6 December 2012

Nigeria: FEC Approves New Agricultural Policy, Rail Project, Centenary City, Others

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved a new agricultural policy, standard gauge rail network, a centenary city in Abuja, commences peer review of Council members just as it dismisses recent ranking of Nigeria by Transparency International as irreconcilable with government’s anti corruption fight.

Minister for Information, Labaran Maku made the disclosure in company of his counterparts in Agriculture, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Mohammed and Transport, Alhaji Idris Umar at a media briefing on the outcome of the weekly FEC meeting chaired by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan at the State House, Abuja on Wednesday, December 5.

Maku dismissed the recent 36TH ranking of Nigeria by Transparency International in its global corruption index, saying that it is not a true reflection of the federal government fight against corruption.

He stated that President Jonathan has directed all members of Council to start briefing on the achievements they have made so far to determine the extent to which they lived up to the Key Performance Indicators they signed with him.

Sequel to that directive, Maku said that the schedule drawn up to enable Ministers give a detailed brief of their achievements, started with Minister of Agriculture adding that as part of the plans to revolutionise agriculture in Nigeria, the President would unveil a new agricultural funding policy that will make credit available to farmers on single digit interest rate by next year.

In his presentation, Adesina disclosed that so far 8.1million metric tons of food has been added in his first year in office pledging that a total of 20 million metric tons of food will be added by 2015.

He said that $8billion of Private sector investment went into the Agricultural sector in Nigeria in that period adding that in the first phase of the implementation of the reforms, the Agric sector has generated 2.2million jobs, 13 new rice mills, $6billions in investment, distribution of high performance seeds and fertilizers to 1.2 million farmers.

He noted that sequel to the reforms in the Nigerian agricultural sector the World Economic Summit has invited her to make a major presentation at the summit in Davos.

He listed external contribution to agricultural growth in Nigeria to include,

• $500million from world bank,

• $80 million from IFA highly concessional facility with an interest of 0.5%,

• $60 million for USAID as grant,

• $250 from ADB as loan,

• $5 million from Gates foundation as grant,

• $650,000 from the ford foundation as grant and

• £37million from the DFID.

He explained that the major policy reform was able to take government off procurement and distribution of seeds and fertilizers in 90 days adding that since the introduction of e-wallet system, 1.2 million farmers received their seeds and fertilizers in 120 days and submitted that 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.

“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 said.

Adesina disclosed that the Federal Government is to supply 10 million mobile phones to farmers next year of which five million will be given to women to enable them get their information on the seeds and fertilizer.

He indicated that Nigeria will start exporting cassava bread to other West African countries, starting with Accra and Cotonou as from January.

In his presentation Transport Minister announced Council’s approval of the contract for feasibility studies for two new standard rail lines,

• The 673km Coastal rail line from Benin to link Sapele – Warri – Yenegoa - Port Harcourt – Calabar – Akamkpa - Ikom and Obudu cattle ranch awarded at the cost of N334 million.

• The second rail line of 280km from Ajaokuta to link Lokoja - Abaji to Abuja awarded at the cost of N144 million.

He noted that the scope of work to be carried out by the consultants are extensive and will include among others a detailed survey of the alignment of the tracks and also to provide a platform for a private, public partnership on the project.

Maku further disclosed that preparatory to the centenary celebrations in 2014, of the birth of Nigeria as a geo-political entity following the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates in 1914 by the British, the Council has approved a framework for the celebrations drawn up by a committee headed by Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SFG), Chief Anyim Pius Anyim.

He said the festival which would celebrate the country as the largest single black nation in Africa, 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.

He disclosed further that the Council approved the construction of a new city to be carved out of the nation’s capital to mark the centenary celebrations which will strictly attract private sector investment and also create the enabling environment for the development of new infrastructure adding that the project might take up to 10 to 15 years to be completed.

“The new city that has been proposed as part of our centenary celebration is entirely private sector driven. Let that be very, very clear. This is absolutely private sector driven with private sector investment,” he said.

“All that government will do is to provide an area through the FCT, agree on a proper design and then it will be taken up completely, totally by the private sector,” he noted.

“The only government facility that will be there will be an arcade for the celebrations,” Maku added.

Speaking further on the centenary city, the Minister for FCT said the project was in line with government policy of unbundling the FCT to private initiative noting that about 16 companies would be investing about 4billion dollars in the development of 10 districts in the smart city.

He also gave clarification on the planned N2.2billion Presidential Banquet Hall, saying what it intended to build is not a replacement of the old one but a multi-purpose hall.

“It is not a substitution or a duplication of what we already have as the main banquet hall which is not going to serve the purpose for which we are building the multi-purpose hall where the president will host his colleagues or other persons of similar importance when they visit the Presidential Villa,” Bala stated.

“The existing banquet hall is not user friendly as there are so many components that are absent and we are trying to procure some things to add to the facilities that would be available in this proposed mini multi-purpose hall that would be close to the President’s office,” he explained.

Elucidating on the features of the new banquet hall meant to ease work, Bala said it will be attached to the president’s office, contain a private lounge equipped with broadcast facilities for addressing the nation adding that anytime the President needs to hold some important events, there will not be any need to go elsewhere and start improvising noting that it will be very useful for ECOWAS and AU meetings.

He said that the project is absolutely a necessity and not a duplication as the main Banquet Hall which is far away from the President’s office is meant for big concerts and dinners which can contain up to a thousand people noting that the new one will serve different purposes since it is attached to the president’s office.

“I wish to clear the misconception that we don’t have a provision in the budget and to explain that the FCT operates two budgets. One, the National Priority Budget, certainly that item is not on that. The development of Abuja can be done either from the National Priority Budget or FCT Statutory Budget,” he explained.

“It is in the FCT Statutory Budget and we have quoted all the subjects, I don’t have them up head and that is why we do the procurement and we got the no objection and everything. So, it is not true that this is not in the FCT budget,” the FCT Minister disclosed.

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