Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Tuesday threw his weight behind the proposed sale of some national assets to aide speedy economic recovery.
The former president, who addressed the National Council of Finance and Economic Development conference in Abeokuta, Ogun State, however cautioned against the asset being sold to dubious people.
”Selling national asset during recession time like this is not a bad thing,” Mr. Obasanjo said. “Government should sell 49 per cent of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).”
He called for the reorganisation of the oil and gas sector.
Mr. Obasanjo urged the government to be clear on what it plans to do, and that the process of selling the asset should be transparent, to ensure every willing Nigerian has access to the asset.
The plan to sell national asset has been widely criticised by many Nigerians.
Former central bank governor, Chukwuma Soludo, said it would be a “historic mistake” if asset such as NLNG are sold now.
“I see no reason why 49 per cent of NNPC cannot be privatised,” Mr. Obasanjo. “Don’t give it out to cabals, friends, relations, kin and kith. Let it go public, so that even my driver can buy 10 per cent of NNPC. There should be a limit to the share any individual or corporate organisations can buy. There is nothing wrong in that. The NNPC will then be run as NLNG was run,” Mr. Obasanjo said.
“The NLNG is doing wonderfully well. NNPC was doing very well until we started running it not the way it should be run. If it can be run this way in the past, who says it cannot be run that same way in future. We must prevent reoccurrence.
“Many people thought selling was a bad thing, no. You are reorganising the sector. That is all it is. You’re reorganising the sector. You talk of asset that are not doing well. No! If you have to earn money to get yourself out of the situation you are in, you can even sell good asset. You can, the only thing is how do you sell it?
On ways out of the current economic recession, Mr. Obasanjo said the government should spend less, earn more and borrow money to salvage the country from going under.
He said the government must focus on massive agricultural production and stop importation of goods that could be produced locally.
“If you are spending more than you are earning, there are only three solutions. One, you spend less; two, you earn more; three, you borrow in the hope you’d pay back,” he said.