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December 4, 2020

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Senate unaware of FG’s plan to sell national assets

3 min read

The Senate committee on privatisation has said the chamber is not aware of any planned agreement by the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) to sell or concession some national properties to help fund the 2021 budget.

Chairman of the committee, Theodore Orji, disclosed this to journalists on Tuesday. He also complained that the relationship between the panel and the BPE has not been cozy.

President Muhammadu Buhari had in October, presented a N13.08 trillion budget for the 2021 fiscal year. Both the president and finance minister, Zainab Ahmed, had said Nigeria will borrow money from the World Bank, the Islamic Development Bank and countries like Brazil to fund the budget.

Documents presented to the panel last week reveal plans by the federal government to sell the Integrated Power Plants in Geregu, Omotosho, and Calabar at N434 billion in 2021.

There are also plans to concession the National Arts Theatre, Tafawa Balewa Square, and all the River Basin Development Authorities at N836 million while the National Stadium in Lagos, the Moshood Abiola Stadium, Abuja, and two others were pegged for concessioning at N100 milllion, Punch newspaper reported.

Mr Orji however, said the panel is not aware of the planned transactions. This is even as he complained that the Director General of BPE, Alex Okoh, “has refused to carry members of the panel along”.

”Let me assure Nigerians that there is no member of the Senate Committee on privatisation that knows about all these things except they read it on the pages of newspapers.

“We were never briefed by the management of the BPE. We were not there when the necessary documents were signed. We were never invited at all.

“When the DG, BPE came to defend his agency’s 2021 budget proposal before us, we asked him why he didn’t invite us at least as witnesses, he merely apologised. This is neither the first time nor the second time that such a thing would happen.”

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The lawmaker said he had ‘confronted’ Mr Okoh initially but decided to open up to the public to avoid being blamed by Nigerians.

“During the BPE budget defence before my committee, I complained bitterly that the relationship between our committee and the BPE, has not been very cordial due to the behaviour of the DG, BPE.

“This is a man that if we call him on phone, he would not answer and if we send him a text message, he would not reply. How then does he want us to communicate? There should be a synergy between the Senate or its committee on privatisation, and the BPE because that is the major parastatal that we oversight.

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“I also believe that that the Senate Committee on Privatisation should be carried along when most of the arrangement to either sell or concession our national assets are being made so that we would be aware,” he said.

Mr Orji said the DG has been summoned before the panel at a later date and that the committee would demand for all the documents relating to the transactions.

This, he said, will be to ascertain whether or not due process was followed and also to review the amount put up by the BPE for the assets for either outright sale or concession.



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