Is FG’s Decision to Sell Recovered Public Assets Appropriate?
Posted: 27/Feb/2018

The decision to sell the recovered public assets is a welcomed idea. It is healthy for our economy and it is a fair move for Nigerians. It shows that the government is to an extent responsive, especially towards the growth of the economy.

The basic thing that needs to be identified before the sale is carried out is for Nigerians to know the identities of owners of these recovered assets.

It is not enough for the government to sell them without disclosing the identities of persons that have been managing these assets.
 
If you want to sell a particular thing, the owner must be identified. It is obvious that some of these assets are owned by persons that are today denying ownership. Nigerians deserve to know the owners of these assets.

If the government is sincere enough to keep the proceeds of the assets in the national treasury, it must also prosecute those linked to them.

It is not enough to sell these assets in a bid to show that the government is winning the war against corruption. It would be better for the government to ensure that the owners are thoroughly dealt with in accordance with the law.

No one can hide the identity of the owner of a property, especially when the government swore to bring culprits to book. I want to say categorically that no one can hide from the government because the government has everything that it takes to bring such persons to book.

If the assets are sold, it is good because the money realised would be used for the development of Nigeria.

The government has over the years been a bad manager of assets; there is no point advising that such assets should be kept and managed by the same government.

Jefferson Uwoghiren (Benin-based legal practitioner)
You have to look at it from three angles – the legal, political and moral angles. One has to ask if it is a legal and acceptable process. There is nothing wrong if the Federal Government decides to do away with its assets using the commercialisation and privatisation process. But we are more interested in the transparency and genuineness of the exercise to ensure that people do not convert these assets to private use. You do not sell public assets that are of economic value to the country to a small political group.

Politically, if government is building its asset base in some places and selling off in other parts of the country, there (is likely to be) a problem. If the government is interested in carrying out that type of exercise, it is should be done across the board. It should not be something that is skewed in favour or against one section of the country. From the moral and economic angle, government does not have a business in business.
 
How do other countries manage their assets? In the United States of America, there are structures owned by individual organisations and heavily funded by the government, through tax rebate, to encourage investments. But when you begin to dabble into everything, a lot of sentiments will begin to come into it. So, the government should ensure that its assets are not devalued for the wrong purposes.

The government has the right to divest its interests but it must take cognisance of the political consequences and economic benefits of doing so.

Bisi Sanda (Economic analyst/retired senior partner, Ernst and Young)
There is nothing better than the Federal Government selling off public assets recovered from public officials who stole public funds. The only issue is the politics that has been introduced into it. Selling off these assets is the only logical option available to the government. Right now, all over the world, most governments outsource a lot of services and make sure that they regulate instead of owning assets.

In the United Kingdom, some public officers live in their offices instead of government residential quarters. But we have very unpatriotic politicians in this country, who believe they have to feed fat on tax payers’ money. They will be adequately rewarded by God even if the people cannot take any action.

So, in terms of the recovered public assets, they need to be disposed of as quickly as possible. But what are the modalities for the disposal? Are they going to be taken through reputable estate agents or will these assets be taken through a kangaroo process and shared among current leaders?

From the look of things, we remember all the allegations of people spending over N250m to clear the bush in Internally Displaced Persons’ Camps. Can we rely on these people? We must ensure that the true value of the assets comes back to the people.  In principle, selling the assets is the appropriate thing to do.

Mr. Kayode Adebisi (Legal practitioner/human rights activist)
Yes, it is appropriate to sell these recovered assets, but they must follow due process before selling. The assets must be evaluated to determine their true market value before they are sold off. The government should also find out if it will be economically wise to maintain some of these assets.

However, assets that have temporary forfeiture orders placed on them should not be included among those to be sold because such cases are still pending in court. But those whose cases have been concluded or those whose real owners are not known should be sold at the prevailing market prices or even slightly lower.

The money realised from these assets should be used mainly for infrastructural development– for example roads – which will be useful to the majority of the people.

However, in line with the inaugural speech of President Muhammadu Buhari, the administration should be bold enough to publish the names of those who these assets were recovered from.

The names of persons from whom the assets were received from should not only be released, they should also be prosecuted. The government should ensure that the cases do not end up as plea-bargained cases.

Nigerians should know who and who plundered the economy, the names of such people should be published and they should be appropriately punished according to the law.

Prof. AbdulRasheed Na’Allah (Vice-Chancellor, Kwara State, University, Malate, Kwara State)
I have always believed that the government is usually informed by thinkers who will advise it on what is best for the nation. My advice as an intellectual is that whatever the government does, it must be guided by the sound principle of nation building. A sound principle to help us recover from the economic crisis we have found ourselves, a sound principle to help us diversify, a sound principle to ensure efficiency and effectiveness.

Had I known, in specific terms, what informed this debate, I might be able to criticise or endorse it. However, my take is that a nation like Nigeria must not just take haphazard decisions on anything.

Decisions must be taken after a well thought out and informed analysis and I hope that if such a decision has been taken, it was taken after a careful analysis. If not, maybe, the nation should seek to gather real thinkers, great advisers drawn from among people in the government as well as intellectuals.

I want to assume that there are different types of public assets being considered. Some could be buildings while some could be other kinds of resources and the government must have to look at the best way to serve Nigeria.

Government cannot relent in its efforts to fight corruption. The journey to end corruption is probably far but it has to be consistent and must be fought without any attempt to relent because if we must achieve our goal as a nation, we must not look back.

We must continue to fight corruption but there must be a well informed strategy. It must not just be about arresting people, it is also about understanding why such things happen in the first place?

What can we do so that it never happens again? You should not only arrest people and deal with them without addressing the root cause of the problem.

By: Habeeb Whyte 
Punch News

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