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HURIWA to Buhari-: don’t sell public assets to fund budget:

*Considers suing federal govt to stop assets stripping:

A leading pro-democracy and civil society group – HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has accused President Muhammadu Buhari of plotting to sell off public owned national assets to his cronies under the guise of seeking for fund to finance the 2018 national budget.

Besides, HURIWA has lamented the monumental compromise of Labour Unions; civil rights organizations and students’ bodies by the current administration which is why the government’s public admission that it would auction off publicly built assets to fund 2018 budget has not yet elicited nationwide civil unrests to compel the government to abandon the anti-people policy. HURIWA has therefore warned that the apathy; lethargic and apparently compromised docile nature of civil society organisations and the mainstream private media houses to bad and evil policies churned out by the current government in their dozens will cripple constitutional democracy unless these forces are mobilized to resists the tendencies to accept federal government’s juicy bribes so as to remain docile and allow anti-people’s policies to be implemented by the current occupants of political seat of power in Abuja and the 36 states of the federation and the Federal capital tertitory. 

However, the Rights group has charged Nigerians from all walks of life to take considerable interest in the ongoing sinister plots by holders of political offices to auction off at incredibly cheaper rates, public assets built and maintained for the general public to some few privileged persons with access to the seat of power under the deceitful pretense of seeking for ways to fund 2018 budget. HURIWA affirmed that the grundnorm and the Supreme body of law does not support the clearly deceitful manipulation of the Presidency to sell off public assets rather than ensure that these profitable assets are administered for the general benefits of all Nigerians. 

HURIWA lamented that the federal government is pushing through with this sinister plot to convert public assets to private ownership at a time that the crude oil global selling prices have remained so high for nearly two years and counting just as the Rights group wondered what the current government has done with the external loans the government picked up from all manner of places including China in the name of building of capital projects.

“What has the administration done with the impressive returns made by the different heads of federal institutions and agencies that are revenue collecting bodies such as NNPC; Nigerian Ports Authority; Maritime Authority; Nigerian Customs and the Nigerian Immigrations. What about the multi billions of Dollars reportedly retrieved from looters by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Have all these billions of revenues generated in foreign denominated currencies stolen and stashed in offshore bank accounts of public officials?”

“We are aware that for over a year or so now the Brent Crude oil prices have witnessed phenomenal rise even as the crude oil rich but neglected Niger Delta communities have remained relatively peaceful since the armed militants declared truce.”

“Brent crude oil prices according to experts averaged $72.8 per barrel in 2018 and to $73.7 per barrel in 2019, according to the most recent forecast from the US Energy Information Administration’s monthly Short-Term Energy Outlook (EIA). This reflects an upward revision of $9.5/barrel to the EIA forecast for 2018 compared to last month’s Outlook. The OECD Economic Outlook as of May 2018 was less bullish, pegging the real price of a barrel of Brent oil— i.e. price adjusted for inflation—at $69.4/barrel in 2018. Looking out to 2020, the IMF in its Primary Commodity Prices Projections released in July asserted that after modest growth in 2018, the nominal price of Brent crude will increase to $53.5/barrel by 2020 and West Texas Intermediate to $50.4/barrel. The World Bank anticipates that all three major benchmark oil prices, Brent, WTI, and Dubai, will continue to increase after 2020 to reach $70 per barrel in 2030.”

HURIWA said also that: We are aware based on knowledge from experts that crude oil price forecasts depend on the interaction between supply and demand for oil on international markets. Among the most important supply-side factors weighing on pricing expectations are US shale oil production, US crude oil stocks, and OPEC oil supply. In May, OPEC announced that oil production cuts would be extended until March 2018. The agreement from OPEC, along with decreasing US crude oil inventories, has buoyed oil prices during the second half of 2017. By late September, Brent crude price reached $59.8/barrel, which was $16 higher than the lowest price so far this year ($44/bbl in June) and $14 higher than one year ago. But, the robust recovery of US shale oil activity, which is expected to continue through October, is broadly expected to limit price gains in the future. According to the OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report, world oil demand will increase by 1.3 million barrels per day in 2018, which is 0.1mb/d more than the increase expected from non-OPEC oil supply.”

“Also the current government has continuously borrowed from many creditor nations in the guise of borrowing to build infrastructures”, says HURIWA. 

Quoting a variety of sources, the Rights group affirmed that: “Nigeria’s external debt commitment rose by $11.77bn in the last three years, investigation has shown. According to debt statistics obtained from the Debt Management Office, the country’s external debt rose from $10.32bn in June 30, 2015 to $22.08bn as of June 30 this year. This means that the country’s external debt commitment has grown by 114.05 per cent in the last three years.”

In the considered position of the Rights group, the decision to sell off public assets violates relevant sections of the constitution especially section 16 of the 1999 constitution because the policy if carried through will concentrate wealth in the hands of so few who are cronies of the presidency. 

“The section 16 of the constitution states thus: (1) “The state shall, within the context of the ideals and objectives for which provisions are made in this constitution – harness the resources of the nation and promote national prosperity and an efficient, a dynamic and self-reliant economy every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity; control the national economy in such manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity; without prejudice to its right to operate or participate in areas of the economy, other than the major sectors of the economy, manage and operate the major sectors of the economy; without prejudice to the right of any person to participate in areas of the economy within the major sector of the economy, protect the right of every citizen to engage in any economic activities outside the major sectors of the economy.” (2) “The state shall direct its policy towards ensuring – the promotion of a planned and balanced economic development; that the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good; that the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals or of a group.”

HURIWA recalls that the Federal Government plans to dispose 10 state-owned assets to select investors and the public between now and year end, in order to fund the 2018 fiscal plan. This clarification was given by the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, and her counterpart in the Budget and National Planning Ministry, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, who also argued that borrowings and the assets sale not only constituted strategic actions to funding the 2018 budget, but were in the overall interest of the country.

HURIWA recalled that In the sale of the 10 ailing key national assets, two of which must be sold this month (Nicon Insurance Limited and Skyway Aviation Handling Co), the government is expected to earn the sum of $797m, that is N289b. A Director at the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Joe Anichebe, who revealed government’s plan to sell the outfits, informed that the privatization agency had pledged to raise N306b to help finance the planned spending.

HURIWA citing information from official quarters asserted that apart from the Ajaokuta Steel Complex, which the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele equally identified as one of the assets penciled for disposal, other firms that are up for sale are in the power, aviation and insurance sectors. Earlier in July this year, the Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Mr. Alex A. Okoh, also informed that some entities had been prepared for privatization or for commercialization.

HURIWA has instructed a team of lawyers to try to stop this action to strip Nigeria of public assets.

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