Remarks by HMIC Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Chairman, Stakeholders’ Engagement Committee (SEC) of The National Council On Privatisation (NCP), at The Stakeholders’ Media Interactive Forum, Held At The Protea Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos, On Monday, 29 October 2018

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The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed (second right); the Director General of the National Orientation Agency, Dr. Garba Abari (extreme right); the Director General of the Bureau for Public Enterprises, Mr. Alex Okoh (second left) and the Chairman, Business Editors of Nigeria, Mr. Omoh Gabriel, at the Stakeholders' Media Interactive Forum on the privatization of public enterprises in Lagos on Monday.

PROTOCOL

I warmly welcome you all to this media interactive forum, organised by the Stakeholders Engagement Committee (SEC) of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP), which I chair. I thank you most sincerely for taking time off your busy schedules to be here with us today. There is no better confirmation of your interest and support for the reform and privatisation programme of the Federal Government. You remain our valued ally since the inception of the programme and, as the mirror of the society, we look up to you to – at all times – convey our messages to the general public.

2. The main reason for this interaction is to get your buy-in for the reform and privatisation programme. The mixed feelings the reform has generated could only be assuaged if we share with you, our critical stakeholders, our experiences in the desire to restore public confidence in the programme.

3. The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), being the Secretariat of the NCP, is saddled with the huge responsibility of reaching out to all its stakeholders. That is why it is has become very necessary for us to do all that we can to ensure that the committee lives up to its responsibilities by ensuring that we identify and maintain contacts with various stakeholders and opinion leaders; and in turn to advise Council on their interests and concerns about the programme.

4. Gentlemen of the press, you will recall that the policy of ‚ÄúReconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation‚ÄĚ after the civil war, aided by oil price boom of the early 1970s, saw government building massive industrial and infrastructural facilities in Nigeria.
It was this initiative that gave rise to a large public sector. The initiative was justified mostly by the need to foster rapid industrialization, against the backdrop of the then perception of a non-existent entrepreneurial class and indigenous capital. To this end, the Federal Government invested over $100 billion in establishing
public enterprises.

5. Despite the massive investments and great expectations, Public Enterprises (PEs) have failed to live up to expectations. They consumed a large proportion of resources without providing commensurate services. More importantly, they failed to allocate their resources efficiently, even as they consumed over $3 billion annually, by way of grants, subsidies, import duty waivers, tax exemptions, etc.

6. The introduction of economic reforms and privatization by successive governments were deliberate and necessary responses to address the abysmal failure of the PEs and to halt the unsustainable drain on the treasury, given the limited resources of the government.

7. Privatization in Nigeria began between 1986 and 1987 when the Federal Government created the Technical Committee on Privatization and Commercialization (TCPC) and also promulgated the Privatization and Commercialization Decree no. 25 of 1988. The TCPC privatised 89 out of the 111 enterprises slated for full or partial privatization, offered some 1,486,722,063 shares to Nigerians from all walks of life and, in the process, raised N3.2 billion as revenue for the Government.

8. Currently, the programme consists of reforms and privatization in various sectors of the economy, including; Telecommunications, Development Finance Institutions (BOI and BOA), the Nigerian Commodity Exchange, Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, Federal Housing Authority, National Parks and the River Basin Development Authorities. It also consists of Power, the Postal sector, Federal roads, Railways, National Inland Water Ways and a host of other enterprises.

9. The Bureau has initiated and executed far-reaching reforms in Telecommunications, Pensions, Sea Ports, Debt Management, Solid Minerals, and most recently, the Power sector reform that led to the successful unbundling and privatisation of the successor companies of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). Some of these reforms led to the establishment of both regulatory and other agencies such as the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Pension Commission (PenCom),
the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Debt Management Office (DMO), Nigeria Electricity Liabilities Management Company (NELMCO), and the Nigeria Electricity Bulk Trader (NBET).

10. The reforms seek to achieve the following goals:

– Abrogate monopoly laws that restrict private sector participation
and creates public sector monopolies

– Liberalise the sector as a matter of policy and law, and allow
private sector participation in the sector

– Create a policy, legal and regulatory framework that guides
participation in the sector

– Set up independent regulatory agencies that will police operations
in the sector

– In some cases, create an agency that will be vested with the
infrastructure assets for the purpose of granting concessions to the
private sector operators.

11 The Bureau of Public Enterprises has drafted eight reform bills in the Transport, Competition and Consumer Protection and Postal sectors which have been approved by both the NCP and the Federal Executive Council and has been transmitted to the National Assembly for enactment. The bills are: The Railway Bill; The Inland Waterways Bill; The Ports and Harbour Bill; The Federal Roads Authority Bill; The National Roads Fund Bill; The National Transport Commission; The Competition and Consumer Protection Bill and the The Postal Bill

12. These bills, when passed, shall liberalise the relevant sectors and lead to the setting up of appropriate regulatory agencies to create the much-needed conducive and enabling environment for private sector investments. An expeditious passage of the reform bills and the establishment of the regulatory agencies and institutions created by the bills will greatly enhance the inflow of investment in the sectors.

13. While we urge you to participate actively in this interactive forum, we look up to you to help disseminate the information that would help the understanding of fellow Nigerians and prospective investors.

14. I wish you all a fruitful interaction, and I thank you for your kind attention.