From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, following the impacts of the recent flood on the East-West Road, has approved the variation in the contract for repairs from an initial N240 billion to N506 billion.

The FEC assured that there will no food shortage in the country despite the devastation caused to farmlands by unprecedented flooding across the country.

Briefing State House Correspondents at the end of the meeting on behalf of the Minister for Works and Housing, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande, said: “First, he presented a memo that shows the federal government’s continued engagement in bringing succour and resolving issues around the recent flooding. He got approval for the variation order in respect of repair works on the East-West road project affected during the recent flooding occurrences in the Niger Delta.

“So the approval was for a variation order for the East-West road project sections 1-4 from Warri to Port Harcourt, Eket, Oron, including Oron-Eket bypass in the sum of N260 billion, thereby increasing the total contract sum for the outstanding sections 1-4 of the East-West road projects from the sum of formerly N246 billion to N506 billion.“

Minister of Agriculture Mohammed Abubakar, while assuring Nigerians that there will be no food shortage, added that farmers without insurance policies will also be compensated

While responding to questions, he assured that the country has enough stockpiled in silos.

He said: “For farmers especially, we always encourage farmers to take insurance, there are farmers that have taken insurance. So now is the time for compensation after we finish all the assessments.

“The government will always have a plan of action or emergency response, just like this. What can the government do also to compensate those that don’t have insurance? Not really compensation, but assist, come to the aid. We have that plan and we’re already activating it, pending when we’ll finish all the assessments.

“What are we doing to avert food shortage? Number one, first and foremost, we have in place an intensive plan for dry-season farming. We have gotten funding from the African Development Bank, and we have some money also in our own provision, also, IFAD, that is the International Fund for Agricultural Development also just donated or granted, if you will, $5 million.

“So, we have some money that we are already planning to do dry season farming. Also, in areas of conflict, we are recruiting additional rangers. I told you in another forum that we have Agro Rangers that provide some measure of security on farmlands. We are recruiting more to do that.

“Also, we are intensifying farming in areas that have no conflict to make up for those areas to we are getting little or no access. So the thing is the government, Mr President, has specifically directed that we do everything humanly possible to make sure there is no food shortage in the country and I can tell you, there will not be any food shortage.

“Between the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Central Bank and other private investors in agriculture, there are enough grains in our own silos, in CBN and silos, that will cater for any eventualities and currently, the Humanitarian Ministry is picking up some grains from us to distribute to the needy. So I can assure you, by the grace of God, there will be no food shortage.”

Speaking further, Abubakar outlined the government’s plans to compensate farmers and improve farming in the country and forestall food shortage.

He also said in order to contain any kind of outbreak of bird flu, the revised comprehensive emergency preparedness and response plan for the highly pathogen pathogenic influenza in Nigeria, the animal component also got FEC’s approval.

Abubakar said: “Today the Federal Ministry of Agriculture Rural Development presented a memo on the Revised Comprehensive Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan for the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Nigeria, (the Animal Component).

“If you’ll recall, bird flu has been something that we see and hear about in Asia, but of course, in 2006, Nigeria experienced the very first one and at the time, we lost about 1.2 million birds, chicken.

“This is a highly pathogenic viral infection that is so contagious and Zoonotic, meaning it can go from animals to humans and can cause death and can cause sickness.

“So the previous policy was put together by experts back in 2005, in order to contain, quickly, any kind of outbreak of bird flu. But the sector has grown so much with the additional importation of maybe new and exotic birds. Therefore, the need to revise this policy and produce a new one that will conform with the current happenings in the industry. That is why this new policy is being put forward by the ministry and it’s called the Comprehensive Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan to contain any future occurrence.

“This industry is an industry that has grown to have a population of over 165 million birds and is an industry of about N1.6 trillion. This industry also is really largely populated by rural dwellers, about 70%. So the objective here is to make sure we have a robust preparedness plan, that in case of any additional outbreak, even currently, we have sporadic periodic outbreaks that are plaguing the industry, which is why we have to upgrade to make sure we’re always ready to move on.

“The addition to this new policy, also, is the establishment of centres that will cater for issues of compensation to poultry farmers in the country. This is basically what the new policy is all about and has just been approved by the Federal Executive Council.”

Ask if there’s a preliminary cost concerning the damage by flooding, Abubakar said: “Definitely, it’s telling us that yes, we have lost some farmlands. For example, I can give you one. The Olam, which is a private organization, has a rice mill that has been totally submerged, about 4000 hectares.

“So there are farmlands that are definitely damaged. But what are we going to do, like I said, it’s to use dry season farming to compensate for this loss? In fact, we are planning to even produce twice during this dry season farming for some of the crops.”

The council also approved the total sum of N140 billion for roads in Yobe and Jigawa States.

Akande said, he Ministry of Works and Housing also got approval for the award of contracts for the urgent repairs, and special general maintenance of a few roads nationwide.

“This includes the construction of Gogora Guru Road in Yobe state, in the sum of N40 billion, with a completion time of 36 months,” he stated.

“He also got approval for the rehabilitation of the 90-kilometre Buni Gari Gulani road also in Yobe state in the sum of N4 billion with a completion period of 36 months.

“Regarding urgent repairs, and in some of these roads also for the reconstruction of water cooperation Drive at Trinity Avenue Victoria Island Lagos state, that too was also approved in the sum of N2 billion with a completion period of 36 months.

“Finally, the Minister for housing also got approval for the award of a contract for the dualization and reconstruction of the Kano-Kwana-Ganja-Adeja road in Kano and Jigawa states, section Kano to Salu. This was approved in the sum of N94 billion inclusive of 7.5 per cent VAT with a completion period of 24 months.”

The Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Olorunibe Mamora, said the council in respect of public-private partnership approved the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) secured partnership on the upgrade, equipping, operating and marketing of a space museum and planetarium.

He explained that “the buildings meant for this project had been in place since 2018. But because of the non-availability of funds to put the necessary equipment in place, the project has been stalled.

“And riding on the directive of Mr President at the National Space Council meeting, chaired by Mr President himself in 2022, where he directed that the DG should explore and exploit collaboration with the private sector. So an unsolicited proposal came from a private company in Nigeria, leading to the necessary processes in terms of outline business case and full business case, ensuring compliance with all the requirements needed to present the memo before the council, which we did this morning.

“Fortunately, the memo was approved. And of course, the cost of the project is about N3.5 billion and it’s at no cost, and I mean, no cost to the government. And the project will last for about 15 years. Then thereafter it reverts to the federal government. The buildings that we are referring to are located at the NASDA premises here in Abuja.

“So that’s essentially what the memo is all about, of course, is going to provide jobs for over 200 people. And of course, it’s going to be an opportunity to provide a learning experience in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

Asked if ministry pencil production has started as envisaged by the ministry in 2019, Mamora said: “Regarding the pencil project, the update I can give you is that, yes, already Pencils have been manufactured in that place to the best of my knowledge. My colleague, the Minister of State visited about a month ago, and the report he brought back, is that, yes, the process of manufacturing of pencils is on as we speak.”

Asked if the objective of the Project Development Institute (PRODA), Enugu, manufacturing machine tools, aircraft parts has been achieved, he said: “They are also on. Don’t forget, again, that one of the challenges that we’ve had in that place is a very serious crisis, which we just got over shortly before the exit of my immediate predecessor. But we’re on and of course, let me also say that we cannot wait to resolve whatever crisis in one agency before moving on, it is what is available to us at a given point in time, that will follow the lead to achieve what we want. We have about 17 agencies so it’s not just one step after the other, it’s about working simultaneously and achieving the best that we can base on the realities before us.”

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