FEC Steps Down Major Project Memos from Previous Governments Needing More Funding

•Sets up review committee on Procurement Act 

•Says livestock ministry will boost revenue, employment 

•FG drags Daily Trust before ombudsman over Samoa LGBTQ report

Deji Elumoye in Abuja

The Federal Executive Council (FEC), yesterday, stepped down memoranda for some major projects that required additional funding, especially projects under the purview of the Federal Ministry of Works.

Briefing newsmen after the FEC meeting presided over by President Bola Tinubu at State House, Abuja, Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, explained that projects affected were those inherited from past administrations, which required augmentation.

According to Idris, Tinubu has directed a thorough examination of the projects to ensure probity, proficiency, and diligence in their execution.

He added that the review would be discussed further at the next FEC meeting.

Idris further disclosed that the council directed the Minister of Works, David Umahi, to work with his budget and economic planning, and finance counterparts to streamline all projects contained in the memoranda for appropriate funding intervention.

He stated, “So today, we didn’t have so many projects that were approved as a result of that, but of note is to say that Mr. President, in line with his thinking of ensuring that there is probity, proficiency and diligence in project execution, has directed that all projects that require additional funding, especially major projects of the Ministry of Works, be looked at once again, so that there will be further deliberation on that at the next council meeting.”

Idris clarified that the Lagos-Calabar highway and other newly approved roads by the Tinubu administration were not part of the projects. But he said the council was ready to reconsider and re-prioritise most of the inherited projects under the Federal Ministry of Works, while it sourced for alternative funding, and re-evaluated those that could be completed.

He said, “Those projects to be stepped down are part of inherited projects from 13 years ago, some of them were inherited from past administrations and they are now being streamlined and worked out to ensure they are completed in instalments.

“The Lagos-Calabar highway is not suffering budget augmentation.

“Most of the projects are those carried over due to variation and the council has decided to ensure that all the projects should be stepped down. They will not be thrown away but will be reconsidered and re-prioritised and the government will source for funding for the projects and the government will look at those that can be completed.”

The minister stressed that the projects were not only kept in view for funding reasons but due to other variables.

Je said, “Not only because of funding, but other variables are being considered. It’s not an abandonment. Augmentation and review are not for new projects. All new projects awarded do not have augmentation now. Lagos-Calabar is new and does not have issues or need for augment or review.”

The FEC also decided to revamp the National Council on Procurement, which had been ineffective for the past 17 years.

Idris announced that a bill to strengthen the council had been sent to the National Assembly and had passed first reading in the House of Representatives.

He explained that the bill was aimed at establishing a robust procurement council that would enforce financial discipline and scrutinise all aspects of procurement, and align them with Tinubu’s vision.

According to him, “There is also a discussion around the National Council on Procurement. The Federal Executive Council is looking at that again. Recall that in the last 17 years, National Council on Procurement has not really been very effective.

“So Mr. President has submitted to the National Assembly a bill, which in fact has scaled through the first reading at the House of Representatives.

“The whole idea is to ensure that we have a robust National Council on Procurement that will continue to look at all aspects of procurement, in line with the vision and to bring every project into the financial discipline that Mr. President is always talking about.”

In a similar vein, Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Alhaji Abubakar Bagudu, disclosed that the council had constituted an inter-ministerial committee headed by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to review the public procurement act. 

Bagudu explained, “President Bola Tinubu, today, in line with the desire to enhance more fiscal discipline and further demonstrate to Nigerians our commitment to serving them better, raised the issue of the reconciliation between the appropriation act, public procurement law and the fiscal responsibility act.

“The FEC has set up a committee under the chairmanship of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to review the public procurement act.

“However, after a robust discussion  the president directed that all ministries, departments, and agencies should review their intended procurement as provided for in the appropriation such that where there are gaps between appropriated sums and sums required to execute the projects, that can be brought to the attention of both the Ministry  of Budget and Economic Planning and Federal Ministry of Finance, such that the memo that the cabinet secretariat will  provide to  the FEC, will have clarity of where funding is expected to come from and recommendation so as to guide effectively the Federal Executive Council’s decision.

“Mr. President directed that the report of the public procurement committee be provided to him so that he can take decisions accordingly.”

Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), stressed that the review of the 17-year-old Procurement Act was long overdue and assured that before long a new procurement act will be ready for use by Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies.

Fagbemi stated, “The position of council on Procurement Act is that it is long overdue. The last time it was touched was in 2007. Even the boy or a child born in 2007, by now should be getting prepared to enter university and because of the changing dynamics, it is important to bring these acts to be in tandem with the happenings in the society.

“So, that was why Mr. President directed that a good basis of performance, especially when it comes to infrastructure development, is to ensure that we have a solid procurement act in order to avoid corruption and also stem the tide of abandoned projects.

“Very soon, we’re going to have a new brand of Procurement Act, which, you know, speaks to the fiscal discipline of the present administration under the leadership of President Tinubu.”

The federal government further justified the establishment of the new Ministry of Livestock Development, attributing it to the need to enhance protein production, employment opportunities, and government revenue. These were part of the reasons that informed Tinubu’s decision to establish the new ministry, which was announced on Tuesday.

Fagbemi clarified that the proposed ministry would focus on livestock development, allowing the Ministry of Agriculture to concentrate on other areas.

He explained that the primary focus was what Nigerians and the government stood to gain in terms of revenue and other positive additions.

He said, “The president formally informed council that a ministry known as Ministry of Livestock Development is being established and this is because he believes that the Ministry of Agriculture should be broken into two, one concentrating on livestock development because of what we stand to achieve in terms of protein, in terms of employment, in terms earnings for the government and how this one will rub off on the lives of an ordinary Nigerian citizen.”

While acknowledging that creating a new ministry may seem counterintuitive to the government’s goal of reducing governance costs, he emphasised that the benefits of this decision would outweigh the costs.

According to him, the new ministry would facilitate large-scale livestock production, and generate revenue and employment opportunities for Nigerians.

Fagbemi highlighted the importance of improving protein intake, a key aspect of the government’s policy on livestock development.

He stated, “In respect of the Ministry of Livestock Development, in relation to the government’s policy of reducing governance, to every general rule, there must be an exception. What will dictate the decision of government, what is guiding the addition of government or action or reaction of government is the overall interest of Nigerian citizen.

“So in respect of this livestock, the president has taken very serious look at the contribution of agriculture. Agriculture, now divided into two, having announced that there is going to be another ministry, it goes without saying that those implications will also go with it.

“I agree that that may cost money, but it will be done in a way that the benefits will by far outweigh the losses or the concern that you may express.

“I have talked about this livestock and I said, one, apart from improving the protein intake of our people, it also provides money for government because it’s going to be on large scale that will ensure money or revenue for government, and there is also going to be increased employment opportunities for people. So these are some of the areas that I think I should clear.”

Equally, yesterday, the federal government disclosed that it had dragged Daily Trust Newspapers before the Ombudsman of the Nigerian Press Council over its Samoa LGBTQ report.

The government said there was no harm in the paper admitting that it was wrong in its reportage and tendering an apology because of the harm the report had caused.

Idris, who made the disclosure, said, “Let me say that the principle here is that the press is actually a partner in any democratic journey and this administration, particularly, the presidency of President Bola Tinubu believes in the freedom of expression, believes in the role of the media in ensuring that there is continuous and uninterrupted democracy in our land.

“So government is not desirous of doing anything that will harm that freedom of expression. But like we have said, where we feel there is an infringement, where we feel that the media itself or a section of it, in this case Daily Trust, has erred, because government still believes that the report by Daily Trust is not correct.

“Nigerians have been misinformed, and in the process a lot of damage has been done to the psych of our people. People have interpreted even without reading the report itself, the wording of Daily Trust, and have taken to making sermons and, therefore, this further underscores the importance of the media and what we say all the time.

“If you want to report, it is pertinent for all practitioners in the industry to ensure that you report what is correct and in the best interest of the nation. This is the message that government has and it is because of that, that we have taken to the industry’s own self-appointed ombudsman to look at some of the excesses.

“We have made a complaint to the ombudsman to look at the report and we have sighted examples of where Daily Trust has gotten it wrong. So that Daily Trust can come clean and also mention or apologise to the nation and the government.

“There is no harm in saying you are wrong in this one. We apologise and we get it right. But we don’t expect that we will just sit down and keep quiet when government feels that what a particular newspaper has written is not in the best interest of the country and it is not correct.

“It is misinformation and, therefore, action needs to be taken and the action we have taken is that as we speak now, we have lodged a complaint with the ombudsman.”

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