From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has described as mere speculation, a proposed sale of national assets as a means to get out of recession.
FEC insisted government was yet to take a decision on it. Minister for Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, in response to State House Correspondents questions on government’s position as regards the sale of national assets after FEC meeting, said it was wrong for anyone to say the federal government had concluded plans to sell national assets.
However, Mohammed said government would come out, “very very soon” with an elaborate plans to take the country out of recession.
A top government source had, on Monday, told selected newsmen at the Presidential Villa that government has already listed conditions that must be met before the sale of certain national assets in order to shore up the nation’s dwindling resources. Top among the conditions, the source said, is insertion of re-purchasing clause in the assets sale agreements.
It has also ruled out outright sell off of its assets in Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG). The Federal Government is targeting to raise between $10 billion to $15 billion from asset sales following the drop in the nation’s monthly foreign earnings to about $300 million.
The National Economic Council (NEC) headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, had, last Thursday, endorsed government’s plans to sell some national assets.
Senate, however, rejected the plans to sell national assets, just as the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has warned that it would embark on mass protest against the proposed sale.
Regardless, Mohammed said: “Government is still working on the most comprehensive manner to reflate the economy and the government will make its position known very very soon.
“What government will do is to reflate the economy. Everything you have heard, so far, is just suggestion; until government makes its position known, all these assets sale, assets leasing, whatever is being bandied about there are nothing but speculations. Government is yet to come out with its position on how to bail out the economy and it will do that very soon.”
Reminded that the NEC endorsed assets sale, among other decisions of government to reflate the economy, he replied: “NEC will recommend but it is FEC that will decide and what we decide will be the position of government.”
Meanwhile, Minister of Water Resources, Sulieman Adamu said the Council approved three memos on Water Resources, National Water Policy, National Irrigation Policy and a Draft National Water Resources Bill.
Explaining the three memos, Adamu said, “National Water Policy seeks to provide strategies that will improve the management and delivery of water in the country in particular reference to water supply. It is followed by the enabling law, that is National Water Resources Bill, which essentially consolidates all the existing laws, the Water Resources Act, the River Basin Development Authority Act, National Water Resources Institute Act, National Hydrological Services Act and other Acts put together to form a national law that conforms to international standard and international best practices. By so doing we have been able to streamline many of the overlapping laws, sometimes we have conflict in laws, like the one we have with Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), some laws relating to environment, minning.
“This bill seeks to sought out all those issues so that we have a standard national law, also so that we can set up a proper regulatory agency to regulate the water sector. With that the door is now open for the private sector to come in in a big way to invest in water supply schemes in this country.
“The irrigation and drainage policy seeks to recognise and bring in water users association and generally improve not only irrigation infrastructure but irrigation management in the country.
“Nigeria has the potential of 3.4 million hectares of land for irrigation and we have only about 130,000 has been developed formally and only about 70,000 is being utilised.
“So there is a huge gap and we feel that introducing this policy will help us to work along at federal and at regional level with the states so that we will have all encompassing policy that will help our agriculture agenda for now. And also support our national irrigation policy that introduce under a roadmap that is suppose to be from this year to 2030. It won’t go well without this policy.
“So is a good thing that we brought the three policy together and we believe the water resources sector is going to be entirely different ball game from now on”.
The Information and Culture minister on his part said water has economic, social and political implications, adding that the judicious use/allocation of water for human, animals, livestock, industry has become one of the serious issues facing humanity.
“As a matter of fact many countries have gone to war over the issue of water. So I believe is only timely that Nigeria is proactive and has consider the issue of water resources as not one that should be left in the hands of anybody but a federal government took it seriously”.