Concern over legal environment of sale
By Nsikan Ikpe
A frantic scramble has presently broken out among investors and business interests that want to lap up the national assets about to be offered for sale by the Nigerian government in exchange for hard currency, The Difference checks have revealed.
Among others, the Nigerian authorities are seriously considering selling part or whole of the nation’s stakes in a vast range of critical assets, that include, but is not limited to, the Nigerian Railway Corporation, the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Company, NLNG and the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in the commercial metropolis of Lagos.
Feelers reveal that among other contenders that are eyeing the NLNG cash cow are a motley of foreign and local interests. They include the China National Petroleum Corporation, Shell, Agip, Seplat, Oando and the Dangote Group.
For the equally lucrative Murtala Muhammed International Airport, firms being named as prospective single or consortium bidders include Bi-Courtney, Kenya Airways, South Africa Airways and KLM.
As for the Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC, odds currently favour the American behemoth, General Electric, to clinch the asset.
While the asset sale idea has been in the public domain for some time now, policy analysts and market watchers say that it has lately taken a frantic dimension following the critical endorsements that it has received lately. These include positive reactions to the idea from the multi-billionaire industrialist, Aliko Dangote, Senate President, Bukola Saraki and the National Economic Council.
Before now, there had been a relatively subdued reaction from the public given that vital details of the proposed sale had not been disclosed. This had prompted widespread misgivings from commentators and activists, including individual trade unions and the composite Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC. While labour would not be persuaded to embrace the move and has indeed vowed to frontally resist it, the thinking however is that the administration would either initiate efforts in the next few days to attempt to win them over or indeed call the unionists’ bluff and go on with the sales process nevertheless.
There are also concerns over the legal environment within which the sales are being conducted. Ordinarily, all such initiatives are expected to be conducted under the auspices of the National Council on Privatisation and its technical agency, the Bureau for Public Enterprises, BPE. However, the current plan, observers say, would give very little room for the BPE to be involved given the haste with which the transactions are being conducted and also given the fact that its statutory governing council is yet to be inaugurated by the President.