The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has stated that over 60,000 jobs were created in the aviation sector in 2011 alone and that the industry is expected to contribute six per cent to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the coming year.
The Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku, made this known while briefing state house correspondents on the outcome of the weekly meeting on Wednesday.
In continuation of the assessment of the performance of the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the government in the past one year, the council took on the Ministries of Aviation and Communication Technology in a marathon briefing that lasted for over nine hours.
New National Carrier
The Minister of Aviation told the council that a fund will soon be created to avoid the short term facility being suffered by the existing airlines and that the new national carrier that will soon be floated will be private sector driven.
She enumerated her achievements to include the expansion of the existing terminal buildings as well as plans to build at least 11 new terminal buildings across the country.
On her part, the Minister of Communication Technology, Ms Omobolaji Johnson, said that the one year old ministry has contributed 5.7 per cent to the nations GDP and is committed to the development of broadband network that will enable Nigerians have access to the internet.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday approved a proposal for a new city for the celebration of the country’s 100 year anniversary in 2014.
According to the Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku, the new city will serve as a memorial for the future generation of Nigerians.
He said the new city which will be located near Abuja will have modern features including a conference centre that will be the first of its kind in Africa that can host all global events within Nigeria.
The new city is a recommendation by a committee headed by the secretary to the government of the federation.
He said the celebration of the centenary is significant to Nigeria as a country.
N478 million for two rail gauge
Meanwhile FEC also on Wednesday approved feasibility studies for two new standard gauge railway lines in the country at the collective sum of N478 million.
The approved contracts for feasibility studies in railway are in accordance to the railway modernisation programme of the present administration.
The Minister of Transportation, Senator Idris Umar, stated that rail-lines covering 673KM will run from Benin to Obudu Cattle Ranch.
It is expected to cost N334 million while the second rail line is from Ajaokuta to Abuja covering 280KM at the cost of N144 million.
He said that the scope of work will include the design for connection to urban settlements along the routes and prepare the evaluation for appropriate private public partnership
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved contracts for the construction of the terminal building, control tower and power house at the Bayelsa Airport in Yenagoa, the state capital for the sum of N13.912 billion.
According to the Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku, “Bayelsa state as an oil producing state is a major hub in the country and needs an airport to serve the needs of the people.”
The airport, he further explained is expected to enhance the movement of people and goods in the region.
The oil producing Bayelsa State, is President Goodluck Jonathan’s state of origin.
NEMA’s N3.4billion air ambulance
The council also at Wednesday’s meeting approved the purchase of one air ambulance jet with medical evacuation configuration for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) for immediate medical assistance and evacuation of people whenever disaster strikes in any part of the country.
The director general of the agency Mr Mohammed Sidi who briefed state house correspondents after the meeting said the aircraft will cost $23 million (N3, 450 000 000).
According to him, the approval follows a memo by the President to the effect that the recent increase in natural and human induced disasters across the country exacerbated the loss of lives due to poor immediate emergency services.
The council meeting was presided over by Vice-President Namadi Sambo in the absence of President Goodluck Jonathan who is attending the D-8 summit in Islamabad, Pakistan.
The council also passed the framework for an integrated infrastructure development plan for Nigeria and also approved the setting up of an advisory council for the Ministry of Niger Delta to co-ordinate the activities of all agencies that have anything to do in the Niger delta
The road sector got once again attracted plenty of attention with contracts awarded for the Okene-Benin, Abuja-Lokoja and the Kano-Maiduguri expressway.
The Minister of Works, Mr Mike Onolememen, explained that the federal government will take advantage of the dry season to execute the road projects.
The council also commiserated with President Jonathan on the death of his younger brother and prayed to God to give the First Family the fortitude to bear the loss.
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The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved the use of performance contract system recently adopted by Ministers, as a basis for career promotion in the civil service.
Briefing state house correspondents after the council meeting on Wednesday, the Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku said that the approval which will take effect from 2013 will take off with five ministries.
The ministries are Ministries of Education, Agriculture, Health, Finance and Works.
The approval is following deliberations on the report of the annual conference of the civil service commission held earlier in June this year.
Also the cabinet gave approval for the automation of its operations using the galaxy backbone.
The council agreed that memos must not be carried manually from next year.
The Senate at the plenary session on Wednesday, asked President Jonathan to caution his ministers and aides against making inflammatory statements against Federal lawmakers to avoid straining the cordial relationship between the legislature and executive.
Two special advisers to the president, Alhaji Ahmed Gulak and Dr Doyin Okupe came under fire from the Senate over inflammatory remarks on the national assembly.
The lawmakers noted with dismay the regular attacks on the legislature by Ministers and aides of President Goodluck Jonathan, describing the presidential aides as fifth columnists.
It will be recalled that last month, the Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku apologized to the Senate over remarks he made that the resolutions by the national assembly are only advisory.
When it appeared that the relationship between the executive and the legislature is being smoothen, Presidential aides Alhaji Gulak and Dr Okupe attacked the national assembly.
Deputy senate president Ike Ekweremadu asked the Senate to take on the challenge thrown by presidential adviser Alhaji Gulak.
However the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly matters, Senator Joy Emodi in a statement said the alleged remarks by the presidential aides do not reflect the views of President Jonathan.
She stated that the presidential aides are on their own, adding that they never spoke the mind of the president.
It however remains to be seen if the intervention of Senator Emordi will soothe the tempers of lawmakers, and mend the frayed relationship between the executive and the senate.
The Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, on Tuesday recanted an earlier comment that resolutions of the Senate were merely advisory and not binding on the Executive.
Speaking while appearing before the Senate Committee on Information and Media, Mr Maku said he made the statement last week under pressure from journalists at a press conference in Abuja.
At the said press conference, the Minister had been pressed for comments on the resolutions of both arms of the National Assembly, asking President Goodluck Jonathan to drop the proposed N5000 note and conversion of N5, N10 and N20 to coins.
He responded by saying that the National Assembly could not dictate to President Jonathan.
Earlier in the day, the Senate President, David Mark at the plenary session of the upper legislative arm made some strong remarks on the Minister’s quoted response to the national assembly resolution.
According to the Senate President, “the Information Minister is just a careless talker.”
“He is extremely careless” he added.
The Senate President went further lampooning the Minister of information, saying, “he didn’t even think through what he was saying.”
“It is not in his place to tell us what the effects of our resolutions are. I think he talks very carelessly and I hope the President cautioned him.”
“Next time he does that, we (Senate) will take a resolution here of any Minister who talks carelessly that such a minister should be removed.”
Cautioning his peers on the ‘take a bow and go’ policy operated by the Senate during the screening of appointees, Mr Mark stated that “for those who usually tell the Ministers to take a bow and go, because they are very good men, I hope they are learning some hard lessons from the way they talk.”
However, while appearing before the committee, Mr Maku was confronted with the Doctrine of Necessity which was passed into resolutions by the Senate and House of Representatives in February 2010 and enabled then Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan to become Acting President.
At the time, President Umaru Yar’Adua was hospitalised in Saudi Arabi, a situation which created a power vacuum as he did not hand over to Mr Jonathan before leaving Nigeria for Saudi Arabia.
The committee reminded Mr Maku that these resolutions led to Mr Jonathan ascending the office of President when Yar’Adua eventually died.
The committee also reminded Mr Maku that his emergence as minister was made possible after a resolution passed by the Senate, to which he agreed.
The minister said his comments were not meant to disparage the National Assembly and tendered an apology.
Following Nigeria’s dismal performance at the London Olympics, President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered a total and comprehensive re-organization of the nation’s sport sector.
The Nigerian contingent to the Olympic Games failed to win any medal at the just concluded games.
Disclosing the announcement to journalists at the end of the Federal Council Meeting on Wednesday, the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku said that the president has called for a national retreat which will involve state governors as well as the private sector to re-order priorities in the Nigerian sporting sector.
The Federal Executive Council also agreed that the disappointment in London must be the beginning of a new momentum that will place Nigerian sports at a level that will enable the country return to the glory it is known for in the field of sports.
The FEC gave approval for an International Development Association loan for the development of the Obudu Dam in Cross River state.
The dam when completed will meet the water needs of the communities in Cross River state as well as provide irrigation for the agricultural sector.
The Federal Government on Wednesday reacted to the United States of America’s embassy warning that the radical Islamist sect, Boko Haram may be planning new attacks against hotels and other areas in Abuja saying that there is no cause for alarm.
The Minister of Information, Labaran Maku while responding to questions from journalists at the end of this week’s Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja, said that all the organisations, both local and foreign, operating in the Nigeria should avoid statements that could cause panic in the country.
“Whereas we believe that every country has a duty to secure its citizens and take decisions that will ensure the safety of their nationals, we have always appealed to such embassies and agencies not to create public panic in our country,” Mr Maku said.
The Minister further said that the Nigerian security agencies “have over the last year increased their capacity to respond to some of the threats, particularly within this city and several other cities.”
The US embassy in Nigeria had earlier on Wednesday warned that Islamist group Boko Haram may be planning attacks against hotels or other areas in the capital Abuja.
“The US embassy has received information that Boko Haram may be planning attacks in Abuja, Nigeria, including against hotels frequently visited by Westerners,” an emergency message to US citizens on its website said.
“The US government has no additional information regarding the timing of these possible attacks. The Nigerian government is aware of the threat and is actively implementing security measures.”
It gave no further information on the threats.
The police authority has however said they were not aware of any “special threat” of attack.
The US issued a similar message in November that drew harsh criticism in Nigeria. No attacks occurred in Abuja in the wake of the November warning.
A US diplomat at the time however said the warning was based on specific and credible information, adding that the embassy had no choice but to warn American citizens.
The Islamist Boko Haram sect has carried out scores of attacks, mainly in Nigeria’s predominately Muslim north, that have killed more than 1,000 people since mid-2009.