The Federal Government has said that dredging of the River Niger to Baro Port, which had commenced, would gulp the sum of N100million, as against N42billion which it was initially awarded for by the previous administration.
Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Ameachi who made this known in Abuja at the mid-term Town Hall meeting organized by the Ministry of Information and Culture, also described Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) as an agency riddled with corrupt activities that demands critical reform.
Speaking further on transportation sectors of the country, Ameachi said that Federal government had paid its counterpart fund of the $1.2 billion Lagos-Ibadan rail line with plans to approve funds for Port Harcourt-Calabar, Warri-Ajaokuta, which he said national Assembly did not approve the budget, while 20 locomotives and 500 wagons were being expected on Lagos-Kano and Portharcourt-Maiduguri lines.
Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola who was also present at the town hall meeting, informed that 9,000 direct jobs and 60,000 indirect jobs had been created in the power sector in 2016, while 17,749 jobs were created in the works ministry with 68,000 direct jobs and 41,400 indirect jobs created by the housing industry.
He informed about the plans for the National Building Code, which he said is aimed at catering for people with disability, as well as plans for a new building design in 33 states as part of response to national needs but with a target on civil servants from grade level 10-15.
Aside the completion of 1,800 mortgage houses through the Federal Mortgage Bank and loan access to 2,044 civil servants, the ministry has engaged a private developer to partner the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to build 20,000 housing units for Nigerian workers.
Presenting his own mid-term score card, Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma said that the 2017 budget would have enormous impact on the country as it is positioned at getting the country out of recession.
According to him, over 30,000 households benefitted from the N500billion Social Intervention Fund in 2016, with 174,160 beneficiaries, while 1.5million school children were fed under the school feeding programme.
However, Kemi Adeosun, Minister of Finance, noted that with the unacceptable 6% GDP which amounts to one of the least in the world, there are ongoing plans to make citizenry pay commensurate taxes to garner more infrastructure development, while the government will continue to increasing capital vote to deepen infrastructure development.
Similarly, Minister of Agriculture and rural development, Audu Ogbe expressed enthusiasm on the local production and marketability of the locally produced rice, which he said, had led to the closure of some mega rice factories in Thailand, due to the ban of rice importation.
According to him rice importation has declined from 158,000 tons to 58 tons in 2016, saving the country about $237.8m in one year, and in other to foster this positive trend, the ministry had acquired 20 giant rice mills with over 100 tons daily capacity spread across the country.
He further informed about the reforms sweeping through the Bank of Agriculture by bringing down lending rate down to single digit, insisting that the 18% lending rate was not conducive, for young people to be encouraged to go into agriculture.
‘‘We have brought back the three agric universities back on track because we need more research. Each university can make N10billion per annum from improved seedlings alone. Part of the plan is to enable Nigeria do agriculture that will earn foreign exchange in exchange for oil”, he said.
He added that, in other to curb the incessant herdsmen attack on villagers and residence of host communities, the ministry has trained about 3,000 agro rangers in conjunction with the ministry of defense and interior affairs.
In addition, the Federal government has concluded plans to engage the African Union and World Bank on how to discourage open grazing among AU member states and encourage them to embrace ranching as the only way to curtail excess movement of cows which has adverse effect on their milk production.
Minister of Defence, Mansur Mohammed Dan Ali also informed that his ministry had been successful in boosting the moral of troops, establishment of new military bases, pension reform, procurement of modern fighting equipment, increase in workforce, training of personnel, bilateral agreement with foreign partners and establishment of human rights desk.
On his part, Okechukwu Enelama, Minister of Trade and Investment said that the sum of $2.5million had so far been disbursed to the SMEs by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has helped in creating an enabling environment to enhance ease of doing business.
The host Minister, Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, affirmed that the anti-corruption war embarked upon by the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has been yielding impressive results, contrary to some speculations and opinions in some quarters.
Mohammed took the opportunity to clear the air on insinuations that the government as failed in its anti-graft war, insisting that there had been more prosecutions than loses at trials, and there will be more convictions for public sector corruption “than Nigeria has ever seen”.
According to him, the present administration has successfully addressed the leakages in government spending that has overtime made corruption in public offices possible, as such, the “anti-corruption war is yielding dividends through the zero- based budgeting, the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the government’s efficiency unit and the hugely successful whistle-blower policy’’.
While informing about the government’s commitment to sanctifying the Judicial system which it had overtime complained of being its headache, Mohammed further informed about the commitment towards implementing Economic Recovery and Growth Plan designed to reset the economy.
SEYI ANJORIN, Abuja