Abuja — A brand new city to be located in the Federal Capital Territory that will strictly attract private sector investment is in the offing, as the nation prepares to celebrate the centenary of the country's amalgamation in 1914.
The Federal Government gave the approval for this Wednesday, preparatory to the centenary celebrations in 2014, hinting that the festival would celebrate the country as the largest single black nation in Africa.
The Federal Government also approved N478 million for the construction of a standard gauge rail lines from Ajaokuta-Lokoja-Abaji-Abuja and a feasibility study for a coastal rail line from Benin-Sapele-Warri-Yenagoa-Port Harcourt-Aba-Uyo-Calabar-Obudu. The contract sums for the projects are N334 m and N144m respectively.
Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mr Labaran Maku told State House correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting yesterday that the framework for the celebration of the centenary drawn up by a committee headed by Secretary of the Government of the Federation (SFG), Chief Anyim Pius Anyim, was approved by the council.
The new city, Maku said, will be carved out of the nation's capital, so as "to create the enabling environment for new infrastructure development."
He said the celebration is aimed at showcasing the impact made by Nigeria on the African continent and the world in general, stressing that the occasion was going to be an extended one that will cut across states and local government areas.
The Federal Government also yesterday defended the approval of a contract for a new N2.2 billion Banquet Hall at the President Villa.
Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Sen. Bala Mohammed who debunked reports that new project was a duplication of the existing one, said the new structure will be "a multi-purpose hall where the president will host his colleagues and other important dignitaries.
"The new banquet hall is for ease of work, which will be attached to the president's office. It is not a duplication or replacement of the existing one."
He continued: "It will contain a private lounge and broadcast facilities for addressing the nation. Anytime the president needs to hold some important events, we don't need to go elsewhere and start improvising. It will be very useful for ECOWAS and AU meetings.
"It is absolutely a necessity and not a duplication. The main Banquet Hall which is 2 kilometres away from the president's office is meant for big concerts and dinners which can contain up to a thousand people but this new one will serve different purposes since it is attached to the president's office."
Meanwhile the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, has disclosed that the Federal Government has created 2.2 million jobs in 2012 through its agricultural reform programmes.
The revelation came as President Goodluck Jonathan pledged to give impetus to a new agricultural funding policy that will provide credit to farmers at single digit interest rate beginning from 2013.
Briefing journalists at the end of its eight-hour Federal Executive Council meeting yesterday, the Adesina said the meeting started with the government's review of work done this year by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) with the Ministry of Agriculture.
The meeting presided over by President Jonathan, which lasted for over eight hours appraised the distribution of high performance seeds to farmers across the country. It also indicated that the country will start exporting cassava bread to other West African countries, starting with Accra and Cotonou as from January.
According to Adesina, the major policy reform in 90 days was able to take government off procurement and distribution of seeds and fertilizers.
He also said in 120 days since the introduction of e-wallet system, 1.2 million farmers received their seeds and fertilizers.
"We have brought transparency, accountability and equity into the distribution of fertilizer and seeds. Nigeria is the first to use this system in the world and its success story has attracted interest from the government of Tanzania and world bodies like the World Bank. We ended the corruption of four decades in Nigeria using this system."
He also said the government is to supply 10 million mobile phones to farmers next year of which five million will be given to women.
This, he said, will enable them get their information on the seeds and fertilizer.
He said it took the government 60 days to clear the corruption in seed distribution chain and today 24 companies have now indicated interest in the sector.
Speaking on his ministry's achievement, Adeshina said so far 8.1million metric tonnes of food has been added in his first year in office making it 41 per cent of the 20 million metric tonnes of food he had promised to generate by 2015.
He also said $8 billion of private sector investment into the has been added to the agricultural sector in Nigeria, adding that in the first phase of the implementation "the reforms in the Agric sector has generated 2.2million jobs, 13 new rice mills, $6 billions in investment, distribution of high performance seeds and fertilizers to 1.2 million farmers".
He added that he had succeeded in wiping out corruption in the sector, through the distribution of fertilizers.
He said following the reforms in the sector, the World Economic Summit has invited Nigeria to make a major presentation at the summit in Davos in January.