to shore up the foreign reserves in order to discourage currency speculation and stabilise the economy; Federal Government should explore every avenue to restore oil production target of 2.2 million barrels per day; and release of low interest funding under the stimulus package should be calibrated, targeted and monitored in favour of specific industries and projects that add immediate value to the economy by way of job creation, cost reduction and import substitution.

The Senate also urged the Federal Government to engage aggrieved Niger Delta militants to avoid escalation of the unrest in the region and ensure protection of our nation’s oil and gas assets to facilitate increase in oil production and boost revenue therefrom. The Federal Government was also advised to negotiate foreign borrowing instruments to provide funds to cover revenue shortfalls to ensure the full implementation of the 2016 budget and government’s accelerated infrastructural development programme.

It was also recommended that there should be a review and payment of all genuine domestic debts owed local contractors, who had satisfactorily completed their jobs. All outstanding salaries and pension liabilities were asked to be settled. Lawmakers urged that the use of pension and insurance funds should be used to provide long-term capital for lending to targeted agriculture, industry and housing projects.

The constitution of the board of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and all other critical agencies was one of the recommendations of the Senate. It said this will ensure that the agencies operate in accordance with the enabling laws.

The Senate advised the Federal Government to use executive action or legislation to encourage telecommunication companies to float their shares in Nigerian stocks market, urging that the Fiscal Responsibility Act be leveraged to encourage states and local governments to be prudent and accountable in their revenues and expenditures arrangements.

Oil sector, reconstruction of North-East, establishment of council of economic advisers, elimination of business bottlenecks, retooling of export promotion policy scheme and provision of legislative framework were also included in the report adopted by the Senate.

Source: The Sun

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