The federal government has made a U-turn in its proposed bid to dispose national assets to raise money in order to reflate the economy, describing it as mere speculation.
This position was made known by the minister of information, Lai Mohammed, after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday, at the Presidential Villa.
This comes barely one week after the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting, presided over by the vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, with 23 state governors in attendance, backed the sale of national assets as one of the ways to raise cash to reflate the economy.
The NEC, which is the highest economic decision making body, also canvassed advance payment of licence renewals, infrastructure concessioning and implementation of fiscal stimulus.
It will be recalled that the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, had penultimate while confirming government’s plans to sell about 15 per cent of its oil assets held by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), which is expected to yield an inflow of $10 billion to the country.
He had said in an interview with top media managers in Lagos that the sale would commence soon. He said the expected income would have been up to $15 billion if the assets were sold earlier in the year and added that a team of consultants had been commissioned to carry out a study on the proposed sale.
Finance minister, Mrs Kemi Adeosun had also told business editors in an interview this week that sale of assets would reduce government borrowing.
Recall also that business mogul, Aliko Dangote, was the first to fly the kite about a fortnight night ago when he advised the federal government to sell some national assets, saying it was a better option for the country than borrowing from the World Bank or IMF. According to him, what the nation needs now is to beef up its reserves. He particularly advised the government to sell the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Ltd.
The Senate, on Tuesday, however rejected the proposal, saying the country was not bankrupt, and wondered why the federal government would consider the sale of national assets as an option.
However, speaking to State House correspondents, the minister of information said that, so far, all the reports were still in the realm of speculation as the federal government had not officially made its decision known on the matter.
According to him, government is still working on how to reflate the economy in the most comprehensive manner and will make its position known very soon.
Mohammed said: “What the government will do is to reflate the economy; everything you have heard so far is just suggestion, until the government makes its position known.
“All these assets sale, assets leasing, whatever is being bandied about, they are nothing but speculations. The government is yet to come out with its position on how to bail out the economy.
“NEC will recommend but it is the Federal Executive Council that will decide, and what we decide will be the position of government,” he added.