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Recession: Senators oppose Saraki on sale of assets, demand TSA review, true federalism



Senators on Thursday opposed their President, Bukola Saraki, kicking against the call for the sale of some national asset.

Mr. Saraki had yesterday joined the call by some Nigerian elite for the federal government to sell some assets to raise funds to help the country out of recession.

Many of the senators, who contributed as the debate on the recession in the country continued in the upper chamber, blamed the elite, including some lawmakers, for the economic problems of the nation.

Some called for the restructuring of Nigeria’s federalism while others called for a review of some fiscal policies, including the Single Treasury Account (TSA).

Leading the debate, Deputy Leader of the Senate, Bala Na’Allah, called on the government to reconsider its policy on TSA and its policy on domiciliary accounts.

He admitted that though the intention for making the policies may have been germane, they were unfortunately affecting the economy adversely.

He said that the TSA policy had stifled the banks and as such, money was no longer circulating in the economy through loans, mortgages and other means.

“The President has good intentions but we have a few people who are not thinking correctly.

“I recall that I complained when the CBN stopped operation of domiciliary accounts within and outside Nigeria.

“These two decisions must be revisited and redirected to ensure that there is a platform for redistribution of income.

“The two critical decisions of fighting corruption should be revisited,” he said.

Senator Andy Ubah decried the call for sale of national assets, describing it as wrong.

“If we sell our assets now to recover from this recession, what would we sell in the future if we ever slipped into another recession?

“We must seek an alternative way of recovering from this recession but sale of our assets is not the way out,” Mr. Ubah said.

The Majority Whip, Olusola Adeyeye, insisted that the nation must be restructured along the line of true federalism.

According to him, the states cannot keep coming to the federal to collect money while ignoring available resources and potentials in their states.

“Many have asked that we must restructure and I agree that we must restructure.

“If we restructure properly at least there will be a few places where stealing will not be going on at the same time. There will be some modest of exception that we can say what have they done right.

“I want us to look at this current constitutional review, the various exclusive lists and the various concurrent lists; let us look where we have over-burdened the Federal Government.

“If we must revitalise the economy, we must have jobs and projects going in every local government, every federal constituency and every senatorial district of this country.

“Let us begin to implement the zonal intervention projects,” he said, adding that the bitter truth was that people in government also contributed to the problems.

“If we will save Nigeria we must reduce the cost of governance. Nigeria’s estacode is the highest in the world; we must slash it to 50 per cent.

“Obafemi Awolowo campaigned in 1978 that he was going to slash it and it has now grown into five times what it was in those days; we must slash it.

“When you go to our airports and you park your car, you pay N300; that is 75 cents, but in all modern economies you pay per hour.

“If we are going to find money we must become creative.

“All of you with houses in Asokoro, Maitama and Apo and you don’t pay tenement rate; all of us must pay,” he said.

On his part, Sunny Ugboji, supported the need to restructure Nigeria “to enable it to operate true federalism,” saying that states could not continue to come to Abuja to share the national treasure without producing something.

He condemned all persons who kicked against the past administrations when they wanted to save money for the country.

“When the last administration wanted to save money, many of the people who kicked against it are now part of this present administration.

“We must restructure Nigeria: restructuring doesn’t mean disintegrating but just to help every state to tap their potentials and this will help Nigeria too.

“Naira should be allowed to float, floating the Naira would make it impossible for people to get waivers to buy dollar at 197 when it is higher in the open market,” Mr. Ugboji said.

Kicking against call for sale of the nation’s assets, he said that there was need to cure the systemic corruption in Nigeria.

He, however, warned that Nigerians must not be portrayed as thieves as corruption was not peculiar to the country.

“Those who are canvassing that we should sell our assets are getting it wrong; we have sold some of them yet we are still here,” the lawmaker said.

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