Returning Ministers: Buhari to Determine Sylva, Ngige, Tallen’s Fate, Says Mohammed

•Declares FG has no plan to ban Facebook 

•FEC okays N169.7bn private sector investments in road Infrastructure 

•Approves N3.4bn for purchase of aviation property

Deji Elumoye

President Muhammadu Buhari has the final say on the fate of members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) who decided to renounce their political ambitions and remain in the cabinet, so says Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

Mohammed also disclosed that the federal government had no plan to ban the social networking website, Facebook, in Nigeria over alleged biased reportage of happenings in some parts of the country.

The disclosure came as FEC approved N169.7 billion private sector investments for road infrastructure through the government’s Tax Credit Programme (TCP), during the weekly virtual meeting.

FEC also approved the sum of N3, 491,622,340 for the purchase of a property in Abuja for the Ministry of Aviation.

Mohammed, who briefed newsmen after the FEC meeting yesterday at the State House, Abuja, said he would need to confirm the status of the returning ministers from the president.

He said, “The question about ministers returning or not going, I think you need to give me more time so that I can tell you exactly what the situation is. Right now, I need to crosscheck.

“I need to confirm again from Mr President what the situation is. You see, the final decision on who is going, who’s coming back, who’s not, lies with Mr. President.”

Presidency sources yesterday told THISDAY that President had since asked the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami and the Governor of the Central Bank, Godwin Emefiele to stay on in their jobs even though they had initially nursed the ambition of contesting the 2023 election. While Malami had purchased forms to vie for  Governor in his home State of Kebbi, a group of rice farmers purchased forms for Emefiele to contest for ticket to vie for the presidential election.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige; his Women Affairs counterpart, Dame Pauline Tallen; Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami; and Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timpre Sylva, had rescinded their decisions to contest for elective offices in the 2023 general election.

Malami was physically present at yesterday’s council meeting, while Tallen and Sylva attended the meeting virtually from their offices in Abuja.

Ngige was said to be away on official engagement in South Africa, where he was attending the global conference on child labour in Durban, organised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The information and culture minister also shed more light on the recent meeting between the federal government and Facebook’s management over the alleged biased coverage of the country by the blogging platform. He said both parties had a fruitful discussion, adding that the government is not contemplating banning Facebook operations in the country.

Mohammed stated, “We had a very robust discussion with Facebook. Facebook saw our point and they said they’re going to do much more than what they were doing. So if they do that, why would we ban them? We don’t ban for banning sake. We ban or we only suspend operations if, for any reason, lives are threatened and they do not listen.”

He also said the government was able to express its reservation about some of the reports on Facebook.

According to him, “At that meeting, we expressed our displeasure that Facebook was becoming a power of choice for those who stay outside Nigeria, in particular, to incite violence, killings, burning of government properties, killing of soldiers and policemen. And that they do more than what they are doing now in looking at the contents, which are unwholesome, which are being used on their platforms.

“Incidentally, the BBC did a documentary on this particular issue and found out that some of them who call themselves social media warriors in England, in France, and other places, have in recent times been using the Facebook platform to incite violence in Nigeria. And we’ve all seen the real life impact of those war mongering, the young couple who are going to marry, soldiers who were gruesomely murdered.

“Over this weekend in Anambra State, policemen were killed, military barracks were attacked. And we did warn Facebook to, please, do more than what they are doing now. And I must say that their response was quite encouraging. They said they are going to do much more.”

Speaking on the approval of N169.7 billion private sector investments for road infrastructure through the government’s TCP, Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, who also briefed newsmen, stressed that the programme was initiated in 2019, through Executive Order 7 signed by the president, which allowed the private sector to finance public infrastructure in lieu of tax and then offset it overtime using tax credits.

Fashola said the first project FEC approved, based on TCP, was the 234-kilometre road from Bali to Sheti through Gashaka to Gembu in Taraba State at the sum of N95, 232,474,010.72. He disclosed that an existing N20 billion, under NNPC Tax Credit Scheme, would be used to kick-start the project.

Fashola said the second project, under the tax credit scheme, approved by Council covered three roads.

“The applicant in this case is Mainstream Energy Solutions, a major energy player in the country, is now seeking to also participate in this policy by investing a total of N74, 486,577, 050,” he said.

Furthermore, Mohammed, who briefed journalists on behalf of his colleagues in aviation, power, and agriculture, said FEC approved the sum of N3, 491,622,340 for the purchase of a property in Abuja for the Ministry of Aviation. He said the property to be acquired was to enable the ministry co-locate with many of its agencies.

The minister stated, “This property will enable the ministry to be in the same building with many of its agencies. As of now, many of the agencies operate from rented properties and this is a drain on government, apart from the fact that it does not allow for good coordination of activities.

“Necessary checks and legal searches have been made and the council approved the purchase today.”

The minister also said Council awarded a N553.575 million contract for the establishment and deployment of Advanced Report Generation Utility Engine Web-based Reporting Tools in favour of Messrs Sinecou Limited with delivery date of 12 months.

Mohammed further disclosed that the power ministry got approval for the upward review of the original contract sum in respect of the construction of 232 kilometres Yola, Song, Gombe, Mubi, Gulako 132 KV double circuit transmission line, from $16 million plus N1.248 billion, to $16.698 billion plus N2,337,643,640. He added that the sum of N409 million was approved for the power ministry to purchase replacements of defective circuit breakers, and disclosed that a memo from the Minister of Agriculture seeking approval for a National Agricultural Technology Innovation Policy was approved.

Mohammed stated, “Another memo by the Minister of Power also sought approval for the repair and refurbishment of defective nine sets of 330 KV, 13 sets of 132 KV, and 26 sets of 33 KV Crompton grips circuit breakers for the Transmission Company of Nigeria. Some of these circuit breakers are weak, having been there for more than 35 years and the total sum is N409, 089,841. And this is to help the network of the TCN.

“A memo of the Minister of Agriculture seeking approval for a national agricultural technology innovation policy was approved. It is a policy that aims at better synergy and alignment with MDAs to overcome inadequate coordination on policy implementation. It will address the issue of fragmentation of mandates and rivalries among MDAs in the agricultural sector. It will help livestock development and it will support the establishment of functional models of ranches, grazing reserves and integrated meat and dairy processing among others.

“The policy is also going to help promote knowledge creation and transfer through reorganising, unbundling and strengthening agricultural research and training systems. The policy will give access to mechanisation via tractor and implement hiring scheme. It will also impact on quality extension service delivery, leading to enhanced technology adoption to strengthen the value chain for quality crops, fisheries and aquaculture, among others.”

Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba, who also spoke after the FEC meeting, said the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, presented a memo on the Phase 3 of the Lighthouse programme on digital infrastructure of voluntary assets and income declaration scheme bids and tax harmonisation normalisation analytics and application programme interface.

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