Failure of the privatisation policy to transform public institutions informed the opposition of the Public Service International (PSI) policy. The President of PSI African Region, Peters Adeyemi, who disclosed this to The Guardian in Abuja, explained that accepting privatisation is tantamount to allowing government to abdicate its responsibilities to the people.
His words: “What will governments in the continent provide for its citizens if they are no longer able to fund the functionality of social services? It is clearly unacceptable that when politicians are canvassing for votes, they pledge adequate funding of social services such as education, water, and health, only for them to turn around to claim unavailability of fund when they get to power. Why are governments in Nigeria, other countries in Africa, and in Arab countries declining to discharge their responsibilities to the people of their countries? Why? What is the essence of government? Why do people pay tax? We cannot encourage these ‘rascals’ to completely handoff issues of governance.”
Adeyemi, who is the General Secretary of Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and Associated Institutions (NASU), argued that good governance entails government improving the quality of life of the citizens’ considerably.“If governments hand over everything to the private sector, how can governments be relevant to their people? So, our struggle in PSI against privatisation of social services is because it has not succeeded in some critical areas. Has privatisation not failed completely in the power sector in Nigeria? Has the supply of electricity improved in Nigeria since the power sector was transferred to the private sector? It has not been proven that the private sector possesses the magic wand to turn things around positively within a short period,” he said.
He submitted that the labour movement is convinced that most of the empowerment of the private sector was indeed gotten from the public sector.He added: “Who are those people in the private sector? Are they not public officials that are masquerading as private sector or their cronies positioned in the private sector? When government was unbundling the power sector in Nigeria, didn’t they sell those critical assets to their friends that did not have the required industry expertise to run the sector?”
Adeyemi opined that it is not sustainable to argue that government should not have business in business, saying: “I think it is nonsensical, unreasonable and unsustainable, and absolute madness for anyone to say that government should completely hands off education, health, water and other social services. How can they do that? Let me say that Nigerians and other Africans have said that if there is stable power supply, good road network and clean water they are ready to pay for them. The PSI is prosecuting these battles because we have witnessed the failure of some of these privatisation experimentation.”