A Three-Year target to achieve self-sufficiency in refined petroleum products was among 34 priority projects the Federal Executive Council (FEC) formally unveiled yesterday.
The priority projects were contained in a document presented by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning to the FEC, which was chaired by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.
Briefing State House correspondents after the meeting, Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, who also confirmed media reports that the contentious 2016 budget has been returned to the National Assembly for the third time, however, disclosed that the Presidency was expecting a final copy for assent yesterday or today at the latest.
She was joined at the briefing by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, Ministers of State for Foreign Affairs, Khadijat Bukar Ibrahim and Industries as well as Trade and Investment, Mrs. Aisha Abubakar.
Mrs. Ahmed explained that the 34 priority projects were evolved with clear deliverable targets and were grouped into four broad objectives – security/policy governance; diversification of economy; succour for vulnerable Nigerians; and reflating the economy through investments.
Also among the priority projects is a plan to construct 5,000 primary health care centres across all local government areas in the country, she disclosed.
“Our ministry’s presentation was introducing to council for discussion priority economic activities that we need to undertake and 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.
“We presented 34 strategic priority programmes that need to be realised within 2016. Each of these programmes has very clear deliverables and targets and indicators which will be measured to ensure that the respective Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) deliver on what we committed to implement.
“These 34 specific areas are grouped into four major objectives. 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 forth is reflating our economy through investment.
“The paper was well received by council, we got some very positive comments and the 34 priority projects were approved for implementation. The Ministry of Budget and National Planning has been given responsibility to track and report on quarterly basis to the council on the performance of these key priority areas.”
Going into specifics, the minister said: “There is policy, governance and security and one item from that is to achieve and maintain a capital spend minimum of 30 per cent in 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 regime… 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.
“There is also a target for us to increase low interest lending to the real sector, 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 Industry, Trade 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 the 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 economic diversification, the minister said: “We plan to implement measures to achieve self-sufficiency and become a net exporter of a certain number of 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, 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 the Agric Ministry is also leading in that area.
“There is also a plan to make use of 5,000 hectares arable land in 12 River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs) 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 a plan to implement a roadmap to increase private sector investment in tourism, sports and the objective is to increase investment in the service sector thereby increase job creation and youth employment.”
According to her, power, rails and roads are also very important priority areas, noting that there is a plan to optimise up to 7,000 megawatts installed capacity and to ensure the associated infrastructure to transmit and distribute this capacity in the maximum operational level that is obtainable and also to conclude the privatisation of the National Independent Power Project (NIPP) plants and improve management and performance of the Treasury Single Account (TSA).
“The Ministry of Power, Works and Housing is 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 to the nation, so gas pricing is a priority and is currently being addressed and will be finalised and payment will be provided to the gas suppliers who are being owed significant amount of money. And also there is a plan to conclude the roadmap development, the objective of all of these is to increase investment, and gas supply to the oil industry.
“There are also plans to complete the Kaduna-Abuja-Ajaokuta railway lines in 2016, we are also revising the National Rail Master plan which is commencing construction of the Lagos-Kano standard gauge rail line and also to finalise the negotiation regarding the Calabar-Lagos rail line. Of course the objective of this is to increase availability of mass transit, to relieve pressure on road infrastructure. The Ministry of Transport is leading in this regard working in collaboration with Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Budget and 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 kilometers through public works maintenance, Public Private Partnership (PPP) and other interventions. The objective is to ease movement of people and enhanced road movement and connectivity.
“The fourth thematic area is the 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 roadmap 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.”
She said the Federal Government was setting up 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 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.”
She acknowledged that 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, issuance of visas for persons seeking to come into our country and do business.
“The sixth area is the 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 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 closed as possible to their homes.”