*Expects $500m repatriated loot from US, Switzerland
*Buhari signs 2018 Budget next week
*To amend Public Holiday Act for June 12
By Chesa Chesa
The Federal Government has allocated N185billion to fix 14 roads that are in desperate condition across the country.
It has also initiated the amendment of the Public Holiday Act to accommodate June 12 as Democracy Day and a public holiday.
These were among the major decisions on Wednesday at the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting.
The Presidency also disclosed yesterday that President Muhammadu Buhari will sign into law the 2018 Appropriation Bill of N9.1 trillion next week.
The bill already approved by the National Assembly was submitted to the President a fortnight ago.
The President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, disclosed these to State House correspondents. He said that the exact date the President would sign the document would be communicated to journalists.
FEC also approved the release of N185.27 billion through the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing for the repair and reconstruction of 14 roads across the country.
The roads are: Gwoza-Damboa-Goniri-Ngamdu Road in Yobe/Borno States to be handled by Hajaig Construction Nigeria Ltd at the cost of N34.608 billion; Mayo Belwa-Jada-Ganye-Torngo Road in Adamawa State, awarded to Messrs Triacta Nigeria Ltd for N22.699billion, and Ado-Ifaki-Otun-Kwara State border in Ekiti State at the cost of N6.002 billion.
Also approved is the repair of Makurdi Bridge in Benue State by Messrs AG Visio Construction Ltd at the cost of N4.617 billion; Ihugi-Korinya-Wuse-Ankor in Benue State, to be executed by Datum Construction Ltd at N15.641 billion; Gbagi-Apa-Owode in Badagry, Lagos State by Messrs Smithcrown Nigeria Ltd for NN4.366 billion and Ijebu Igbo-Ita Egba Owonowen in Ogun and Oyo States to Messrs DC Engineering for N9.833 billion.
Equally approved was the dualisation of Jattu-Fugar-Agenebode in Edo State Phase II, by Mothercat at N7.506 billion; Makurdi-Gboko-Wannune-Yander Section 1 in Benue State, to Messrs Rockbridge Construction Ltd at N18.669 billion, and the Old Enugu-Port Harcourt Road at Agbogugu-Abia border spur awarded to Messrs Setraco Ltd at the cost of N13.933 billion.
Also, the rehabilitation of Umulungbe-Umoka Road at N6.249 billion; the Amokwu-Ikedimkpa-Egede-Opeyi-Awhum Road in Enugu State awarded to Messrs IDC Construction at N21.729 billion; the rehabilitation of Nkwu Inyi-Akpugoeze in Anambra State by Anbeez Services for N2.595 billion, and the construction of Sabon Birnin-Tsululu-Kuya-Maradi Junction Road in Sokoto by Messrs China Zhonghao Nigeria Ltd for N4.354 billion.
The meeting chaired by Buhari approved the payment of N500 million as legal fees to some private lawyers hired by the Federal Government to negotiate and recover the N330 billion fine imposed on telecommunications firm, MTN.
The firm had dragged the government to court seeking to quash the N1.04 trillion fine initially imposed on it in October 2015, for flouting the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC’s) directive on deactivation of unregistered SIM cards.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), told State House correspondents on Wednesday that government decided to the hire private law professionals because of the sensitivity and industry-specific nature of the offence, as well as the amount of money involved.
Malami said that the fee would take care of about seven Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) and others, insisting it was less than one per cent of the fine to be recovered, as against the five per cent or more, usually demanded by international lawyers in such cases.
MTN has so far paid N165 billion of the N330 billion fine settled for by both parties out of the court.
Malami also disclosed that the government was expecting a return of $500 million recovered from the late Head of State, Gen.Sani Abacha and other Nigerians.
He said: “Nigeria has also engaged other countries including the United Kingdom (UK), the United States (US), France and others in further negotiations relating to repatriation and I am happy to report that we are almost concluding the processes relating to the repatriation of additional $500 million.”
He said that the government had made progress in its efforts to get similar funds repatriated from the USA, as agreed by US government and Nigeria during Buhari’s last trip to the US.
On the controversy surrounding Buhari’s declaration of June 12 as a public holiday and the conferment of posthumous national honours on some heroes of the democratic struggle, the minister affirmed that the President needed an amendment of the Public Holidays Act, and the process had been activated.
He argued that a precedent was set when the late Head of State, Gen. Murtala Mohammed, was similarly honoured posthumously.
Malami said: “I think we need to make distinctions between the Nigeria National Merit Award Act and the Nigerian National Honours Act. They are two distinct and different applicable laws as far as national honour awards are concerned.
“You have the National Merit Award on the strength of the Governing Board and then as it relates to the National Honours Act. The board does not have any relevance in terms of processing of the honours.
“Above all, we equally have in existence, precedence as it relates to the award of posthumous honours. I can recall that a former Head of State, Gen. Murtala Mohammed, was equally honoured posthumously, amongst others.
“As it relates to public holidays, there is truly a Public Holiday Act, but it is about the process and process of amendment. At any rate, the Act can be amended and the process of amendment has been put in place.
“So, when the Act has been fully amended, the declaration of the President will come into effect. It is a declaration of intention, a declaration of desire and that will eventually be given effect with the act of amendment of the existing law,” he said.
FEC also approved a draft bill for the enactment of the Copyright Act (2018) to protect intellectual property and boost the nation’s creative industry. The bill will be transmitted to the National Assembly for passage.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, announced FEC’s approval of a draft Food Safety and Quality Bill, as well as the Food Safety Institutional Reform working document, towards curbing food-borne diseases and improving food handling capacity of relevant practitioners, and increasing acceptability of Nigerian food exports, among others.
He said the policy would entail the establishment of a National Food Safety Council to be chaired by the Vice President.
Also approved was a draft National Tobacco Control Policy, as follow up on the recent increase in tobacco taxes. Adewole said that the policy would make for better enforcement of existing public smoking ban.
The FEC also approved the construction of a multi-purpose conference centre for the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) in Abuja at a cost of N6.54 billion.
The Minister of Trade and Investments, Okechukwu Enelamah, who announced this, explained that the centre would increase ITF’s training capacity to about 2,000 persons per session, while expanding training in fields like GSM and automotive repairs, plumbing, and building technology.