- Targets appropriate exchange rate, low interest rate
- Nigeria, Cameroun to continue fight against Boko Haram
Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) wednesday, at its meeting presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, adopted 34 strategic priority programmes that the federal government will implement in 2016 once the budget is signed into law.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Minister of State for Trade, Industry and Investment, Ms. Aisha Abubakar; Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Senator Khadijat Bukar Abba Ibrahim; and Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, briefed State House correspondents in Abuja on the outcome of the meeting.
Speaking on the areas targeted by the federal government, Ahmed said the 34 specific areas were grouped into four major objectives.
She said: “The first is policy, governance and security, second diversification of the economy, the third is creating support for the poor and the vulnerable and the fourth is reflating our economy through investment.”
She said each of these programmes had very clear deliverables, targets and indicators, which would be measured to ensure that the respective ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) deliver on what they are committed to implement.
The minister said she expected the National Assembly to transmit the budget to President Muhammadu Buhari either wednesday or thursday.
“On the 2016 budget, I must say the executive and legislature have worked very hard at putting things together, reviewing the details of the budget and is at its final stage, so maybe between today and tomorrow the National Assembly will start the process of transmitting the details to the president,” she added.
She also said that the 34 priority areas to be implemented in 2016 had been categorised into six thematic areas.
Other than the Budget and National Planning Ministry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also presented memos that were approved, she disclosed.
Ahmed added: “We discussed the strategic implementation plan for the budget. Our ministry’s presentation was introduced to council for discussion on priority economic activities that we need to undertake to ensure that the purpose for which the 2016 budget was made which is to stimulate the economy – to create jobs for our teeming youths and to extend support to the poor and very vulnerable – is realised.
“The paper was well received by council. We got some very positive comments and the 34 priority programmes were approved for implementation.”
She added that her ministry was given the responsibility of tracking and reporting on a quarterly basis to the council on the performance of these key priority areas.
While giving a further breakdown of the strategies, the minister said: “There is policy, governance and security and one item from that is to achieve and maintain a capital spend of a minimum of 30 per cent on an annual basis starting from 2016.
“The objective of doing that is to reflate the economy and enhance employment generation capacity for the productive sector.
“Another area is to achieve an appropriate exchange rate regime, so the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is leading this particular action. The objective is to achieve a predictable exchange rate by the end of 2016.
“Let me emphasise that when we say we want to move towards a predictable exchange rate in the country, we are not planning to devalue the naira.
“The CBN and the monetary policy committee are working on this and this will be concluded and made public to enable users to be able to predict the exchange rate at any point in time.
“There is also a target for us to achieve low interest rates for the real sector, so the focus is to achieve an interest rate that is single digit maybe nine per cent and the purpose is to increase output and growth.
“Again the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Investment along with CBN are taking action on this.
“We also have a target to maintain a stable debt management strategy so that we can optimise local and foreign debts that we have, and the Ministry of Finance and the Debt Management Office (DMO) will be taking action on this.
“On the thematic area of diversifying the economy, we plan to implement measures to achieve self sufficiency and become a net exporter of certain agricultural produce, the first one being rice. We plan to attain self-sufficiency in rice production by 2018, in tomato paste 2016 and also increase local production of maize, soya beans, poultry and livestock, and the deadline for these will be announced later in the year.
“The Ministry of Agriculture is still trying to work out details. It means we will stop importing and we will get to a point when we will start exporting.
“We also have plans to expand the agro-allied sector to intensify local production of cassava, cocoa, cashew nuts, fruits and sesame seeds and the agriculture ministry is also leading in that area.
“There is also a plan to make use of 5,000 hectares of arable land in the 12 River Basin Development Authorities and to utilise 22 dams for commercial farming by prospective investors and the objective is to extend farming so that it can become an all year round activity and that there is productivity all year round.
“There is also a plan to implement a roadmap to increase private sector investment in tourism and sports, and the objective is to increase investment in the services sector thereby increasing job creation and youth employment.
“The power, rail and road projects are also very important priority areas. There are a number of specific activities but one of them is to optimise up to 7,000MW of installed capacity and to ensure the associated infrastructure to ensure we transmit and distribute this capacity at the maximum operational level that is obtainable and also to conclude the privatisation of the NIPP plants and improve management and performance of the Treasury Single Account (TSA). The Ministries of Power, Works and Housing, as well as Finance are leading in this regard.
“The target deliverable is to increase the availability of power thereby enhancing investment, productivity and employment and business growth in our country.
“There is also the priority objective of resolving all issues that have to do with gas pricing. The availability of gas is very key to the availability of power, so gas pricing is a priority and is currently being addressed and will be finalised and payments will be made to the gas suppliers who are being owed significant amounts of money.
“Also, there is a plan to conclude the roadmap on development in gas production. The objective of this is to increase investment and gas supply by the oil industry.
“There is also a plan to complete the Kaduna-Abuja-Ajaokuta railway line in 2016. We are also revising the National Rail Master Plan which is commencing with the construction of the Lagos-Kano standard gauge line and also to finalise the negotiations regarding the Calabar-Lagos rail line.
“Of course, the objective of this is to increase the availability of mass transit transportation in order to relieve pressure on roads infrastructure. The Ministry of Transportation is leading in this regard, working in collaboration with Ministries of Finance and Budget and National Planning to ensure the required funding is available for this project.
“There is also a plan to undertake the rehabilitation and construction of 31 major projects and restore the degraded sections of some major highways and improve connectivity over a distance of 210,093 kilometres through public works maintenance, public-private partnerships (PPPs) and other interventions. The objective is to ease the movement of people and enhance road movement and connectivity.
“The fourth thematic area is oil and gas reforms. One of the key objectives is to adopt and execute a comprehensive national oil and gas policy, which is supposed to be the road map for the petroleum industry development diversification, as well as privatisation, and also to adopt and execute a roadmap for the stoppage of gas flaring in our country.
“We are setting a three-year deadline to achieve self-sufficiency in refined petroleum products and to become a net exporter of petroleum products. The objective of this is to increase domestic supply of refined products and to reduce demand on foreign exchange for importing refined products in our country. The Ministry of Petroleum Resources is pushing this.
“There is also a plan to push for the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) in conjunction with the National Assembly.
“Nigeria has been classified as one of the countries that is very poor in terms of ease of doing business, so we have a target to move 20 places up the ranking from 169 to 149.
“We are going to do this by implementing a number of measures specifically targeted at fast-tracking business approvals, acquisition of land titles, and the issuance of visas for persons seeking to come into our country and do business.
“The sixth area is in investment in the lives of our people by implementing various social projects covering health, education and the essence is to bring succour to the poor and vulnerable to achieve the targets set by the Social Protection Policy which is currently under production. Almost every ministry has a role to play in this.
“On the health sector, we plan to rehabilitate 5,000 primary health centres in 5,000 wards in 2016. The objective is to deliver affordable health care services to Nigerians as closely as possible to their homes.”
Also speaking, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs presented notes on Buhari’s participation at the Nuclear Summit held in Washington D.C., United States.
The minister said: “The importance is to join world leaders in the fight against terrorism.”
Meanwhile, Presidents Buhari and Paul Biya of Cameroun have agreed to continue to support the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) until Boko Haram is eliminated.
Both countries also agreed to continue to abide by the judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the Bakassi Peninsula.
Responding to questions during a joint press briefing which followed the signing of a bilateral agreement on security, among other key areas, between Nigeria and Cameroun, Buhari assured his Camerounian counterpart that Nigeria remained a law abiding and respectful country and would not act contrary to the ICJ judgment.
A camerounian journalist had asked Buhari why Nigeria was still producing crude oil from the oil-rich Bakkassi Penunsula despite the judgment of the ICJ that ceded the region to Cameroun.
In his response, Buhari told Biya and his people to put their minds at rest, adding that a committee had been set up with members from both countries to deliberate on the matter.
He remarked that while the report of the committee was being awaited, Cameroun had nothing to worry about, as Nigeria would not contravene the decision of the ICJ.
He said: “On this issue, I will like the government and people of Cameroun to keep their minds at peace. We (Nigerians) are an internationally respectful and abiding nation. Somehow there was a crisis between the two nations on the Bakassi Penisula over the hydrocarbon exploitation. This issue was dealt with by the International Court of Justice.
“The technical part of the extent of international interest forms the second part of your question. On maritime resources, there is a committee of experts comprising Camerounians and Nigerians.
“I cannot fully answer that question until after the results of this committee report gets to us and when they submit the report, I expect that with a few of us that are still around, we shall sit together and see what is the best way for the two countries. So feel secure and be at peace.”
Also reacting to a question on why Cameroun allegedly harboured suspected terrorists who ran to the country for safety, Biya dismissed the allegation as unfounded.
He maintained that Cameroun was committed to ending the insurgency in the Lake Chad Basin, adding: “Yes, I have heard of this information. I heard it in New York during the conference that Cameroun serves as a base for Boko Haram, but what can Cameroun benefit from that?
“Is it the ideologies? Are we going to benefit from finances? No. It was just bad press. Cameroon remains focused and committed to the fight against Boko Haram.”
Also at the dinner and cultural night organised in honour of the visiting president and his wife, Chantal Biya, at the Presidential Villa on Tuesday night, Buhari conveyed his thanks to the Camerounian government for giving protection to over 56,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Nigeria since July 2014.
The president, at the dinner that had the Senate President Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; Chief Justice of the Federation, Mahmud Mohammed; and top private sector and government functionaries from Cameroun in attendance, also thanked the United Nations (UN) and other international donor agencies for their assistance to IDPs across the country, just as he condoled with the families of Boko Haram victims along the Nigerian-Camerounian border.
He said: “Our special condolences go to families of our fallen heroes who had sacrificed their lives to safeguard our territorial integrity and provide security for the lives and property of our people.
“Permit me to use this occasion of Your Excellency’s visit to Nigeria to once again extend my personal gratitude and that of the federal government for your country’s hosting of over 56,000 Nigerian refugees since July 2014.
“We also appreciate the assistance of the United Nations, international donors, local and international non-governmental organisations, and the ordinary Camerounian families who share their meagre provisions with the refugees in the spirit of African brotherhood. We thank them all.”
The communique issued after the meeting between Biya and Buhari reads: “On security issues, the two presidents noted with satisfaction the successes recorded so far on the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency and condemned the murderous activities perpetrated by the sect.
“The two presidents commended the efforts of both the Camerounian and Nigerian military under the Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF), especially the two recent joint operations conducted in Ngoshe and Kumti, both within the Nigerian territory and the ongoing clearance operation being carried out by military forces of the two countries to bring the activities of the terrorists to an end.
“The two presidents also reaffirmed their commitment to continue to support the Multinational Joint Task Force till the Boko Haram insurgency is eliminated.
“They also welcomed ongoing discussions on the fate of arrested Boko Haram members arrested in both countries and stressed the need for a judicial framework that will ensure their fair trail and if need be, be transferred to their countries in accordance with international best practices.
“The two presidents expressed commitment to the upcoming second session of the regional security summit in Abuja on the 14th of May 2016 and pledged to fully participate in the process and to implement the outcome of the meeting to ensure peace and security in the Lake Chad Basin.
“The two leaders also agreed that the tripartite meeting of the two countries and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) should be convened by July 2016 with a view to agreeing on a framework for the safe return of Nigerian refugees currently hosted by Cameroun.
“The two presidents welcomed the increased interest by investors of both countries in each other’s economies as a measure that will strengthen and expand the already mutual, beneficial economic cooperation between the two countries.
“They pledge readiness to work together to harness the investment potential that both countries have in order to open up opportunities for their people and urged the Ministers of Economics in the two countries to convene the Nigeria, Cameroun Forum in Abuja as soon as possible.
“They welcomed reports from a meeting between the two countries on the modalities for the construction of a bridge over the Nile Tier River that will link Belel in Nigeria and Damsan in Cameroun and related infrastructure along the Jabi Lamba Garuwa corridor and directed for the early signing of the MoU and terms of reference as well as the execution of the project.
“Concerning the demarcation of borders in the remaining areas between the two countries, both leaders agreed that following the gradual return of peace to the affected areas, experts of both countries should resume the demarcation exercise as soon as possible.
“The two presidents welcomed the border, which has already been initiated and have agreed to take concrete measures towards signing.”