Sale of national assets will further compound the economic woes
Sale of national assets will further compound economic woes
Labour movement must resist it
For massive investment and democratic management of public assets and corporations
It is not surprising that the Buhari/APC government has announced it will intensify the privatization of public assets and corporations. On several occasions, the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) has made it quite clear that this government that came with the mantra of change will implement pro-rich policies like the previous governments. We warned that this would be the inevitable result of the Buhari government working within the straightjacket of capitalism and the latest developments have vindicated our forecast.
Faced with a rapidly worsening economic situation and growing popular discontent the government is becoming desperate. Even if there is a small increase in the oil export price it will not end the crisis given the scale of Nigeria’s problems and our rapidly growing population. The decision to sell off national assets is aimed at both getting some little income and also providing individual capitalists with new profit opportunities.
But this is no solution to the crisis and the entire labour movement must see this decision to sell off national assets and other anti-poor policies by the government as a challenge that must be confronted with all the vigour that it entails. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) must act upon their words opposing the sell-off and seriously mobilise the Nigeria working masses and poor on a sustained mass movement to stop further privatization and to demand the renationalization of the commanding heights of the economy under public democratic control and management.
Working people and youth must ask this government and those who support its agenda to sell off public assets some pertinent questions. One, if the private sector has $15 billion to buy public assets, what is stopping the same private individuals from investing in the economy directly by setting up companies and creating jobs? Is it not curious that the sale would be taking place when private companies are collapsing in droves as a result of the economic crisis? This underpins the insincerity of the Buhari-led anti-poor government and their collaborating friends in the private sector including Aliko Dangote.
The sale of public assets especially Nigeria Liquefied and Natural Gas (NLNG was canvased last week by Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, ostensibly to shore up the foreign reserve by $15 billion, restore investors’ confidence and bailout the economy out of recession. This position was subsequently supported by the federal government, the 36 state governors and the Senate President.
Dangote and other members of the ruling elite are only interested in buying the NLNG at cheap price and their recent call is obviously connected to this interest. It could also be one of the ruinous conditions spelt out by the imperialist agencies. The reality is that $15 billion cannot bail the economy out of recession and cannot boost the confidence of the so-called investors. The only thing that can boost interest to invest in Nigeria in a period of global economic crisis is the guarantee that huge profit can be made and that such profit can as well be repatriated in hard currency which is difficult at the present moment. Basic infrastructure to support business is unavailable coupled with the rising cost of doing business. At best the $15 billion can temporarily make forex available to the likes of Dangote at a cheaper price to do business and after it is exhausted, the economy is back to status quo.
Therefore, we hold that the decision to sell national assets is nothing but an agenda to swindle the working people and plunder public wealth by transferring national assets, at give-away prices, into the hands of elements like Aliko Dangote and company for profit-making. Already because of his domination of different spheres of the economy including cement production, Aliko Dangote who is worth an estimated $15 billion has become the richest person in Africa with a massive business empire spanning several African countries. Between last year and now, the price of a bag of cement has increased by many percentage points to about N2, 500 forcing many developers including working people to abandon building projects. Together with having the world’s second largest sugar refinery and one of the biggest cement companies in Africa, Dangote is currently building a 650, 000 barrel per day capacity refinery which would give him a monopoly of the petroleum downstream. Selling more national assets to Aliko Dangote and his ilk will increase their monopoly of the economy and deepen the inequality between the few rich and the poor majority.
It is instructive to stress that the reason why we are in this economic crisis is not only because of overdependence on oil. It is also because the capitalist ruling elite have failed to build basic infrastructure over time, industrialize and plan the economy to meet basic needs. The domination of the multinationals over Nigeria’s economy has led the very few Nigerian capitalists who have made money have concentrated on everyday goods, like food and cement, and services.
With the world economy slowing down and the fall in the oil export price Nigerian industries are closing down and over one million jobs have been lost in the last one year. If privatization is the way out, then the private companies should be bailing out the economy at this moment but they are falling like pack of cards and begging government to bail them out. As a matter of fact, the 2008 world economic crisis was sparked off by the massive corruption and profligacy of top management staff and bourgeoisies of big private companies. The Nigeria electricity sector has been largely privatized since November 2013 at rock bottom price, but electricity supply has only got worse; Nigeria Airways has been liquidated but the private airlines are in themselves folding up; NITEL was privately managed and worse result was recorded; Daily Times was privatized and its assets were striped leaving the company in decrepit condition; commercial banks are privately owned and managed but yet government has spent public funds of more than N3 trillion at different times to bail them
Other than selling public assets and privatization, the only way to grow the Nigerian economy out of recession is to invest in the existing assets to turn it around and invest in more assets; re-nationalize the existing privatized companies and the commanding height of the economy including the banks to engender low credits to small and medium scale companies; reduce the bloated political office holders and their huge emoluments to that an average skilled worker to enable some savings for investment; launch a massive all inclusive corruption probe aimed at getting back looted funds and punishing the looters as well as seizure of all assets acquired through looting/corruption; massive investment in agriculture and industry to create more jobs and the introduction of democratic control and management in all public companies to ensure efficiency and to checkmate corruption.
But the Buhari government cannot make a fundamental change because it is a capitalist government. That the Buhari/APC government takes orders from money bags like Aliko Dangote about what the direction of its economic policy should be is clear evidence that this government is a pro-rich and anti-poor one. Working people and change-seeking youth must fight both for emergency measures to protect working people and the poor and for a government that truly represents the interest of the majority. This can only be done by building a mass working people’s political party with deep roots in the workplace, communities and campuses and armed with socialist programmes. This is why once again; the SPN is repeating the call on the NLC, TUC and the entire labour movement to convene a conference of workers, socialists and pro-masses organizations to discuss how such a political party will emerge.