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FEC approves roll out of N500bn social investment programmes

•FG targets 3.5 million primary school pupils in homegrown feeding •FEC approves completion of 215MW Kaduna power plant

THE Federal Executive Council, on Wednesday,  approved the roll out of social investment programmes captured in the N500 billion allocated in 2016 Budget, in order to create jobs and cushion the effect of the current economic hardship being faced by Nigerians.

Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, who briefed State House correspondents shortly after the council meeting, presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, said the programmes would be implemented in four parts.

She disclosed that the Federal Government has so far released N720 billion for capital expenditure in the 2016 budget, adding that 50 per cent capital expenditure has been disbursed.

She also disclosed that N25 billion has so far been released for the Social Investment programme of the Federal Government aimed at cushioning the effect of the present economic challenges.

According to her, first  is the homegrown school feeding programme which is targeting 5.5 million primary school people in all the states of the federation from primary one to three.

She disclosed that as of  Wednesday, 11 states were fully ready to start in the first phase that would feed 3.5 million school children.

She noted that the second programme, which was a job creation programme was aimed at preparing 500,000 university graduates, who would be trained as teachers, agricultural workers and also as health support workers.

“They will be deployed to work in their local community. They will be receiving a monthly stipend of N30,000 monthly for a period of two years,” she said.

Ahmed further disclosed that the third programme was the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), where one million care givers would be given N5,000 monthly for a period of two years.

She noted that focus had been given to the extremely poor and vulnerable in the society, while special emphasis was being placed on providing for as many people as possible in the North-Eastern part of the country where there were a lot of internally displaced persons.

The Minister of State for Budget and National Planning  said the enterprise promotion programme, which was the fourth one, was essentially the loan scheme that would be handled by the Bank of Industry.

According to her, 1.6 million people, made up of market women, traders, artisans, small businessmen and youths would be given loan from N10,000 to N100,000 with a repayment period of three to six months and administration cost of five per cent.

She added that the N500 billion was budgeted for the social investment Programme in the 2016 budget, saying “We are rolling out with this first four programmes and it will continue till 2017.

She said: “On the Social Investment Programme what we are doing today is to tell Nigerians that the programme is starting. We have approval from the steering committee in sum of N150 billion.

“So far N25 billion has been released into the account and there is another N40 billion that is in the process of being released into the account. Remember we had said implementation will be done in stages as the states are ready for each of the programme they are added into each of the schemes.

“The school feeding programme has started in some states like Kaduna, Osun, the Federal Government is only adding its resources to it. The Federal Government will handle from primary one to three, while the states will handle from four to six.

“The cooks have been selected, banks are in place. The only thing that needs to be done, including training the persons, as well as taking data of the school children, have been done in those nine states.

“There is no spending yet on the national social investment programme, we are just kicking off, the funds will be released to the Bank of Industry this week for the EIP programme and for the school feeding programme, it is only after the cooks have performed that they will get their first payment.

“For the job creation programme, it is when the graduates have resumed and have worked for the first month that money will be released to them.

On the 2017 budget preparation, the minister disclosed that this was in advanced stage, saying the Economic Management Team had reviewed it extensively.

She added that the next step was for the document to be brought into the Federal Executive Council for approval, thereafter it will be sent to the National Assembly.

She explained that the borrowing plan that President Buhari had sent to the National Assembly for 2016, indeed included the amount that was required for both local and foreign borrowing to fund the 2016 budget deficit.

She said: “The budget implementation itself is on course, the 2016 budget is fully performed to date in terms of personnel, that is to say we are not owing salaries at the federal level.

“Operational expenditure has been disbursed for eight months and the ninth month is just being processed. Capital expenditure has disbursed to the tune of nearly 50 per cent. About N720 billion has been released, from the MDAs N1.5 billion as at the end of September.

“We are targeting to with the cooperation and assistance of the National Assembly will be approved inside of this year so that we will start implementation in January next year,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Power, Works, Housing and Urban Development, Babatunde Fashola, also told  State House correspondents that the Council approved completion of 215 megawatt Kaduna power plant.

He said he presented a memo seeking procurement and implementation defects and lack of budget support for the project which was started 2009 and should have been completed in 2012.

He said: “But we are now in the position that we can complete this project by next year to add 215 megawatt of power to the national grid. And, in particular, dedicate some of the power to Kudan dam in Kaduna to support industrial complex there.’’

Fashola disclosed that the second project approved by the Council was the construction of  sub-station to evacuate 40 megawatt of power from the Gurara hydro electric power plant phase one to connect into Kaduna and to enable it to interconnect to Mamdo transmission substation.

He added that this would strengthen the transmission grid, saying these two approvals would  complete ongoing projects which was a commitment of the administration to create jobs  because contractors will return to site.

He said this would also increase power generation by 215 megawatt, noting  that “from Kaduna, we will get 40 megawatt extra into the grid from Gurara phase 1 and we are also expanding the transmission across the country.”`