Why BPE Should Be
By Alao Akanbi
Perhaps it is pertinent to start this write up with an interpretation of what I think the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) is not. That, in my opinion, might suffice to correct some misconceptions about the organization by some self seeking individuals while at the same time stressing the good work it has been doing since inception.
First and foremost, the Bureau was not set up as a contract awarding institution .It was not set up to distribute largesse to persons and interest groups from the public till. Before BPE, it is trite to say that public enterprises were honey pots for a few parasites that had the belief that though they (the enterprises) belong to Nigerians, they belong to no one in particular. In that mindset, corruption, inefficiency and purposelessness became the order of the day even as government poured in resources believing it was serving public interest.
Annual budgets witnessed huge amounts being emptied into what turned out to be bottomless pit of debauchery and malfeasance. All that came to an end with the coming into being of the Bureau which has since earned the confidence of the right thinking members of the society by the decisive manner it checked the wastage that was going on.
So, it is not unexpected that beneficiaries of the status quo ante would attempt to up turn the system or at least create the impression that the Bureau, as an idea, was not well thought out ab initio. But nothing can be farther from the truth.
Without gain-saying it, BPE has become the single most important confidence building institution as far as foreign direct investors (FDIs) are concerned. For those of them used to transparency and integrity in corporate relations, BPE¢s openness in its activities of privatising erstwhile moribund public enterprises is a welcome development in Nigeria.
For them, it is reassuring that BPE plays its card so open that it invites anyone interested to come watch the sale of government property live on television after advertising the intention in the print and electronic media including foreign ones. The term for this is due process.
The positive outcome of this is that international organizations like the British government agency; the Department for Foreign International Development (DFID) has taken an uncommon interest in the Bureau and has been partnering with it in so many ways to the benefit of the nation especially in the wake of globalization.
Other agencies from foreign countries have been looking in with undisguised interest convinced that with BPE as a springboard, the country risk assessment is easier to calculate and investment decisions faster to arrive at.
From available records, through the activities of BPE, the country has been able to earned good revenue from privatization. Before now, this was the kind of money that the government was pumping into these same enterprises which eventually ended up in private pockets enroute foreign banks.
And these are the kind of sweeties that people like Senator Gbemisola Saraki, Chairman; Senate Committee on Marine Transportation is missing and bellyaching about. Recently, it was reported in a national newspaper that the senator from Kwara State had accused the BPE of lack of transparency in the concessioning of the country¢s ports and that the agency be scrapped. From my investigation, since the inception of the Bureau, its leadership has been able to put the agency and the privatisation programme on the right track, injecting transparency and due process in all activities of the Bureau. Available statistics indicate that BPE¢s account are always audited as at when due and the Bureau has remained one of the few government organisations in the country that is up-to-date in its audited accounts. The level of transparency at the Bureau has earned it accolades locally and internationally with the due process regime of the present administration taking its roots from the Bureau. Like Gbemisola, other unpatriotic Nigerians have at one occasion or another, taken BPE on to the point of urging the authorities to reorganise the Bureau with the intention of making whoever comes in more amenable to their whims and caprices or outright scrapping of the agency.
From all indications, their alleged grouse is that the goodies have not been flowing as they should from that office. I mean who wouldn¢t want to have a slice of the revenue generated? And because the management is not forthcoming, therefore, it must be crucified regardless of the yeoman¢s job it is doing for the nation at the Bureau. They forget that this money is in a special account with the CBN for the government.
I am not surprised that the Kwara-born Senator will discredit the concessioning of the ports and call for the scrapping of BPE. Before now, government provided subventions for these maritime agencies which as a committee chair, she would have coerced chief executives of the agencies to have a piece of the action but this is no longer feasible. It sad that a privileged few like Gbemisola have continued to milk this country dry at the expense of the generality of Nigerians and will do everything possible to maintain the status quo. That is why Kwara State has been taken over by the Saraki dynasty! In the national assembly where she holds forth, how many bills has Gbemisola initiated for the good of her constituents or the entire citizenry?
Instead, she globe-trots only to come back and sign for her sitting allowance(s) when basic amenities like water, housing and
health-care are lacking in her community. Yet, she is the people¢s representative!
In the National Assembly, it is common to hear members talk about juicy committees. They even threaten to spread banana peels for the presiding officers if expectations were not met in terms of access to these plum committees.
Before one is misunderstood, the honourable and distinguished members of the National Assembly have the constitutionally guaranteed right to perform their over sight functions. But they are by no means instruments for the derailment of development. The way some of their members perform their duties as they perceive them, create this impression which goes beyond the call of duty.
Nigerians have seen cases where some supposedly honourable men and women fell for filthy lucre. They have also heard of cases where impeachment moves were decidedly influenced by the reluctance of the executive branch to roll out Ghana must Go (GMG) bags on a regular basis. Senators and ministers have lost their jobs on this score. Yet lessons have not been learnt.
Nigerians are not fooled as some honourable members supposedly use their vantage position in the national assembly to declare a war of attrition on the Bureau with the ultimate aim of discrediting the management.
One would ordinarily understand the situation whereby a harmonious working relationship exists between the national assembly and the Bureau. But are blackmail, harassment and intimidation part of it?
Law making is a distinct constitutional function. So also is the duty of the executive branch. One complements the other if they must co-exist. It¢s about time all stakeholders support and encourage the BPE so that it can effectively discharge its mandate for the overall good of Nigerians instead of personal aggrandisement and selfish interests as expemplified by Senator Gbemisola Sarki.
· Akanbi, a public affairs analyst writes from Ilorin