In a bid to bring about the desired change which many Nigerians are expecting from the incumbent administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Federal Executive Council (FEC), on Wednesday, unveiled 34 critical projects which the Federal Government will focus on, as a matter of priority in 2016.

The projects are contained in a document presented by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning to the meeting of the council, presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, at the Presidential Villa.

Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, who was joined by her Information and Culture counterpart, Lai Mohammed, briefed State House correspondents at the end of the meeting.

Also at the briefing were Minister of State, Industry, Trade and Investment, Aisha Abubakar and the Minister of State Foreign Affairs, Khadija Bukar Abba.

Zainab Ahmed said the 34 projects were arrived at with clear deliverable targets and were grouped into four broad objectives, including security/policy governance, diversification of economy, succour for vulnerable Nigerians and relating the economy through investments.

She said: “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 realised.

“We presented 34 strategic priority programmes that need to be realised within 2016. Each of these projects have 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 fourth is reflecting our economy through investment.”

She said the 34 priority projects had been approved for implementation by FEC, while the Ministry of Budget and National Planning had been given the responsibility to track and report to the  council on the performance of the key prority areas on quarterly basis.

Noting that the projects were categorised into six thematic areas, she added: “There is policy, governance and security and one item from that is to achieve and maintain a capital spend minimum of 30 per cent 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 percent 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 optimize the local and foreign debts that we have and the Ministry of Finance and the Debt Management Office will be taking action on this.

“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 minister added that there are plans to expand the agro allied sector to intensify local production of cassava, cocoa, cashew nuts, fruits and sesemi seeds.

Furthermore, she said: “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.”

She revealed plans to rehabilitate 5,000 primary health centres in 5,000 wards in 2016, noting that the objective is to deliver affordable health care services to Nigerians as closed as possible to their homes.

Speaking on the budget, Ahmed expressed the hope that the National Assembly might begin the process of transmitting the clean copy to the president since they have ironed out that gray areas.

Ahmed added: “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 it is at its final stage. 

“So may be between today and tomorrow, the National Assembly will start the process of transmitting the details to the president.”

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