President Muhammadu Buhari will Thursday depart for Bamako, Republic of Mali on a one-day visit, following the briefing by the ECOWAS Special Envoy to the country, former President Goodluck Jonathan.
A statement by Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President (Media & Publicity) said that the Nigerian President and some ECOWAS leaders led by the Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the sub-regional organisation, President Issoufou Mahamadou of Niger Republic, agreed to meet in Mali to engage in further consultations towards finding a political solution to the crisis in the country.
Host President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Presidents Machy Sall of Senegal, Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana and Alassane Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire are expected to participate in the Bamako meeting.
Former President Jonathan was at the State House in company of President of ECOWAS Commission, Mr Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, on Tuesday to brief President Buhari on the unfolding situation in Mali, necessitating the visit of ECOWAS leaders to consolidate on the agreements reached by various parties.
“We will ask the President of Niger, who is the Chairman of ECOWAS to brief us as a group, and we will then know the way forward,” President Buhari had said.
He thanked Dr Jonathan for his comprehensive brief on the situation in Mali, “which you had been abreast with since when you were the sitting Nigerian President.”
The former President had filled in President Buhari on his activities as Special Envoy to restore amity to Mali, rocked by protests against President Keita, who has spent two out of the five years second term in office.
A resistance group, M5, is insisting that the Constitutional Court must be dissolved, and the President resign, before peace can return to the country.
Crisis had erupted after the court nullified results of 31 parliamentary seats in the polls held recently, awarding victory to some other contenders, which the resistance group said was at the instigation of President Keita.
Riots on July 10 had led to the killing of some protesters by security agents, causing the crisis to spiral out of control, hence the intervention by ECOWAS.
By Ismaila Chafe
Meanwhile, the Federal Executive Council (FEC), presided over by President Buhari, on Wednesday approved a new policy on local production of bitumen to further diversify the nation’s economy.
The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, disclosed this at the end of the Council meeting which lasted for over eight hours.
He said the policy was approved to develop strategies to enhance, stimulate, and encourage local production of bitumen in the country.
He expressed optimism that the policy, when fully operational, would enable the country save millions of dollars from importation of bitumen, which is a raw material used in road construction, worldwide.
“The Ministry of Works and Housing presented a memorandum on the initiative of the President as to our source of bitumen which is used in road construction.
“It was a policy memorandum which revealed that a significant amount of bitumen we used in road construction in Nigeria is imported, therefore creating jobs abroad and recommended to council to approve a directive to the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development to develop strategies to enhance, stimulate, and encourage local production of bitumen.
“Essentially, that policy recommendation was approved by the council today to encourage bitumen production locally in Nigeria.
“This will of course help to further diversify the economy and open another sub-sector of the extractive and hydro-carbon industry for local opportunities,’’ he said
According to Fashola, there’s a demand of 500,000 metric tonnes of bitumen locally in Nigeria per annum.
The minister, therefore, called the private sector to take advantage of the new policy by investing heavily in local production of bitumen.
“We encourage those who can manufacture and produce bitumen locally to tap into this demand.
“We see the opportunity for thousands of jobs to be created directly if this is done, and government intends to give encouragement and support to all those who take up this opportunity.
“We expect Kaduna Refinery to also raise its game by participating in this sub-sector of hydro-carbon industry.
“We expect that it will improve the quality of bitumen that is produced and goes into our road construction; just as we are now able to control the quality of cement that goes into local construction,’’ he said.
The minister revealed that the federal government was also promoting the use of more cement, stones, and rocks in road construction.
He said: “Our ministry is now developing a design manual for rock and stone in road construction in the country.
“These are the framework of policy documentations that we presented to council today and they were approved.
“So, we expect the Nigerian entrepreneurial community to now respond to all of the existing government policies for setting up businesses and embracing this policy as part of ways to develop our made-in-Nigeria capacity,’’
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, also revealed that the Council approved a variation of 18.12million dollars and additional N3.25billion for the supply and installation of three numbers Rapsican mobile Cargo Scanners.
“Today at council, we presented two memos, the first memo was for seeking council’s approval for the revision of a contract that was previously approved by council in 2018 for the supply and installation of three numbers Rapsican mobile Cargo Scanners.
“These are large size cargo scanners that will be placed in Onne port, Port Harcourt and Tin Can port. They are scanners that can actually drive containers through.
“This contract is awarded to a company that is named Messrs Airwave limited and the contract is in the sum of $18.12 million of foreign component, there is also local component of N3. 255 billion inclusive of five per cent VAT,’’ he said.
The minister maintained that the review became necessary in order to accommodate VAT which was not included in the initial contract,and also due to dispute arising from exchange rate differential.
She said: “So, we have now a resolution and an understanding and FEC approval for this contract to go on.’’
According to her, the scanners are designed to aid effective revenue collection, the features that will screen for narcotics, weapons and undeclared items, saying they can also detect arms and ammunition, illegal importation and possession of arms and Light Weapons in Nigeria.
She further disclosed that the Council approved N280.9million for the design, construction and supply of five numbers of fast ballistic reverie assault boats and five numbers patrol boats with all associated accessories to the Nigerian Customs Service
“The second memo we presented to council today is also for the Nigerian Customs Service.
“It is for the design, construction and supply of five numbers of fast ballistic reverie assault boats and five numbers patrol boats with all associated accessories in favour of Messre CY West African limited in the sum of N280, 992, 888,75 inclusive of 7.5 VAT.
“The Nigerian Customs Service needs these boats to enhance its operational efficiency and combat smuggling activities on our waterways,’’ she added.
The minister expressed the hope that the boats would also significantly boost revenue collection and other core duties of maritime unit of the Nigeria Customs Service.