Over the weekend, organised labour including the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC; Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC; the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG; and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, in one accord, threatened to stage a mass revolt and civil unrest that will be worse than the anti-SAP riots of 1989 if the Federal Government fails to shelve its proposed sale of national assets.
Although the Presidency has made no comment about the planned move, the Minister for Budget and Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, said in a statement on Saturday that the Federal Government would not sell critical national assets to boost its foreign reserves as well as have funds to build up the economy against the current downward plunge.
NUPENG and PENGASSAN have already threatened to shut Nigeria over the planned sale, which they argued would not profit the entire nation but only a few privileged Nigerians.
In reaction, PENGASSAN said:
“Any attempt to sell these national assets will be met with stiff resistance from the Association, as PENGASSAN will galvanize every support, including that of our sister union and labour centres, to shut down this country by ensuring that every activity in the oil and gas sector is brought to a complete halt.
“Some opportunists in the cloak of businessmen and short-sighted politicians had earlier advocated the sale of public assets such as the NLNG, four state-owned refineries, Nigeria’s stakes in Africa Finance Corporation, AFC, the nation’s airports and reduction of government’s shares in upstream oil joint venture operations and this was approved by the National Economic Council, NEC.”
“The proponents of the sale of national assets are those who have been actively involved in the operations of the nation’s economy in the past. They were part of those responsible for the country’s current economic situation.
“Moreover, such sales in the past, including the power and steel sectors privatization, were just a shift from public to private monopoly which has further worsened those sectors.
“It is, therefore, the candid position of PENGASSAN that such plan should be thrown into the trash bin. Government should continue to seek better ways to address the present economic challenges and reduce areas of wastages.”
Similarly, NUPENG, through its General Secretary, Mr Joseph Ogbebor, said:
“We will resist the sale with all our might. It is not in the best interest of Nigerians. It will only compound the unemployment in the country. It will also compound the restiveness and agitation in the Niger Delta. There is no way we are going to accept it. If the President is really a patriot as claimed, he should not yield to the pressure because enemies of the country are at work.
While describing the proposed sale of national assets as unacceptable, unpatriotic, anti-Nigeria and a move that must be rejected and resisted by all, Ogbebor added that their organs will meet either as NUPENG or jointly with PENGASSAN to deal with the issue. He further called on President Buhari to declare a state of emergency on the economy and summon all-encompassing stakeholders meeting to brainstorm on how the present economic challenges can be quickly addressed.
“NUPENG is of the view that Nigeria is a big market and certain measures should be put in place to reflate the economy so that it will be an investors’ destination”, he added.
In the same vein, TUC also declared its opposition through its Acting Secretary General, Simeso Amachree, saying they will not only refuse it but will also resist it appropriately as it is an attempt to take over the national assets. The group demanded that the idea is dropped otherwise, the government will incur the wrath of workers.
The group went on to state that if those clamouring for the sales pay their appropriate taxes, there would be enough money to bring the country out of the woods without sacrificing our national assets.
“Truly, we appreciate the concern of some sincere people in government, especially President Muhammadu Buhari, who is working tirelessly to fix the economy. But we get worried when people suggest we sell investments like NLNG which provided the money for the bailout of states when they could not pay salaries or concession our airports. On what grounds?
“The Congress will mobilise and resist any further sale or concession of our national assets under whatever guise”,it stressed.
On its part, the NLC’s General Secretary, Dr Peter Ozo-Eson, said the congress would formally explain its position on the planned sale of the national assets in a press conference on Monday, 26 September.
“We have issued a formal statement to reject the whole process, we issued that yesterday. We will address a press conference next week on this matter. We are going to address a press conference on this matter, in the afternoon on Monday.”
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s minister of finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, has revealed that she cannot predict when the country will be out of the current economic recession.