Fashola Cautions Over Senate Probe Of BPE Privatization


Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Thursday called for caution in defining the objectives of the on-going investigation of the activities of the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) from 1999 to date so as not to discourage investment in the country.

Governor Fashola, who spoke at the Lagos House, Alausa, while playing host to the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on the Investigation of Privatization and Commercialization Activities of the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) from 1999 to date, said while it was necessary to conduct such investigation for the purpose of ensuring that the Nigerian economy prospers, some caution must be exercised in defining its objective so that it is not misunderstood by the investing public.

He told members of the Committee led by its chairman, Senator Ahmed Lawan, “Let me say I associate myself with the concern that is expressed about the performance of the privatised entities. But I do so on the assumption that it is a concern expressed for the purpose of ensuring that the Nigerian economy prospers and, in the sense, it is able to grow and provide opportunities for Nigerians and Africans who choose to come and live here.”

The governor, however, declared, “Let me say that we must exercise some caution in defining the objective of these investigations so that our objectives are not misunderstood by the investing local and international communities. We must painstakingly ensure that we do not send an unintended message that discourages investment”.

Recalling some of the raging debates purporting that the exercise has failed and that it ought not to have been undertaken in the first place, Governor Fashola said much as these assertions have no demonstrable empirical evidence to support them, “a distinction must be drawn between non-compliance with rules and non-compliance with procedures by people who have responsibility to do so,” adding that if any of those are found, they should be sanctioned.


“But we must separate that from the intrinsic question of why businesses in Nigeria have difficulty in performing optimally. We must ask ourselves, as a government, have we given enough support to those businesses by way of infrastructure such as Power, Transportation and other utilities that they need to perform optimally?” the governor asked.

According to him, “We must also interrogate the current regime of taxes and tariffs, concessions and waivers; have they been used in a purposeful way to support and protect Nigerian businesses? We must review our trade agreements in a way that ensures that the protection of Nigerian businesses must be the priority in signing those agreements.

“In the course of my tenure here, I have had cause to serve in some committees and I have been unimpressed, to put it more lightly, in some of the agreements we have signed even in the sub-region in a way that does not prosper our economy,” the governor said.

Governor Fashola said some of the businesses in Lagos that can be readily alluded to as successful such as Durbar Hotel and others “are prospering and running on generators. But they are also surviving because we have taken a conscious role here in providing security, in lighting up their streets, in making the access roads to their businesses functional so that customers can go there. This is the responsibility that all of us have in whatever state these businesses are”.

“The expansion of the Lagos–Badagry Expressway, which is a Federal Highway, an International Federal Highway, was undertaken by us in order to provide support for the strategic business like the Lagos International Trade Fair Complex that is the largest place that you have a spare-parts market in the whole of the sub-region. But if people cannot get there, there won’t be business there,”he said,.

The governor further said these are some of the things policy makers and policy formulators must put into consideration especially as preparations are being made for next year’s budget, adding that they are critical for the growth and prosperity of the nation’s economy.”

On the privatised enterprises, Governor Fashola said the areas to examine are their management and the manpower development strategy pointing out that the enterprises themselves are mere institutions which need people to think for and manage them.

“I think we should be careful here in coming to the conclusion that the exercise has failed. I think we should ask questions and the question is whether government, as enabler of businesses, has done enough to support private enterprises. I think that is the fundamental question. It will be unfairly judgmental to come to the conclusion that a business has failed if government has not discharged its sole responsibility to provide enabling environment,” he said.

Thanking the Senators for their thoughtfulness in making the courtesy visit, Governor Fashola declared, “I recognise the Senate in a democracy as a very powerful institution which has very significant power which, if properly directed, can become definitive in formulating policies and making laws that will prosper this country”.

Earlier, in his opening remarks, the Committee Chairman, Senator Ahmed Lawan, said the committee was the outcome of the debate on July 10 this year on a motion on the collapse of privatised public enterprises, adding that the committee was to investigate the activities of the enterprises privatised by BPE from 1999 to date.

According to him, after a one-week public hearing in Abuja during which the committee invited core investors and management of the privatised enterprises and the general public to exchange views on the way forward, the committee also thought it wise to go round to the companies concerned for firsthand examination of their status.

Government, the chairman said, is worried that a decade after the enterprises were privatised, most of them are neither showing any sign of improved efficiency in management nor improved productivity, adding that even the opportunities they are expected to provide for the nation’s teeming unemployed youths are not forthcoming.

He said the Committee had already visited the Apapa and Tin-can Island Ports and also the Nigerdock, adding, however, that the companies are doing much better than most other privatised enterprises.

Thanking Governor Fashola for granting the committee members audience and the warm hospitality extended to them during their stay in Lagos, the Chairman also congratulated the people of Lagos “for electing a Governor of your calibre and commitment, who has introduced elements of good governance that is worthy of emulation by each and everybody in this country,” adding that the governor has introduced tremendous changes during his tenure.

Also present at the occasion were the Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, Mr. Be. Akabueze, his Trade and Commerce counterpart, Mrs. Sola Oworu and other members of the State Executive Council while the Senator Lawan was accompanied by Senators Hope Uzodinma, Babatami Ojudu, Phillip Aduda, Mohammed Dume and others.

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