The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) yesterday advised the Muhammadu Buhari Administration to explore other options to raise funds to fund the budget instead of selling national assets.
A deputy director at SERAP, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare who spoke to our correspondent said: “President Muhammadu Buhari should stop selling public properties to fund the 2021 budget.
He said that the decision to sell federal government properties was not in the national interest and not necessary.
“Rather than protecting valuable public property, the Federal Government has continued to sell public assets to fund the 2021 budget, contrary to the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended]. And the leadership of the National Assembly is letting the government of President Buhari get away with it. This has to stop.”
Instead of selling national properties, SERAP advised Buhari to urgently “fix the current damaging budgeting process and address the systemic corruption in ministries, departments and agencies, tackle corruption in MDAs, and cut waste, salaries and allowances of high-ranking public officials.”
He said: “Selling valuable public properties to fund the budget is counter-productive, as this would be vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement. It would undermine the social contract with Nigerians, leave the government worse off, and hurt the country in the long run. It is neither necessary nor in the public interest.”
He called for a change of the country’s fiscal situation which he said could be achieved through some combination of cuts in spending on salaries and allowances, and a freeze on spending in certain areas of the budget such as hardship and furniture allowances, entertainment allowances, international travels, and buying of motor vehicles and utilities for members of the National Assembly and the Presidency.
SERAP further warned that budget deficit and debt problems threatened Nigerians’ access to essential public goods and services in addition to hurting future generations.
The group said: “If not urgently addressed, the deficit and debt problems would seriously undermine access to public goods and services for the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people who continue to endure the grimmest of conditions.
“If this trend continues, SERAP will continue appropriate legal action to stop the Federal Government from selling public properties, and to have the government spend responsibly.”
The federal government planned to sell or concession 36 of its properties between January 2021 and November 2022.
The funds generated will be used to finance the 2021 budget.
The properties listed for sale are selected from energy, industries, communication and infrastructural sectors.
Some of the properties include refineries, the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), the Abuja International Conference Centre (ICC), the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Abuja Water Board, Nigerian Film Corporation, among others.
The federal government’s decision to sell or concession these properties will help fund the N13.58 trillion 2021 budget signed by President Muhammadu Buhari on December 31, 2020.