Excess crude account now $2.4bn —FG

NEC approves plan to shore up revenue through solid minerals •Hints on bumper harvest, low food prices •Warns NAFDAC, SON against importation of poisonous food

MINISTER of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, on Tuesday, told the National Economic Council that the balance in the Excess Crude Account (ECA) stood at $2.4 billion as of this month.

This came as the National Economic Council (NEC) warned the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and other agencies that deal with quality of goods against importation of poisonous food items into the country.

NEC is constitutionally chaired by the vice president, with the 36 state governors, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, as well as others co-opted as members.

Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, who briefed State House correspondents at the end of the meeting held at the Presidential Villa, said the council expressed concern over some of the foods imported into the country.

“We were concerned about some of the imported goods, some of the items imports into this country in the name of food and we have cautioned seriously that SON, NAFDAC and other agencies that deal with quality of goods should do their utmost best so that rubbish is not sent into this country in the name of food.

“We realised that some of the frozen chicken and fish imports into this country are being preserved with very dangerous chemicals. So we are of the opinion that this area should be looked into,” Okorocha said.

He said the NEC had endorsed the Federal Government’s plan to increase the contribution of the solid minerals sector to the nation’s treasury.

Following a presentation to the NEC today by the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi, the governors also approved the appointment of professional revenue consultants to achieve this goal.

This was in support of President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s effort to diversify and deepen the nation’s revenue profile.

Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives (NEITI) had estimated a total revenue from the mining sector at N31.449 billion and N50.2 billion in 2012 and 2013 respectively, out of which only N1.9 billion and N2.01 billion respectively were realised.

The governor also disclosed that council resolved that agriculture should continue to take the centre stage in the country for the nation to be able to feed itself.

He noted that if the country was not able to develop agriculture and ensure food production, youth employment in the country would be a mere dream.

According to him, agriculture took the centre stage at the council meeting as agriculture minister, Chief Audu Ogbe, disclosed action plans and how to improve on food production in the country.

He explained that one of the major challenges now was about agriculture as a pivot in which all the wheels of economic activities must rotate to get out of the current economic recession.

“We have agreed at NEC that state governors partner with the Federal Government in this regards to ensure productivity and high yields in the agricultural sector,” he said.

Okorocha expressed optimism that the nation would experience bumper harvest this year, which would force down the prices of foodstuff.

Also speaking at the briefing, Edo State  governor, Adams Oshiomhole, said that government was doing everything possible to solve the problem of housing confronting many Nigerians.

According to him, the involvement of government in the housing sector would generate real jobs in the country, adding that it was a key issue in any attempt to reflate the economy and renew the prospect of economic growth.

On the large number of unoccupied houses in Abuja, Oshiomhole said the government would not introduce forceful occupation of private houses, but would provide alternative houses that could force the rents down.

NEC also endorsed a presentation from the Minister of Power, Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola, on the strategy of the ministry to generate incremental power as a short term measure towards addressing current energy shortage in the country.

Adamawa State governor, Jubrilla Bindow, said NEC also acknowledged the integrity and commitment of Governor Oshiomhole to his people in Edo State, adding that the Council would miss him and wished him well in his future endeavours.

It was gathered that at the end of the meeting, Oshiomhole introduced the governor-elect of Edo State, Mr Godwin Obaseki, to the press corps and asked the corps to extend hands of cooperation to him.