By Eniola Akinkuotu, Abuja
A human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), and a lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Dr. Lawrence Aderotimi, have called on members of the Senate to trim their high allowances and curb government spending instead of calling for the sale of national assets to address the economic recession.
In a statement on Thursday, Falana said Nigeria had never benefitted from the sale of national assets in the past because they were undervalued and sold to unscrupulous politicians.
Falana said, “If the Senate genuinely desires to contribute meaningfully to the debate on the economy, it should, as a matter of urgency, propose a substantial reduction in the jumbo emoluments of federal legislators which are said to be the highest in the world.”
He recalled that the official residence of the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives were sold to Senator David Mark and Mr. Dimeji Bankole respectively at less than quarter of their true value.
The senior advocate also recalled that the Nigerian External Telecommunications building in Marina, Lagos, was sold to the father of a lawmaker for less than 10 per cent of its value.
He, therefore, wondered why the Senate would advocate for the sale of national assets.
Falana reminded the senators that since they had sworn to always put the interest of Nigerians first, the lawmakers should ensure equitable distribution of national wealth.
He argued that selling the nation’s assets to a few individuals would further impoverish the nation.
Falana added, “It is pertinent to point out that the suggestion is in total conflict with section 16 of the 1999 Constitution which has prohibited the concentration of the nation’s wealth in the hands of a few people or a group.
“Indeed, by virtue of section 44 of the constitution, the nation’s natural resources shall be held in trust for the Nigerian people by the Federal Government. One would have expected the senators who swore to protect the constitution to kick against the suggestion to sell the assets of the nation to a few people.
“But for selfish considerations, a few legislators who may be queuing up to participate in the purchase of the nation’s assets are not prepared to defend the constitution.”
Falana disagreed with the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi (II), who advocated for the sale of national assets.
He said instead of demanding that the remaining assets of the nation be sold to the beneficiaries of intervention funds and fuel subsidy, Sanusi should assist the Asset Management Company of Nigeria and anti-graft agencies to ensure the liquidation of over N5tn toxic debts and the recovery of huge funds given to banks and the private sector by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Aderotimi also urged the Federal Government to seek alternative solution to the current recession rather than focusing on the sale of Nigeria’s assets.
Aderotimi made the appeal during an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Thursday in Abuja on the current economic situation of the country.
He said that the government could take the option of borrowing from the international organisations rather than selling the assets of Nigerians and those yet unborn.
The lecturer said that selling these assets would be termed “barbaric, unprofessional and evil.”