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Governors seek to take over, manage federal roads

• FG targets N9.2tr from non-oil sector
• Raises committee on export promotion

Governors of the 36 states of the federation have agreed to take over the construction and management of some federal roads under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement.

The governors are to submit to President Muhammadu Buhari a strategic plan that would guide the handover and management process.

Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi, who briefed State House Correspondents at the end of the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday in Abuja, decried the deplorable condition of roads in the country. The development, he said, was worsening and needed states with capacity to manage them with a view to checking the needless carnage and loss of man-hours on these facilities nationwide.

“Council was highly concerned about the failure of our roads, even after fixing them,” he said.

Umahi, who was joined at the briefing by his Kwara and Kebbi counterparts as well the Director General of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Segun Awolowo, also lamented that the axial load of more than 35 tonnes trucks carrying mostly fuel and other goods was responsible for the failing highways nationwide.

The NEC, which comprises the governors, ministers of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Finance, Budget, National Planning as well as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), directed the Minister of Power, Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola, to also come up with a strategy to regulate the weight of heavy trucks plying the nation’s roads.

According to the Ebonyi State governor, council members were worried that the highways “collapsed within six months after their fixing. We identified that the over-loading is one of the major factors, because in road design, you take an axial load, most of the time you don’t use an axial load of more than 35 tonnes but we have noticed that a lot of our trucks carrying mostly fuel do 45,60,70 tonnes and that’s a major concern to the state governors.”

Umahi said: “The state governors are very much concerned about these failures. It’s been agitating our minds, and we are soliciting that the Federal Government should give out some of these roads to states to fix through investors and toll them.

“And we believe strongly that in view of the number of roads that is being handled by Federal Government, there would be no amount of budget that can fix them.”

The gathering also announced the constitution of a National Committee on Export Promotion to give vent to the country’s economic diversification plan.

Briefing newsmen, governor of Kwara State, Abdul-Fatah Ahmed said the committee to be chaired by his Jigawa counterpart, Abubakar Badaru, is to work with various institutions to ensure that states truly take ownership of the processes of export promotion.

Members of the committee are Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and Umahi as well as ‎Ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development, Industry, Trade and Investment, Transport, Power, Works and Housing and Finance.

Other members are representatives of CBN, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) and Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA).

The panel is equally to draw a single plan based on available templates with a view to enthroning a single stop-shop for access to useful information on export promotion.

The committee, which is also expected to submit an initial report by November, would come up with a concise action plan on how to drive non-oil exports based on the presentations and discussions of the council.

Other highlights of yesterday’s meeting were a briefing by Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbe on “Strategic Export Initiatives – A framework and action plan to grow and diversify export of agro-products.”

The minister listed exportable agro commodities to include coffee, cashew nuts, rubber, kola nuts, palm kennel, coconut, cotton, Ogbono, ginger, timber and shrimps.

He told council that agricultural export had increased by 82 per cent in the first quarter of this year, while export earnings from agro goods stood at N30 billion during the period under review.

NEPC made a presentation, “The Zero Oil Plan”, to the council on a strategy to restructure the nation’s economy so it could survive without the black gold.

The council was informed that the country was experiencing the direst fall in revenues in recent history, losing over $100 billion (over N30 trillion) of national export revenue between 2015 and 2017 due to the crash in oil prices.

The council was briefed on the need to rapidly ramp up non-oil exports as future earnings from crude oil face significant headwinds.

The new strategy “ aims at earning at least $30 billion from non-oil sources in the near to medium term as against the current earnings of about $5 billion.”

The objectives of the plan are to shore up the country’s revenue base by $150 billion in the next 10 years, create 500,000 jobs, lift 10 million Nigerians out of poverty and integrate every state in the export value chain.

The focus being export of rice, wheat, corn, palm oil, rubber, hide and skin, sugar, soyabeans and automotive parts, among others.

The destination countries are The Netherlands, China, Iran, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy, India, Saudi Arabia, among others.

NEXIM briefed the council on the “States Export Development Initiative” which is being pursued as a medium to long term strategic plan aimed at stimulating and increasing deliberate funding intervention to SMEs in the non-oil sector for the attainment of its objectives.

The council was also informed that one of the major objectives of the initiative was to contribute to the implementation of economic policies like the ERGP and the Agricultural Promotion Policy.

It added that the initiative was built on schematic transaction dynamics with key features like provision of a dedicated funding of a minimum of N5 billion as a pilot phase with window for other facilities and partnership for transactional support.

The council was further told that the initiative would also help to re-awaken the business consciousness of the states towards export and value -added production, especially in the areas of manufacturing, agro-processing and solid minerals.

The Managing Director of NEPZA briefed the council on the need to have more special economic zones in addition to the Calabar Free Trade Zone.

He said the major defect in the Calabar Free Trade Zone was that the zones had not been linked to the Calabar Port, hence the urgent need to make the facility more effective.

Partnership between the federal and state governments as well as the private sectors was canvassed.

He urged Council to ensure that the location of Free Trade Zones should be done strictly on business consideration.

The NEPZA boss also asked Council to provide incentives for Free Trade Zones to include linkage to rail lines, expressways, proximity to utilities, airports, among others.

The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, told the council that the earlier projection on national economy was exit of recession in the third quarter of the year. He, however, noted that the exit from the crisis came three months earlier, that is the second quarter.

He gave the council a breakdown of sectoral performance, adding that agriculture had the highest GDP growth.

He told the council that inflation had come down to 16.01 per cent in the second quarter from over 18 per cent in the last quarter of 2016. The council was also informed that confidence was gradually returning to the economy.

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