The Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Ikanade Agba, has said that President Muhammadu Buhari’s government was borrowing funds for infrastructure upgrade and social welfare packages.
The minister, who said the Buhari’s government was not borrowing to squander funds, explained that there was an ongoing effort to connect rural roads and railways to urban roads in order to exploit the agricultural potentialities of the nation.
He made the statement at Lejja, Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State during the inspection of an ongoing 7.5killometres Covid-19 Rural Roads Intervention Project of the Federal Government which cut across Aku, Lejja and Nsukka communities in Enugu State.
The minister while saying that the loans were acquired with only 3 per cent interest rate, added that they were gotten with 10-20 years moratorium.
“A lot of people talk about the borrowings by the present government. You need to understand the terms and conditions of the loans we are taking and what they are being used for. What is bad is when you borrow to eat, but if you borrow for something productive, you benefit.
“The interest rates we are paying for these loans we are taking is not up to 3 per cent and we have 10-20 years moratorium, that is, within those periods, we are not paying anything and some of the loans have up to 40 years repayment period. So, if you look at what it would take to pay back the loans we are taking, it could be considered as gifts.
“We are trying to connect our rural roads to urban roads and to the railways. You could see that we are spending a lot of money across the country on roads construction, but if we don’t develop our rail sector, our roads would continue to fail because of the pressure on them. In other more developed countries, heavy things are being moved on rails. That’s what we are trying to do,” he said.
While saying that the President is concerned about the plights of the downtrodden who voted him in power, he added, “he is very concerned about you, and the livelihoods of all Nigerians and he has said that Nigerians must produce what they eat, and we must eat what we produce, and agriculture has to be the main stake of our economy.
“Our country in the past depended on agriculture before the discovery of oil, we were well-nourished, but today, we have all abounded agriculture and focused on oil and the result is not good for our people.
“That is why Mr. President said he must remember those who produce the food we eat from the rural areas, and he is aware that about 50 per cent of what you produce does not get to market because of the poor access road,” he said.
He added that Mr. President encourages farmers by approving the sum of N34billion to be spent on the construction of rural roads across the country to boost agriculture.
In an address by the Coordinator of the Lejja/Aku Communities Hosting Committee, Engr. Victor Amorha, the benefiting communities lauded the President for the good gesture shown them by his government.
The communities equally appreciated the Minister for Agriculture and Regional Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, for ceding to get full Executive Council endorsement to get the project rolling, adding that the projects, when completed, would put back the benefiting communities on the world map.
The communities equally lauded Agba, for the harmonious working relationship between him and their son, Samuel Ekwueme, serving in his office as a Special Assistant, adding that the road would reduce post-harvest losses of agricultural produce to, at least, 85 per cent in the benefiting communities.
They equally prayed for the speedy completion of the project.
The minister and his team were earlier received by the people of Lejja at their community secondary school field.
An address by the traditional ruler of the community, Igwe Ugwuoke Nwani, read in parts, “This is the first time this ancient community of more than 2000 B.C is seeing a tarred road in the town, it is the first time our peace-loving people are working, riding and driving on a tarred road in our town, and it is the first time we have ever gathered together to celebrate such a phenomenon in this town not minding the fact that the tarring has not covered all of Lejja.
“We thank you Mr. Honourable Minister for the history you and the Federal Government have made in Lejja. 19th February 2021 is a day Lejja will ever continue to remember. On this day, you have written your name on the marble in our town.”
Gov Uncovers 3,900 Ghost IDPs In Borno Camp
The Borno State Governor, Prof Babagana Umara Zulum has fished out fake internally displaced persons (IDPs) at a IDPs camp in Maiduguri during a surprise visit to the camp.
Around midnight, yesterday, Zulum showed up at Mohammed Goni College of Islamic and Legal Studies in Maiduguri, where internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Abadam Local Government Area of northern Borno were being camped.
Zulum immediately sealed the entrance and supervised a headcount to identify actual IDPs, in order to put a stop to rampant cases of dubious residents pretending to be displaced, who spend day time at IDP camps to share food meant for IDPs, and towards the night, they return to their homes to sleep, with some of benefiting from other means through which the state distributes food to vulnerable non-IDPs in communities.
The governor’s mission, which ended past 1am, discovered that out of 1,000 households in the records of humanitarian officials, 650 households comprising 3,900 IDPs were ghosts.
No fewer than 450 households were found to be real IDPs after Zulum’s midnight headcount which was conducted by the governor alongside an official of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Air Commodore M. T. Abdullahi, and two commissioners (Agriculture, and Local Government and Emirate Affairs).
In humanitarian system, a household normally consist of at least six persons who are either related through families, or chosen to stay together for the purpose of receiving household aids.
Officials, who were part of the midnight headcount, said Zulum was not averse to approving support for any citizen who may be vulnerably in need of food since there is a committee doing that.
The governor also expressed opposition to some residents making dubious claims in other to take what is meant for IDPs while also benefiting from other existing welfare activities that target non IDPs
Troops Chase Boko Haram Fighters Out Of Borno Town
Soldiers, yesterday, prevented Boko Haram fighters from mounting a barricade on Damaturu-Maiduguri highway in Borno State.
The soldiers reportedly engaged the insurgents in a gun battle around Mainok and Jakana towns.
A commercial driver said that the incident happened shortly after the usual daily road closure was eased in the morning.
Troops usually close the road in the evening and open it at 7am, every day.
The driver said suspected insurgents who were about to mount road barricades and attack travellers were overpowered and driven away by soldiers.
“We were on our way to Maiduguri after spending the night in Damaturu when we were stopped by soldiers at a place after Mainok.
“We were earlier asked to turn back and later we were told to stay there. Shots were later fired ahead of us, which sounded like gunfire exchange. We were asked to proceed after about thirty five minutes,” he said.
He said extra patrols were stationed along the road.
Boko Haram has made life a hell for those who ply that route.
It was on the route that a newlywed bride was abducted last week but she was freed 24 hours after.
Before decorating the new service chiefs, last Friday, President Muhammadu Buhari gave them a few weeks to tackle the widespread insecurity in the country.
Suspend 25% Contribution To Federation Account, FAAN Begs FG
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has called for the stoppage of its 25 per cent revenue contribution to the Federation Account.
FAAN said this would help it to address some infrastructure gaps.
The General Manager, FAAN, Mr Rabiu Yadudu, made the appeal during an oversight visit of the Senate Committee on Aviation at the Lagos Airport, yesterday.
Yadudu decried accumulated airlines debt to aviation agencies, particularly FAAN, adding that a particular airline owed N13billion for services rendered and unpaid.
Yadudu noted that one way to ensure development in the industry was to allow revenue generated by agencies in the sector to be ploughed back.
The managing director said that the practice was obtainable across the globe and was also part of the international standard and recommended practice.
“The industry still has an infrastructure gap to stabilise; therefore, government’s support in stabilising the industry is needed.
“This can be achieved by suspending the contributions to the Federation Account in compliance with ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) Doc 9562.
“This document on airport generation provides that revenue generated by the airport should be transparently re-invested wholly in operating and developing airport facilities,” he said.
Yadudu said revenue generation was low as only two airports – the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) mainly sustained other airports expenditures.
He also highlighted the global economic challenge, both national and international, which had affected airline operators, causing them to reduce fleet, frequencies or withdraw operations, thus affecting the agency’s revenue generation.
Yadudu lamented the rising operating and maintenance cost of the new terminals and existing ones due to inflation and the devaluation of the naira.
However, the managing director said the agency was tweaking its plans to make other airports that were not breaking even to perform.
He also said the airport management had embarked on aggressive debt recovery, while introducing a Pay As You Go system, adding that it had also commenced a cashless policy among other loophole blockage areas.
Responding, the Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Smart Adeyemi, said the idea was commendable, noting that the issue was constitutional and would require a constitutional review to achieve.
Adeyemi stressed the need for rehabilitation of airports.
“There are quite a lot of airports in the country that we need to start looking at budget inclusion for next year, not this year.
“We will not wait till there is a mishap before we start looking at fixing the runways which are in bad shape, a number of them since they were constructed have not been touched, and at times when you land in some of these airports, you don’t need to be a pilot to know that the plane will not maintain a balance,” he said.
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