Divergent views trail planned sale of national assets

Divergent views trail planned sale of national assets

Divergent views trail planned sale of national assets

The Federal Government’s plan to sell national assets and some government-owned properties to finance this year’s budget has elicited mixed reactions from stakeholders in the built environment. Experts are divided on the planned sale, reports OKWY IROEGBU-CHIKEZIE

To sell or not to sell national assets and properties? This is the question on the lips of practitioners in the built environment.

The debate, occasioned by the Federal Government’s plan to offload national assets and properties to finance the N5.6 trillion deficit of the N13.58 trillion 2021 budget, has elicited arguments.

Reacting to the planned sale of government properties, the Chairman, Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors & Valuers (NIESV), Lagos State Chapter, Dotun Bamigbola, said that the expected cash would be used fund the 2021 budget is not a bad idea, if it would reduce government’s borrowing.

He said, however, that it was appropriate that due diligence was done on these properties earmarked for sale and/or concession using the appropriate professionals, to ensure that government realised the optimum value from either other income generation model of sale or concession as planned.

He said: “It will also be interesting if some of the forfeited or seized properties during the anti-corruption campaign of the Muhammadu Buhari administration are included in the process to ensure that the government’s expenditure on them is reduced if they are not variously put to use for their highest and best uses. Those properties, which are critical national assets should be well-considered for concession and the terms of such concessions, favourable to the country,” he added.

President, Nigeria Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Toyin Ayinde said selling public assets to fund the 2021 budget should be as a result of a cost-benefit analysis. He wondered what good could be made of wasting public assets, if they were not in any use and could not be maintained, especially when it appeared the country had no need for such.

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“If we indeed have no need for them in the first place, then it might make sense to sell them. We must, however, balance this with the value of the component of the 2021 budget that we want to invest in. Will those components too eventually become wasting public assets? Are those components going to yield a higher value to the nation? So, the answer is not that simple. There are a lot of considerations and calculations that should precede that decision. Ultimately, it should be a win for us as a nation,” he added.

But the President, Nigeria Institute of Building (NIOB), Kunle Awobodu, differs. According to him, the proposed sale is unusual, out of place and an aberration. He argued that such action suggests that the country is in a dire situation, which does not give a good impression of governance in the country.

Awobodu regretted the various corruption cases that have been left unattended and wondered if the sale is not to enrich certain people at the expense of the whole country.

In his words: “For several years, we have been speaking against the dangers of having a mono-economy, but, unfortunately, we are still in that quagmire. The much-touted anti-corruption stance of President Muhammadu Buhari has been compromised as a single man cannot fight corruption in any country. There is the need for a buy-in by his officials. Before now the NITEL building and other critical assets were sold but we cannot say that they followed due process. No doubt, the National Stadium and the National Arts Theatre have had years of management challenge, but one is yet to be convinced that selling them is the best option as the buyers and where the money to be realised is not guaranteed.”

But a former Chairman, NITP, Moses Ogunleye, takes a mid-way position. For him, while an asset is what is converted at any time for financial gains or bail-out, however, plans to sell off public asset by the government might not come that easy owing to several factors. He listed these factors to include sentimental attachments, trust issues, the need to advertise in national newspapers and to have competitive bidding.

He submitted that if indeed the government was thinking of financing the budget from such venture, the process should have started earlier, say last September.

“They must follow due process and it takes time. This is to avoid the accusation of selling vital government assets to cronies. This has happened before where government officials sell government properties to themselves. I look forward to seeing advertisements in the papers for competitive bidding. If not advertised, it will mean that certain people are privy to the plan and are ready with their billions to buy. I want to believe that the public buildings in Ikoyi, Lagos will be the first casualty with 4,000 square meter going for between N500 and N1billion,” he stated.

What impact would disposing of these national properties have on the built environment? The days ahead would give a direction to the real estate sector.

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