The Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, on Friday, January 22 said the Federal Government’s planned sale of public assets will benefit Nigerians and help to boost the economy.
In an appearance on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, Mrs Ahmed, who is also the Minister of Budget and National Planning, said some government assets are currently moribund and provide little or no value to Nigerians in their current state.
“There are some government assets that are dead that can be sold to the private sector to be reactivated and put to use for the benefit of Nigerians,” the Minister said.
“So we are looking at different – and I am a member of the National Council on Privatisation – we are looking at different categories of government assets that government has not been able to manage, that are lying down and in some cases even completely rundown, to cede them off to the private sector.
On January 12, Mrs Ahmed had revealed the government’s plan to sell public assets to partly finance the N13.58 trillion 2021 budget.
On Friday, Ms Ahmed stressed that the “intention is not just funding the budget, it is to reactivate these assets and hand it over and have them bring contributions to the growth in the economy.”
She added that the Bureau of Public Enterprises will begin to coordinate with other arms of government on the asset sales in the first quarter of the year.
” . . . in the last week of December, we had a meeting of the National Council on Privatisation where we approved the annual work plan, the 2021 work plan, for that Bureau of Public Enterprises,” she said.
“And I guess it is in this first quarter that the BPE will now be engaging the Senate committee and other committees they work with to say this is our work plan for the year.”
In a statement on Sunday, civil society group SERAP had asked the National Assembly to stop the federal government from selling public assets to fund the 2021 budget.
The group said the government should, instead, look to identify areas in the budget to cut, such as salaries and allowances for public officials.
On Monday, Osun State Lawmaker had defended the federal govrnment’s plan to sell public assets to fund the budgets.
“The issue of the sale of assets is not new,” he said during an appearance on Channels Television’s Politics Today.
“Even in the previous budgets, there have always been other sources of revenue and the sales of assets is one of such.”
But he stressed that the government must be transparent throughout the process.
“ . . . the critical issue we need to look at, is ‘What assets are we selling?’ Some assets are already liabilities, so what are we keeping them for? That is my humble opinion,” the lawmaker added. “You have to tell us which assets we are looking at.”
A deficit budget
President Muhammadu Buhari signed the 2021 budget into law in late December after it had been passed by the National Assembly.
About one-third of the budget is devoted to capital expenditure but critics maintain the government hasn’t done enough to curb unnecessary spending, especially around cuts in salaries and allowances for public officials.
With oil revenues still affected by the pandemic, the government has said it will borrow N5.6 trillion from domestic and foreign lenders to fund the budget.
The sale of moribund assets is expected to provide additional funding.
The National Arts Theatre and the Tafawa Balewa Square are some assets that could be put up for sale by the government.
Bitcoin Market Hits $1 Trillion In Value
The total value of all bitcoin topped $1.0 trillion on Friday, capping a spectacular record-breaking week for the world’s most popular cryptocurrency.
The digital unit zoomed to another record pinnacle at $54,182, meaning that the combined value of all bitcoin now stands at $1.002 trillion according to data provider Coinmarketcap.com.
More to follow . . .
CBN Orders Banks To Close All Accounts Transacting In Cryptocurrency
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has ordered all banks to close accounts of anyone who transacts in cryptocurrency.
The order was contained in a circular to banks and other financial institutions, signed on Friday by the Director of Banking Supervision, Bello Hassan, and it is expected to take effect immediately.
According to the CBN, dealing in cryptocurrency or facilitating payments for cryptocurrency exchanges is prohibited.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria circular of January 12, 2017, ref FPR/DIR/GEN/CIR/06/010 which cautioned Deposit Money Banks (DMBs), Non-Bank Financial Institutions (NBFIs), other Financial Institutions and members of the public on the risk associated with transactions in cryptocurrency refers.
“Further to earlier regulatory directions on the subject, the bank hereby wishes to remind regulated institutions dealing in cryptocurrencies or facilitating payments for cryptocurrency exchanges is prohibited.
“Accordingly, all DMB’s NBFI’s or OFI’s are directed to identify persons and/or entities transacting in or operating cryptocurrency exchanges within their systems and ensure that such accounts are closed immediately.
“Please, note that breaches of this directive will attract severe regulatory sanctions. This letter is with immediate effect”.
Nigeria’s Inflation Hits 15.75%, Highest In 3 Years
The inflation rate in Nigeria closed 2020 on a high hitting 15.75 percent in December, its highest level in three years. This is according to statistics released on Friday, January 15 by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
This an increase by 0.86 percent from the 14.89 percent recorded in November last year.
“The consumer price index, (CPI) which measures inflation increased by 15.75 percent (year-on-year) in December 2020. This is 0.86 percent points higher than the rate recorded in November 2020 (14.89) percent,” the NBS revealed in its statistics.
The spike beats the expectations of analysts at the financial derivatives company who had projected an increase to 15.4 percent, largely driven by forex rationing, output and productivity constraints, higher logistics and distribution costs.
Data released by the NBS also shows that an increase in food prices pushed the food index higher by 19.56 percent, while core inflation inched up by 0.32 percent to 11.37 percent in December.
“The composite food index rose by 19.56 percent in December 2020 compared to 18.30 percent in November 2020.
“The average annual rate of change of the Food sub-index for the twelve-month period ending December 2020 over the previous twelve-month average was 16.17 percent, 0.42 percent points from the average annual rate of change recorded in November 2020 (15.75) percent,” the NBS statement read in part.
This rise in the food index according to the NBS was caused by increases in prices of Bread and cereals, Potatoes, Yam and other tubers, Meat, Fruits, Vegetable, Fish and Oils, and fats.
Similarly, urban inflation also rose by 16.33 percent year on year, while the rural inflation rate stood at 15.20 percent in December.
In December 2020, all items inflation on year to year basis was highest in Bauchi (19.85%), Edo (18.15%), and Kogi (18.40%), while Lagos (14.05%), Kwara (13.91%), and Abia (13.30%) recorded the slowest rise in headline year on year inflation.