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Nigeria ratifies membership of AfCFTA

Nigeria ratifies membership of AfCFTA
6. President Muhammadu Buhari presides over the weekly virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) Meeting, at the Council Chambers, State House, Abuja.

The Federal Executive Council, FEC, on Wednesday ratified Nigeria’s membership of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA, as the implementation of the agreement formally takes-off on January 1, 2021.

This is as the Council has approved N62.7 billion for the construction of Kano-Dawakin-Tofa-Gwarzo-Dariyo road in Kano.

Briefing State House correspondents at the end of the 23rd virtual FEC meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said whereas the implementation of the agreement was initially scheduled to commence in July, this year, the plan was stalled by the spread of COVID-19.

Alhaji Mohammed, who briefed on behalf of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, explained that the Council ratified Nigeria’s membership of AfCFTA in compliance with the instruction asking parties to the agreement to ratify their memberships latest December 5, this year.

He recalled that Nigeria signed the agreement on July 7, 2019, in Niamey, Niger Republic, adding that by the ratification of its membership, Nigeria had beaten the ratification deadline.

According to him, “The Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment presented a memo today (yesterday) asking the Federal Executive Council to ratify Nigeria’s membership of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.

“You remember that on the 7th of July, 2019, Nigeria signed the AfCTA agreement in Niamey during the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU).

“The effective date ought to have been July 2020, but as a result of the pandemic, it was postponed to the 1st of January 2021, and all member-states were given up to the 5th of December to ratify the agreement.

“That is precisely what Nigeria did today. The Federal Executive Council approved the ratification of the membership of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement. It was ratified and as such, we beat the deadline of the 5th of December. Effectively, we hope that by the 1st of January 2021, the agreement will come into force.”

Alhaji Mohammed also said that FEC approved a memorandum presented by the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, for the approval of N470,263,037 for the procurement, installation, and commissioning of what he described as a fully dimensional aerodrome and approach simulator at Lagos Airport.

He said the contract will be executed by Messrs Intelligent Transportation System Limited which he described as an authorised representative of the original manufacturer, Messrs Teofex System of France.

He said, “The Minister of Aviation presented a memo in which he sought the approval of the contract for the procurement, installation, and commissioning of the fully dimensional aerodrome and approach simulator at Lagos Airport in favour of Messrs Intelligent Transportation System Limited who is an authorised representative of the original manufacturer, Messrs Teofex System of France for the sum of N470,263,037 with a completion period of six months.

“The contract became necessary in view of the increase in the number of personnel who have been recruited and trained as air traffic controllers. It is important for us to ensure safety in all the 32 aerodromes of the country. That memo was also approved today.”

Also, briefing, the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, said the council approved a memorandum presented by the ministry for the construction of Kano-Dawaki-Tofa-Gwarzo-Dariyo road in Kano at the cost of N62.7 billion with a contract duration of 24 months.

Fashola said, “The Ministry of Works and Housing presented one memorandum for the construction of Kano-Dawakin-Tofa-Gwarzo-Dariyo road in Kano. It was approved for N62.7 billion. It is to be executed in 24 months.”

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osage Ehanire, said the council approved the entrenchment of electronic medical records and management to be known as E-NHIS on behalf of the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, that will put paid to the use of paper documentation in the hospitals.

Ehanire said the initiative would transform the health sector from its current paper record and management to a digital management status, adding that the initiative would also serve as a platform for the management of payments and claims.

The Minister further explained that it would guarantee transparency and accountability in the country’s hospitals and that the contract would be executed by NigComSat under the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy in partnership with Galaxy Backbone.

He said, “The Ministry of Health presented a memo on behalf of the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, to introduce electronic medical records and management in a concept known as E-NHIS creating an electronic governance platform that will allow interoperability with all other stakeholders including particularly the state’s health insurance schemes, the health management organisations and the hospitals who offer services to patients.

“So, this will be a platform for managing payments and claims and also patients records to install transparency and accountability. This is necessary because the basic health care provision fund as we know is going onstream and will include a large number of people being registered so that we move away from paper management to electronic management.”

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Ali Isa Pantami, said FEC approved a memorandum for the creation of National Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center in Abuja as part of the federal government’s efforts to boost entrepreneurship, create jobs and enhance skill acquisition.

The centre, he explained would be managed by the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a completion period of three years.

The Minister said the centre would support institutions, enhance the skills of graduates and promote self-employment, adding that the Ministry of Communications would provide policy direction for the centre.

He also said the centre would provide a platform for training millions of Nigerians in information communications technology, ICT, and guarantee a productive future for citizens.

He said, “We came up with this plan to establish a digital innovation and entrepreneurship centre where millions of our citizens are going to be trained as entrepreneurs, particularly in ICT, so that they will be future potential employers rather than being employees.

“This is, somehow, in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, they have a progremme they call Regional Entrepreneurship Accelerated Programme, REAP, where they support a country or an institution to produce many entrepreneurs in the area of their choice.

“So, our focus, looking at our mandate in the ministry, is on the development of ICT and this centre is going to be managed by the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, while the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy is going to provide the policy direction for the centre and to supervise the implementation of the policy. It is going to be completed in three years.”

He further disclosed that FEC approved the formulation of a National Policy for Digital Identification for Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs.

He said Council considered the fact that providing for the internally displaced, adequately required data, and that getting registered in the national database of the National Identity Management Commission, NIMC, was mandated by law.

He said, “As we all know that National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) Act 2007 has made it mandatory that each citizen must require a National Identity Number, according to the Act’s section 5, and section 27 emphasises that it could be an offence not to acquiring the number.

“Most of us here do not have the number, but they have at least a form of identification, an official one; either driver’s license, passport for travelling and many more, but people in IDP camps do not have that usually, so we come up with a policy that will prioritise providing national identity to people living in IDPs. The policy has been entitled as National Policy for Digital Identification for Internally Displaced Persons.

“This digital ID will support the government in knowing the total number of our IDPs, budgetary provision on how to take care of them, national planning with regards to their education, health, and many more.

“When it comes to the social intervention being provided by the federal government, through the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, the government will have an up to date record of IDPs; their number, their location, and everything and government will reach out to them easily through that database that is going to be domiciled at the National Identity Management Commission.

“Based on the report during the formulation of the policy, we have around three million people living in IDP camps in Nigeria, which is more than 1% of our population. In addition, from the records that we have received in the course of the formulation, there is no single state in the country without IDPs; the highest is in Borno State with 1.4 million and the lowest is Ondo State with 1,024 persons.

“This is a policy that will provide an up-to-date record of them so that the government will give them special consideration of resettling them and taking care of them. As we all know, no matter how strong you are, if you fail to take care of the weak ones, then automatically you are also a weak one. This is why we come up with the policy to prioritise them.”

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