FEC okays N58b contracts for works, humanitarian affairs
• FG admits positive indicators may not have much impact on citizens
• Approves revised science, innovation policy
The Federal Government, yesterday, at the Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, approved contracts worth N58 billion for projects under the ministries of Works and Housing as well as Humanitarian Affairs, Social Development and Disaster Management.
Fashola told newsmen that his ministry secured approval for the termination and re-award of the 49 kilometers section of Abaji to Kotonkarfi road, which is part of the Abuja-Lokoja highway. The contract is re-awarded to Messers Galt for N56.175 billion.
He said FEC also approved the upward review of the Afo-Apoto-Oyo Boundary Road, Kwara, by N251.53 million. The contract sum was increased from N3.06 billion to N3.311 billion.
This, the minister said, is to enable the contractor to make provision for drains, replace unsuitable material and facilitate the reconstruction of damaged shoulders as well as accommodate some variation in the area of price.
Also, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Umar Farouk, said she presented two memos for the revised estimated total cost for the supply of cattle to Taraba State under the Emergency Agricultural Integration for states affected by conflict and insecurity. She said over N2 billion was approved.
Also approved was a memo on the national action plan on human trafficking in Nigeria from 2022 to 2026.
FEC similarly approved the revised policy on science, technology and innovation to help the country to keep pace with emerging technologies. Minister of science and technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, said the objective was to use technology to improve citizens’ welfare.
“There have been tremendous advances in science, technology and innovation all over the world and this necessitated our science, technology and innovation policy, which was put in place in 2012, 10 years ago, to be revised so that we can keep pace with new and emerging technologies.
“The main objective is for us to use science, technology and innovation to improve the standard of living of our citizens and ensure that we have a high quality of life for all Nigerians. And this we can get if our nation becomes more prosperous, and our economy globally competitive.
“Again, we’ll like to see Nigeria, using this policy, to be one of the top scientific powers in the world. We believe that this will help our country keep narrowing the gap between us and the technologically developed countries of the world,” Onu said.
Meanwhile, government has acknowledged that citizens have not felt the impact of the consistent progress the economy has made in recent times but assured that it was addressing the challenges.
It pointed out the impact of high inflation on the purchasing power of the people and again assured that it was taking relevant actions to reverse the trend.
The country’s headline inflation dropped marginally from 15.63 per cent to 15.6 per cent in January. It had exceeded 18 per cent last March until a gradual moderation that brought it down to 15.4 per cent in November before the December seasonal spike.
Even with the modest moderation, it is still far above the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) nine per cent target. With food supply still facing enormous pressure owing to logistic challenges and prolonged farmer/herder conflict, experts have warned that inflation control is a Herculean task.
But speaking with newsmen at the State House, Abuja, after briefing the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on the latest National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) economic data, Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba, said the government has been tackling the challenges head-on and that the economy is making consistent progress.
Agba said the economy was making progress given its consistently good performance in recent times. He added that whether the positive indicators have had the desired impact was a different matter.
Agba pointed to the National Development Plan 2021-2025 as a major policy thrust that will rev up performance, adding that efforts to revive the economy are a continuous process. He said he could not be categorical on a definite time the inflation rate would respond strongly to efforts being made by the government to contain it.
Fielding questions from journalists, he said: “First, the figures that were given show that there is a positive trajectory in terms of the economy. I think we need to understand what GDP itself means. It is the totality of the value of goods and services produced; it is an indication of what is happening in the economy. When you have more to spend, more transactions are going on.
“It means that the economy itself is growing. If it is declining, and you have such a negative decline in two quarters, then we will say you are in a recession.
“NBS has consistently given these figures, whether they are positive or they are negative, and then we compare them either on a quarter-on-quarter basis or year-on-year basis. And then we also have what those figures are yearly, which tend to show us or indicate whether we are making progress or not.
“What those numbers show is that there’s steady progress that is being made. Whether it is far-reaching enough, is a different ball game. And that’s why you see in the National Development Plan 2021 to 2025, we are looking for a growth rate of an average of five per cent.
“We haven’t gotten there yet but it is beginning to move towards that trajectory. In terms of inflation, for about 17 months consecutively, you find that inflation rate was going up, but what we are beginning to see is that for eight consecutive months, there is a steady decline.
“It is not so much of the heavy decline but there is consistency in that decline, both for headline and to the inflation. But in December, we noticed that there was a slight increase. Of course, you know what normally would happen at the end of the year when everybody is chasing the few available goods?
“So, the demand, of course, is much, much higher than supply. But the good news is that in January, there was also a decline. And we noticed that the food index increases was around the price of bread and cereal. And then food products were classified as potatoes, yam, and other tubers, soft drinks, oil fats and fruit.
“So, the economy is being worked on, is a work in progress. I can’t give you a definitive date when inflation is going to be below 10 per cent. But the fact that we say that there is inflation means that the prices are being worked on.”
On his part, the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, sought the understanding of commuters plying the Abuja-Keffi Expressway, which has continued to suffer gridlock, noting that the current expansion was meant to alleviate their suffering.
While noting that over 20,000 vehicles ply the road daily, he said if it were possible, the road would have been shut to enable its speedy implementation.
“The reason we’re there in the very first place to build the route is that it has become insufficient to manage the large traffic. And we understand the inconvenience that commuters feel trying to use that road.
“We appeal to them to bear with us. It’s a challenge for us, I think, almost about 15,000 to 20,000 vehicles, if not more, use that corridor almost daily.
“We wish we shut it down so that we can have uninterrupted construction but fortunately, that’s not possible. So, why we manage traffic, people have to drive through a construction site we’re building.
“So, please bear with us. We’ll do the best we can to minimise the inconvenience. When the road is finished, be sure that the current inconvenience would have been well worth the wait and the experience.”