- FG, China to Finalise $11bn Lagos-Calabar Rail Deal in June
The acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, on Tuesday said the federal government and the People’s Republic of China would round off negotiations on the Lagos-Calabar rail project estimated at $11.117 billion in June.
Osinbajo also disclosed that the federal government had already provided its portion for funding the rail project and promised that the negation would be concluded in the next three months.
He said this at the unveiling of Lagos-Ibadan rail project at the Nigerian Railway Corporation compound, Ebute-Metta, Tuesday, noting that the national rail project would create 500,000 jobs.
On behalf of the federal government, President Muhammadu Buhari had in June 2016 signed an agreement with the China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC) for the construction of the Lagos-Calabar coastal railway line at $11.117 billion.
Under the agreement, the federal government was able to negotiate the price of the contract downwards by $800 million, stressing that although the contract was initially valued at $11.917 billion, it would now to cost $11.117 billion.
The first segment of the rail line comprises Calabar, Uyo, Aba and Port Harcourt. Other segments of the Lagos Calabar coastal rail line such as Otueke, Yenagoa, Ughelli, Warri, Sapele, Benin, Agbor, Asaba, Onitsha, Ijebu Ode, Lagos, would be ready also within another two years.
Osinbajo, however, unveiled the Lagos-Ibadan rail project alongside the state governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, his Oyo State counterpart, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, Senate Chief Whip, Senator Olusola Adeyeye and Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, among others.
At the unveiling, the acting president disclosed that the federal government “has already provided our portion for funding for the Lagos-Calabar route as well. We expect that negotiations with the foreign component of the funding will be finalised within the next three months”.
He, therefore, assured Nigerians that a vibrant railway system “will confer many benefits on the society. Our ultimate goal is to restore a railway using culture for both commercial and personal transportation. We are confident that the national rail project will create up to 500,000 jobs. Aside, it will facilitate the movement of up to 3.2 million tonnes of cargo per annum.”
He explained that the ground breaking “reflects the federal government’s to build a globally competitive economy with first grade infrastructure. Railway, in our strategy, is underscored by our economic recovery and growth plan as well as incorporated 2016 and 2017 budgets”.
“We made provision for matching funds in 2016 budget to complement the concession loans obtained from the People Republic of China. The Chinese Government and Chinese Exim Bank have always proved to be a reliable partner to the Nigeria Government. We have the entire Lagos Kano rail track as well as the Lagos Calabar railway track in the 2017 budget, he added.”
Osinbajo disclosed that negotiation on the Kaduna –Kano portion of the track would soon be completed, noting that when completed the rail projects “will reduce the burden on national high ways. It will also reduce deterioration of the road network and increasing the life span of our roads”.
He explained that railway network would support efforts “to diversify the economy and enhance our export potentials. Several of our cities will become known as railway towns will boost economic activities within the railway lines that will eventually cut across the entire country”.
He, therefore, said the new approach to rail project development explained why the federal government “supports the replacement of the 1964 railway acts with a legal frame work that open railway projects in the country to greater private sector participation.
“We expect to ensure that the resources to manage efficient modern and reliable train services. We will see the same zeal in the project construction so that the railway lines we be completed on schedule. We are looking forward to a fast and efficient service between Lagos and Ibadan within the projected time frame which is on or before December 2018”.
Also speaking, Ambode commended the federal government for approving the right of way for the proposed Lagos Light Rail (Red Line) project, thereby asking the Nigeria Railway Corporation “to cooperate with the state government during the construction of the red line”.
He said the proposed extension of the Lagos-Ibadan Rail Project would go a long way to open up the economy of the South-west as well as facilitate regional integration and growth.
He said the project also marked a new dawn in the transformation of the nation’s transport infrastructure, especially for the South-west, thereby expressing delight that the take-off had become a reality.
Ambode added that aside boosting regional integration, the agricultural sector would receive the long awaited boost as the rail line “will be a fast and convenient means of transporting farm produce from the hinterland to the city thereby increasing the economies of the states”.
“A direct benefit of this project is that containers and goods from the Apapa Port will now be transported by rail thereby reducing the number of trailers and other heavy duty vehicles on our roads.
“A direct consequence of this project would be less productive man hours wasted on the roads due to gridlock and bad roads due to heavy duty vehicles. In addition, we expect government to expend fewer resources on road repair and maintenance once the rail line takes off and reduce the pressure of articulated vehicles on our roads,” the governor said.
African Union Holds Global Conference to Accelerate African Vaccine Development and Manufacturing Capacity
African leaders assembled at a global meeting to discuss the status of local pharmaceutical manufacturing on the continent, underscored the need to increase local production of vaccines and therapeutics to achieve greater public-health security.
“The production of vaccines and access to vaccines is an absolute priority,” Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, said Monday in opening remarks at the start of the two-day virtual meeting, convened by the African Union.
The meeting was attended by several African heads of state, health, finance and trade ministers from across the continent, as well as officials from global financial institutions, foundations, pharmaceutical manufacturers, business leaders, and the general public. The African Development Bank was represented by Solomon Quaynor, Vice President Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization.
Although Africa consumes approximately one-quarter of global vaccines by volume, it manufactures less than 1% of its routine vaccines, with almost no outbreak vaccine manufacturing in place. The region lags behind in procuring vaccines amid a global scramble for the medicines among wealthier nations. Thus far, only around 2% of the world’s vaccination against Covid-19 has taken place in Africa.
The need for a new public health order in Africa, which promotes domestic vaccine manufacturing, epidemic preparedness and upgraded healthcare systems to meet the needs of the world’s fastest-growing population, was the conference’s main objective.
The African Union and the Africa CDC said they would continue to work with all stakeholders to identify implementable actions, financing needs and timelines to competitively produce vaccines in Africa.
Quaynor noted that the current undertaking would require immense investment. “Vaccine manufacturing, because of its complexity, is not really an entrepreneurial drive but actually an institutional drive,” he added.
The African Development Bank is working with global and African stakeholders, to articulate a 2030 vision for Africa’s Pharmaceutical Industry in response to several calls received from African Heads of State, who have expressed a strong political will. This vision aligns with its “industrialize Africa” priority strategy.
The vision will build on previous efforts to produce a continental plan of action to boost local African pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity, such as the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa adopted in Abuja in January 2005 and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa (PMPA), prepared by the African Union Commission and the United Nations in 2012, to assist local manufacturers with pharmaceutical production.
Quaynor said Africa could count on the African Development Bank’s support to secure Africa’s health defense system. “Leveraging on our comparative advantages, we will both provide upstream support to governments on the enabling environment, as well as provide financing to private sector and PPPs both indirectly through some of our private equity investee funds and directly through lending, and credit and risk guarantees. We will also use the Africa Investment Forum to bring in all relevant stakeholders and partner DFIs into bankable opportunities…”
The 2030 vision for Africa’s pharmaceutical industry would also work with pharmaceutical industry associations in Africa to create capacity development links between universities and industry in Africa, and work with African scientists in the diaspora, Quaynor said in remarks made on behalf of African Development Bank President Akinwumi A. Adesina.
ITF, Nigerian Air Force, Others, Sign MOU To Advance Research
The Industrial Training Fund, ITF has signed a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, and Equipment and Protective Application International Limited to establish the framework that will give room for optimal performance as well as enhance productivity.
The Director General, Industrial Training Fund, Sir Joseph Ari while speaking at the NAF headquarters in Abuja, said the MOU will be pursued with vigour and all the seriousness it deserves so that greater success would be the catalyst that will drive their intentions.
He explained that over the years, ITF had redirected its focus on technical, vocational training and education noting that developed nations are where they are today because of the initiative.
According to him, “even here in Abuja, we have a model of a skills training centre and the model was brought in from the Singaporean experience of the institute for technical education and services of Singapore”.
“We brought a semblance of it here to experience with five trade areas, Mechatronics and Autotronics, Computer Networking, ICT, Facility Technology as well as culinary in both African and Western cuisine is right there in the heart of Abuja in the ITF house, it is like a university”.
“The ITF is well positioned to work hand in hand with the Nigerian Air Force,” he said
The ITF boss added; “I must say that the Chief of Air Staff has a lot of foresight with his men to think about this Memorandum of Understanding because I deed, ITF is where you should be”.
“The ITF came into contact with the Nigerian Air Force even though a lot of the officers of the Air Force might have participated in its programmes in the past and since then I have noticed that NAF has not relented in its efforts to equipped it’s workforce and also upgrade and retrain its people,” Sir Ari added.
He also commended the men and officers of the NAF for their sacrifice in keeping the nation safe.
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal, Oladayo Amao said the Nigerian Air Force has a highly technical Service and technology is the bedrock of all its operations.
Represented by the Chief of Standards and Evaluation, Air Vice Marshal, Olusegun Philip, Amao noted that in line with the focus of the Federal Government in promoting indigenous technology, the Nigerian Air Force has been looking inwards to gradually wean itself of overdependence on foreign technology and to become more innovative and resourceful.
“Therefore, in order to advance the Nigerian Air Force’s Research and Development efforts, we have deemed it necessary to formally collaborate with indigenous organizations through the signing of Memorandum of Understanding,” Amao stated.
“These collaborative efforts provide pedestals to leapfrog capability as well as a repertoire of capabilities that can be harnessed”.
“The collaborative efforts also provide platforms to synergise ideas for innovations that are key to achieving meaningful results to solve the technological challenges we currently face in a cost effective manner,” he said.
The Managing Director, Equipment and Protective Application International Limited, Engineer, Kola Balogun however, assured that the MOU entered would be for the overall economic benefit and development of the nation.
SERAP Urges FG to Slash Politicians’ Allowances
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Chairman of Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Elias Mbam, to urgently review upward the remuneration, allowances, and conditions of service for Nigerian Judges, and reduce the remuneration of President Muhammadu Buhari and other political office-holders in order to address the persistent poor treatment of Judges, and improve access of victims of corruption to justice.
The appeal came on the heels of a nationwide industrial action by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) to press home their demand for financial autonomy for the judicial arm of government, and the federal government silence on the judiciary workers’ strike that has grounded court activities across the country.
In a letter dated April 10, 2021, which was signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said Judges should get all they are reasonably entitled to, and that it is unfair, illegal, unconstitutional, and discriminatory to continue to treat Judges as second-class people, while high-ranking political office holders enjoy lavish salaries and allowances.
SERAP expressed concern that the remuneration and allowances of Judges have fallen substantially behind the average salaries and allowances of political office-holders such as president, vice-president, governors and their deputies, as well as members of the National Assembly.
The letter read in part: “According to our information, the last review of the remuneration, allowances, and conditions of service for political, public and judicial office holders carried out by RMAFC in 2009 shows huge disparity between the remuneration and allowances of judges and those of political office holders.
“Judges’ work is very considerable but they cannot give their entire time to their judicial duties without the RMAFC reviewing upward their remuneration and allowances, and closing the gap and disparity between the salaries of judges and those of political office holders such as the president, vice-president, governors and their deputies, as well as lawmakers.
“We would therefore be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the Incorporated Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel the RMAFC to comply with our requests.”
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