The National Economic Council on Thursday approved the plan by the federal and state governments to borrow $9bn from some international organisations.
The council, chaired by Vice-President Namadi Sambo, has all the state governors and ministers of National Planning, Federal Capital Territory and Justice as members.
Governors Peter Obi (Anambra); Liyel Imoke (Cross River); and Umar Garba (Taraba) as well as the Minister of National Planning, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman; and Minister of State for Power, Mrs. Zaynab Kuchi, briefed journalists on the outcome of the meeting.
Usman said the approval was granted based on a presentation made by the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. He added that the nod had earlier been given by the National Assembly.
The minister said, “The Coordinating Minister of the Economy briefed the NEC on the current facilities made available by different international funding organisations, including the Islamic Development Bank, International Development Association, African Development Bank, French Development Agency as well as Chinese and Indian Exim Banks totalling about $9bn for development of projects.
“The facilities which have up to 10 years moratorium and 40 years repayment periods are available to both the federal and state governments to fund high impact projects towards improving infrastructure, agriculture and employment generation.
“The council urged the states to endeavour to meet the requirements for the loans and to ensure that the facilities are meant to fund meaningful projects in their states.”
On power, Imoke said the council approved the sourcing and immediate release of $3.37bn bridge funding for the sector pending the realisation of proceeds from generation asset sale.
He said the decision was taken as a means of solving the envisaged significant transmission constraint by the end of the year and bridging the gap for counterpart funding in hydro plants.
The governor said it was resolved that $1.65bn should be disbursed to fund critical transmission infrastructure while $1.72bn should be used to fund hydro generation.
He added that it was recommended that the proceeds from sale of generation assets be utilised for reinvestment in transmission and hydro projects.
“The committee set up by the council highlighted the over $4bn NIPP investment already made in generation which has produced additional 4,774MW generation capacity by NDPHC and would have raised the overall generation capacity in Nigeria to 9,582 MW in December 2013 in line with the nation’s updated generation capacity target of 20,000 by 2020.
“It further noted that investing in the needed transmission infrastructure would ensure, among other benefits, the needed return on investment, the maximisation of proceeds from the sale of the generation assets, improved GDP growth rate as well as ensure effective distribution of generated power to the ultimate consumers,” he said.
Imoke added that the council also recommended that 11 small dams spread across the country should be accommodated in the funding plan because of their potential for boosting power, water supply and agriculture in the country.
Garba said the council also approved the desire of states to buy up the 78,000 laptops belonging to the Independent National Electoral Commission which were used for the last voter registration.
He said governors who wanted the laptops took the decision after a presentation by INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega.
Usman added that a committee of the council would negotiate the payment terms with the commission while state governments would subscribe and make payments.
On education, Obi said a technical committee on the recommendations of the NEEDS Assessment of Nigerian universities briefed the council in line with its directive last month for it(council) to incorporate additional contributions by members.
Based on the report, he said NEC recommended the expansion of access to tertiary education in Nigeria by designating a federal university per geopolitical zone to be upgraded towards expanding its absorptive capacity to between 150,000 and 200,000 students in the medium term.
He added that the council wanted the establishment of a Federal Ministry of Higher Education and Manpower Development in order to ensure that students’ enrolment was reconciled with the national manpower development priorities of the nation.
Obi said, “ On funding, the committee agreed with CNANU that funding was a big issue in tertiary education and recommended that both the Federal and State Governments should prioritise funding by raising budgetary allocation to schools and guaranteeing that funds for education are disbursed as appropriated to ensure that the necessary facilities are provided.
“On governing councils, it recommended the strengthening of the composition and character, especially the external members, of the Governing Councils of the Universities by populating the board with members who have a direct stake in academics to ensure better management of the universities.
“On staffing, the committee noted that the Nigerian university system is grossly understaffed and recommended the introduction of attractive incentives towards promoting postgraduate education and upgrading the academic qualifications of all lecturers to PhD level within a given period.
“Other recommendations made by the committee include government’s investment in hostel accommodation, establishment of specialised laboratories, establishment of a robust federal and state scholarship scheme and the lifting of the moratorium on the creation of more than one university by state governments.
“The council gave its backing to the prayer for the immediate implementation of the recommendations. It also supported the recommendations for the reform of both the primary and secondary levels of education to ensure a complete overhaul of the education system in the country.”