The General Secretary of NLC, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson specifically criticised Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, who first initiated the call during the budget debate on Wednesday.
Ozo-Eson said, “Those agencies are rendering services. The workers are earning their pay and we do not agree with that kind of position. If Senator Murray-Bruce is looking to clear the way to knock out potential competitors with his own medium, that is an issue for him to handle. We cannot run state affairs on such a logic.”
Two civil societies – Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership and the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights – also kicked against the move, noting that the agencies should be empowered, not sold.
The CACOL Director, Debo Adeniran, said if there was an arm of government where there was a duplication of functions, it was the Senate. He pointed out that the listed government agencies must be strengthened, not sold.
He said, “There is no doubt that some of these agencies have not been performing optimally. We agree. It is also true that some of them have not lived up to the purpose for which they were established. But these agencies also suffer from lack of resources and inadequate personnel. There is no way they can carry out their appropriate functions. NTA, Voice of Nigeria and the National Orientation Agency are very useful agencies for our national development. They need to be empowered.”
The CDHR President, Malachy Ugwummadu, also said the intention of the Senate must be probed.
He added, “We must find out what the intention of the Senate is. Why don’t we reform these agencies rather than selling them off? When we look into these agencies, those people not working to capacity should be shown the way out. Why don’t we reform and bring in the needed capacity to make them world standards?
“One major promise by this administration is to address the undue proliferation of government agencies, which is increasing overhead costs.
“There is a way to go about privatisation, but what we have witnessed in Nigeria is the mindless selling of our national assets to the same political class who ran them down.”
Another civil society group, Concerned Nigerians, also opposed the senator’s position, saying it would lead to a massive job loss. It noted that what the government-owned media needed was a partnership to make them perform better.
The convener of the group, Deji Adeyanju, said too many Nigerians had lost their jobs under President Muhammadu Buhari administration, arguing that dissolving the agencies would create more problems than it was meant to solve.
He said the NTA, Voice of Nigeria, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria and other agencies could be productive if they had the proper management.
Adeyanju said, “Bruce once ran the NTA, so he is in a better position to know. I think under this government, too many Nigerians are already out of jobs and taking more Nigerians out of jobs will spell doom for the economy. I think we should focus on how to make those agencies work. This government promised to create one million jobs annually. Where are the jobs?”
But the Coordinator, Basic Rights Foundation, Augustine Okechukwu, however, called for the sale of all moribund government agencies, noting that the government could use the revenue to establish factories.
He stated, “I can’t categorically say NTA and other media outlets should be dissolved, but the government should look beyond these ones to other agencies and parastatals which are not productive. We can’t say because some people would lose their jobs, we should keep them to continue collecting free money.”