…Buhari may sign budget tomorrow
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA-In anticipation of the presidential assent to the 2016 Budget which may happen anytime soon, the federal government has effectively categorized priority areas which must be achieved in the course of the budget implementation.
The government said the action-plan was necessary to ensure that the present administration would its maximum objectives embedded in the change agenda.
The plan was announced by the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed after the Wednesday meeting of the Federal Executive Council, FEC presided over by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Addressing State House Correspondents alongside her colleagues which included the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, Minister of state Industry, Trade and Investment, Aisha Abubakar, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Hajia Khadijat Buka Abba, Ahmed revealed that 34 priority areas earmarked by the federal government for urgent attention.
The areas, she said, spanned through the economy, trade and investments, security, health, power, Oil/Gas and agriculture.
She hinted that the budget might also be signed into law by President Mohammadu Buhari any time soon.
She said: “We discussed the strategic implementation plan for the 2016 budget.
“Our ministry’s presentation was introducing to council for discussion priority economic activities that we need to undertake to 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 realized.
“We presented 34 strategic priority programmes that need to be realized within 2016. Each of these projects 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 reflecting 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 prority areas.
“On the 2016 budget, I must say the executive and legislature have worked very hard putting things together, reviewing the details of the budget and is at its final stage, so maybe between today and tomorrow National Assembly will start the process of transmitting the details to the President.”
The priority areas
Highlighting the priority areas, the Minister stated that there was effort to secure the economy by achieving a predictable exchange rate by the end of 2016.
She however emphasized that there was no plan to devalue the Niara.
Achieving an appropriate exchange regime
She said: “The 34 priority areas that we need to implement in 2016 are categorized into six thematic areas.
“There is policy, governance and security and one item from that is to achieve and maintain a capital spend minimum of 30 percent in an annual basis starting from 2016. The objective of doing that is to reflect 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 will be taking action on this.
“Let me emphasis that when we say we want to move towards a predictable exchange rate in the country, we are not planning to devalue the Naria. The CBN and the money policy committee is working on this and will be concluded and made available to the country to enable users be able to predict the exchange rate at any point in time.”
On rice production
Minister Ahmed also said that the Ministry of Agriculture was working out modalities to put Nigeria on the map of the nations with self-suficiency in rice production,
“On the thematic area of diversifying the economy, we plan to implement measures to achieve self sufficiency and become a net export of 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 sesemi seeds and the Agric Ministry is also leading in that area.
“There is also plan to make use of 5,000 hectares arable land in 12 River Basin Development Authorities and to utilise 22 dams for commercial farming by prospective investors and the objective is to extend farming so that it can become and all year round activity and that there is productivity all year round.”
Investment in tourism sector
“There is a plan to implement a road map 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.”
The Minister also raised the hope of achieving 7,000 meggawatts of electricity.
” The power, rails and road is also a very important priority area. There is a number of specific activities but one of them is to optimise upto 7,000 megawatts installed capacity and to ensure the associated infrastructure to ensure we transmit and distribute this capacity in the maximum operational level that is obtainable and also to conclude the privatisation NIPP plants and improve management and performance of TSA. The ministry of power, works and housing is leading in this regard. The target deliverables 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 has 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 finalized and payment will be provided to the gas suppliers who are being owed significant amount of money. And also there is plan to conclude the road map development, the objective of all of these is to increase investment, and gas peaks supply to the oil industry.
Rail, road infrastructures
“There is also plans to complete the Kaduna-Abuja-Ajaokuta railway lines in 2016, we are also revising the National Rail Masterplan which is commencing construction of the Lagos – Kano standard Gauge Rail line and also to finalize the negotiation regarding the Calabar-Lagos rail line. Of course the objective of this is to increase availability of mass transist, to relief pressure on road infrastructure. The federal 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 availed 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 high ways and improved 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.”
Oil and Gas
“The fourth thematic area which is oil and gas reforms. One of the key objective is to adopt and execute a comprehensive national oil and gas policy, which is suppose to be the road map for the petroleum industry development diversification as well as privization and also to adopt and execute a road map for the stoppage of gas flaring in our country.
“We are setting 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 conjuction with the National Assembly.
“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 fasttracking 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 centers in 5,000 wards in 2016. The objective is to deliver affordable health care services to Nigerians as closed as possible to their homes”, she said.
Meanwhile, the Minister of state Foreign Affairs, Abba presented notes of the recent president Buhari’s visit to Washington DC for the nuclear summit at the briefing.
According to her, it was important for the president to connect with the outside world in the fight against terrorism and insurgency.
“The importance is to join world leaders in the fight against terrorism”, she said.