Senator Ben Bruce
Speaking while making his contribution to the debate on the 2018 budget which started at the Senate on Tuesday, the senator representing Bayelsa East, Ben Murray-Bruce, called on the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to sell federal government-owned media companies.
According to Premium Times, the lawmaker commonly known as the "Common Sense Senator", said the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, (FRCN), and Voice of Nigeria (VON), no longer make sense and should be sold to relieve the budget of recurrent expenditures which is over-bloated and should be trimmed.
He said; “We have downgraded our economy and the reason we are downgraded is we cannot meet our revenue projection. It is understood that this is a budget of consolidation; I would rather describe it as budget of active imagination.
“If you look at the budget from 1960 to the present, you have agencies that were designed for 1960, agencies that were designed for the Nigerian civil war, agencies that were designed to suit some certain conditions in life. 60 years later, those agencies still exist in the budget.
“If you look at the budget, you will see some agencies, they get recurrent expenditure, they pay salaries, they get houses, computers, cars but they have no money to do any work. No money to do any work, we pay salaries. Some agencies are so bloated it defies logic but these agencies exist. So, we have 2.4 million people consuming 60percent of the recurrent expenditure of Nigeria, it doesn’t make any sense.”
The senator listed some of the agencies he wants the executive to privatise. “I called President Obasanjo on phone two days ago and he said to me; the National Orientation Agency was necessary when we had no political party, what is the value of the National Orientation Agency in today’s world for instance? Yet billions of Naira is spent in that agency.
“Let us look at agencies that make no sense. FRCN, sell it to the staff. FRCN has 8, 000 workers sell it to them. Sell NTA to the staff. Voice of Nigeria. Who listens to Voice of Nigeria? Sell it. If the staff want to buy, let them buy it. Set up a cooperative like Awolowo did, sell it to them. If we spend 71 percent on recurrent expenditure, we will never get out of this predicament we find ourselves.”
The lawmaker also criticised the agreement reached by Nigeria and China in the construction of rail lines in the country.
“I sent a letter to the Minister of Transport and I asked him to send us the contract he has with the Chinese. Let’s say we spend 10 billion dollars with the Chinese and they give us a loan what percentage of that money is spent in the local economy? How many Nigerians are employed? Which steel product are we producing locally?
“The last time I checked, rail lines were produced 300, 400 years ago. It’s not rocket science, we have Ajaokuta steel. So if we have the capability of producing steel or we have the capability in slow motion of making this work as Nigerians, we don’t need to borrow $10 billion from the Chinese and then give them back $10 billion, what do we benefit in our economy?
“The United Nations projected that in February 2018, Nigeria will have more people in poverty than in India. We have a population of 180 million people, India has 1.3 billion. Then, if we are going to have more people in poverty than India, then we have to create jobs. Once we create jobs we can then export our Naira to China, to India or some other place.”