By Endurance Onun:
Member representing Ogoja State Constituency and Leader of the 9th Cross River State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Peter Odey has called on the State Governor, Sen. Benedict Ayade to consider privatizing some state owned industries/enterprises in view of increasing income for government and reducing overhead expenditure by freeing subsidies paid to these enterprises, thus, applying the proceeds to other critical infrastructure and social programmes.
In his motion, raised yesterday at plenary, Rt. Hon. Peter Odey informed that with the many enterprises established by His Excellency in line with his rapid industrialization programme, there was need for Governor Ayade to privatize some of these numerous establishments to enhance performance, increase efficiency and effectiveness vis-a-vis produce goods and services for economic development and growth of the state.
While moving the motion, Odey noted that “the Cross River State Government in 2001 embarked on the privatization and commercialization of some State enterprises using the Cross River State Enterprise (Privatization) Law No. 7 of 2001. The process was further strengthened with the equipment of the Cross River State Public Private Partnership Law.
“Law No. 7 of 2001 establishes a Council saddled with the responsibility of privatizing any State owned enterprise be it a Corporation, Board, Company or Parastatal established by or under enactment in which the State has ownership or equity interest”.
In Odey’s view, the present state administration under Gov. Benedict Ayade has established some industries like the “Super Highway, Deep Seaport, Obudu Airport, Piles and Pylon Factory, Calasvita, Garment Factory, Cocoa Processing Plant, Calapharm, Rice Processing Plant, Toot-pick Factory, Seeds and Seedlings Factory, etc”, howthat, only Privatizing some of these State’s owned industries would help make others under the State Government’s management become productive.
Consequently, Odey moved that major amongst these enterprises that needed privatization are; Tinapa Business & Leisure Resort, Obudu Ranch, Calabar International Convention Center (CICC), Tinapa Lake Side Hotel, and Marina Resort.
The Leader of the 9th House also pointedly noted that “apart from the huge expenditure incurred in setting up these enterprises, there is still need to fund them for effective take-off and thereafter sustain them with subsidy”.
He said that “a critical analysis of the state revenue in the past 8 years shows that there has been a consistent drop in revenue from Federal sources occasioned by the State loss of its Oil Producing Status and the huge debt profile which has accumulated over the past 20 years.
“It is obvious that from the above scenario, completing and further subsidising the state enterprises has become a huge challenge which is capable of dragging the state into deeper debts amidst fears of abandoning such projects entirely,” Rt. Hon. Peter Odey said.
Supporting the motion, one of the Co-Sponsors, Rt. Hon. Hilary Bisong of Boki II State Constituency stated that all the potent enterprises in the state and beyond are under private management. Stating that “government has no business in doing business”, Hon. Hilary said the role of government in business was to provide an enabling environment for businesses to thrive and not to run those businesses by itself.
Taking the Garment Factory for example, Hilary said that it is 2 years since it was established, yet the enterprise is yet to give out measurably to what the government has been giving in. Hilary clearly stated that within these said 2 years, the state government has spent about N18 million for staff salaries alone.
Hilary who propounded that “there is life in privatization” opined that because we are a capitalist economy, the government can not run businesses but only social services and that privatization will help transfer the burden of running business and at same time running social services off from the shoulders of government; that way, he said the government can have more energy to concentrate on social infrastructure and security which are her primary obligations.
Also aligning with the motion was Rt. Hon. Fred Osim of Ikom I who, in his words said “the government is not a good businessman” and as such should not do business.
Hon. Fred Osim exposed that with the high level of nepotism around government wings, it is unadvisable for government to run businesses because, according to him, one government agent appointed to oversee a duty will want to employ only members of his family whether or not they possess the necessary skills to function and by so doing, the collapse of such an establishment would be inevitable.
Aside nepotism, Hon. Osim pointed to bureaucracy as another major bottle-neck of government-run businesses. He said that government is often too interested in following due process; howthat, private investors are result-oriented other than due process-oriented.
Rt. Hon. Ogbor Ogbor of Biase State Constituency who also donated his voice to the motion advised that if the government finally agree on privatization, then, the House of Assembly should ensure that all the processess leading to the privatization of any government asset was transparent. Otherwise, according to him, it will be a case of “digging one hole to fill the other”.
Also on Ogbor’s path was Rt. Hon Nelson Ofem of Yakurr I State Constituency who appealed that transparency and honesty should be the watchwords for any future privatization process in state, stressed that the onion of commercializing public assets is “not in the act but the process”, pointing to the power sector in the country as a case in hand – whose, though privatized, is still unable to deliver to the best of public commendation.
After much contributions from members, the House resolved for the State Government to commence the process of privatizing some of its owned enterprises with a view to keeping the state industrialization programme on track for the development and growth of the State economy.
To achieve the above objective, they also resolved that the State Governor seeks core investors who are experienced and possess the technical knowhow on any of the enterprises they wish to invest and should also possess the financial muscle as well as the managerial skills to profitably manage the said enterprise and deliver the same quality of service earlier envisaged by the State.
The House further resolved for Gov. Ayade to immediately constitute the State Privatization Council in line with Provisions of the State Enterprise (Privatization) Law 2001.