By Godfrey AKON
President Muhammadu Buhari has said the N15 trillion Infrastructural Corporation of Nigeria Limited, INFRACO, recently established by his administration, under the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund and the Road Infrastructure Development and Refurbishment Investment Tax Credit Scheme, is expected to begin operations by the fourth quarter of 2021.
Buhari, who disclosed this during his broadcast to the nation on its 61st Independence Day, said his government remains concerned by the significant transportation infrastructure deficit in the country, adding that the fund was set up to complement the country’s budgetary allocations.
The president assured that ddressing the challenges faced by commuters and lorry drivers on the country’s motorways are still a high priority to his administration.
While stating that INFRACO will also focus on leveraging resources on a public-private sector basis for infrastructural development in Nigeria, he expressed hope that “through these innovative programmes, the additional cost burden on individuals and businesses because of inefficient logistics operations will be reduced and ultimately, eliminated.”
According to him, his administration’s original priorities for 2020 were to continue stabilising the country’s economy, after the deep recession, while restoring peace in areas confronted with security challenges.
Buhari, who stated that Nigeria’s Roadmap on Local Refining is on track with the commissioning of a Modular refinery in Imo State, disclosed that a second modular refinery is scheduled for commissioning by the end of this year in Edo State and the third one in Bayelsa State by 2022.
“In addition to the modular projects, we also have the two mega refinery projects coming up in Lagos and Akwa Ibom States.
“As these refineries are commissioned, more employment opportunities are created and there would be increased petroleum products available for local consumption which will significantly reduce our reliance on importation.
“In further demonstrating our plan to reduce our dependence on oil and tapping from our enormous gas resources, this administration remains committed to the “Decade of Gas” Initiative, which is aimed at bringing to focus the utilization of our huge gas resources,” he said.
He disclosed that his administration is supporting and promoting various gas-based projects including NLNG Train 7 and the mega urea and ammonia projects in the South-South region.
Buhari further said he is proud and delighted to that his administration’s economic diversification strategy remains on course with the persistent increase in Non-Oil Sector contribution to GDP.
“We recovered from economic recession in quarter four of 2020 with a GDP growth rate of 0.11%, and grew by 0.51% and 5.01% in real terms in the first and second quarters of 2021.
“The agricultural sector remains key to our economic diversification efforts as the sector has been a consistent driver of the non-oil sector contributing 22.35% and 23.78% to the overall GDP in the first and second quarter of 2021,” he said.
The president noted that the country has seen significant private sector investments in almost all areas of the agricultural value chain; and these have continued even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Unfortunately, as our food production capacity has increased, food prices have been going up due to artificial shortages created by middlemen who have been buying and hoarding these essential commodities for profiteering,” he alleged.
He directed the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to rehabilitate the National Food Reserve Agency and also work with security agencies, the Nigerian Commodity Exchange, and the National Assembly to find a lasting solution to these disruptive and unpatriotic hoarding activities.
“To grant increased access to credit to the poor and vulnerable, I have directed an increase in the disbursement of Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme loans to an additional one million beneficiaries laying more emphasis on the smallholding farmers through the farmers Moni program,” he said.