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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Nigeria: Govs Move to Access U.S.$500 Million World Bank Funds

Governors of the 36 states of the federation yesterday sought ways of accessing $500 million from the World Bank to fast-track development activities in their various domains.

Also, the group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr Ibe Kachukwu, briefed the Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF) on the Corporation's ongoing reforms to reposition the economy.

The NGF, which held its meeting at the banquet hall of the presidential villa, Abuja, was also briefed by some international and local agencies on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

NGF chairman and Zamfara State Governor Abdulaziz Yari told journalists that the NNPC assured the governors that it was fully prepared to fund the country's economy through effective delivery of its mandate.

According to him, the meeting with the development partners and the MDAs came at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Yari said, "There are funds from the World Bank which states cannot access because we don't know how to move forward as a result of lack of expertise. The permanent secretary, Ministry of Health, briefed us on how we can access the $500 million in that area.

"Secondly, we used to complain of the NNPC, but with the facts we have got today, it is different in the sense that the NNPC is going to be a different organisation. It is going to fund the economy fully in the sense that there won't be any question of pipeline breaking or stealing of oil."

The Zamfara governor stated that, on the issue of pipelines breaches, the forum considered the idea of applying technology to safeguard the pipelines rather than continuing to rely solely on military force.

He also hinted that, while eight agencies were scheduled to brief the governors, only three of them were able to do so due to time constraint. The rest would brief the forum next month on a date to be announced later.

The agencies that briefed the governors yesterday were the NNPC, United Nations Population Fund (UNFP) and the World Bank, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health.

He said, "Today's meeting was with the heads of so many agencies which made presentations to us. Some of them were ordered by Mr. President to do the presentation so that they make us understand where they are and what they are up to.

"By November we would take those that we are not able to take such as National Mathematical Centre and the National Communications Commission on the issue of digitalization and also NASENI (National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure."

Yari stated that the exercise would be continued with other agencies so that governors could understand how to move the nation forward.

Yari listed other areas the forum would be briefed on to include "the issues of bunkering, pipeline vandalism and the issue of gas pipelines, and also how to make the company profitable as a mono-product company servicing the economy through oil exports."

Edo State Governor Comrade Adams Oshiomhole hailed President Buhari for the initiative of furnishing governors with information about the workings of the country.

He said, "It is our usual governors' forum. We have heard different presentations. We spent some time looking at the issues of infant mortality and early marriages in many parts of the country, and the role of government to re-emphasise the need to spare some resources to address those issues.

"The GMD of the NNPC gave us an interesting presentation on the reforms that are going on in the NNPC. We now have a renewed confidence that we now have a Corporation that is run like a business outfit, good corporate governance and transparency.

"Having listened to all the presentations, we are excited that the president is providing the right leadership and the GMD is at home with the issues. We all can do better in giving attention to things that we take for granted."

Oyo State Governor Abiola Ajumobi, on his part, said that with this development, it was now safer for states to partner with NNPC in the light of the reforms.

He said, "We must first and foremost commend the president for the initiative in bringing us together to interact with various companies, that is, NNPC and international development partners who are showing us all the opportunities available for each state to leverage upon.

"I think that, for the first time in the history of my being a governor, this is a very commendable effort. First and foremost, we now discover that many states can partner with the NNPC. We are having dwindling resources; can we not expand our resource net to be able to bring in money?"

Ogun State Governor Ibikunle Amosun also thanked President Buhari for the meeting, which he said had enabled the governors to get first-hand information about the affairs of the NNPC.

"The president in his wisdom met with the chairman of Governors' Forum and he believes that many of the briefings that he had received should be extended to the governors so that we will have first-class appreciation of what is on ground and his intention of how to drive the economy and the nation.

"I think is good for us. We will be having National Executive Council (NEC) on Thursday. It is good that we are abreast with some of the things we shall be discussing there," he said.

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