By Omoh Gabriel
Federal Government in its bid to meet its transformation agenda and fix the polluted land in the Niger Delta and other parts of the country is negotiating a $550million financing, Coordinating Minister of the Nigerian Economy and Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has said.
The minster, who dropped this hint in an interactive session with newsmen in Washington DC at the World Bank/International Monetary Fund (IMF), said the response of the multilateral institution to Nigeria request has been quite encouraging and the deal will be finalised when the new World Bank country Director arrives in Nigeria.
“We have an ambitious programme to create jobs. One of the several priorities is agriculture. We have very detailed plan for investment in agriculture sector. One of the things we did here in Washington was to start negotiating for extra financing from the World Bank. We are in discussion with them to see if they can advance about $500 million to support the sector, also environment because we see agriculture and environmental issues desirous of having support. We have also entered into discussion of $50million to support the work of the environment and $500 million for agriculture. It is not concluded yet but it is looking positive and we are very happy with what is happening. We will conclude it when we get to Nigeria and the new country director arrives,” she said.
Besides, the minister said a group of investors are interested in the construction of the second Niger bridge, through a public private partnership (PPP) scheme.
“We just had an interesting meeting with both International Finance Corporation (IFC) – a private sector arm of the World bank and with the representatives of group of investors who are interested in public private partnership project in Nigeria. Specifically, they are interested in financing and investing in the second Niger Bridge. This is very promising and we had discussions with them about the next step and IFC will be coming to manage this operation.
“It could turn out as one of the best private sector partnership ventures that Nigeria would do and it will set an example that Nigeria is capable of delivering a clean approach to PPP. This will unlock investment in other PPP. We tend to get into discussion with the Minister of Trade and Investment and colleagues in the economic management team before presenting it to Mr. President what we have done and then take it from there. We have had discussions with the Minister of Works before coming to Washington and we plan to reconvene and share what we have done,” she said.
On the alleged frosty relationship between her and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, she said the relationship is cordial.
“The governor has spoken but people are looking for contention, they are not going to have it. When I came in, I said that we have the good intention to drive the economy. We have an idea of where we want to drive the economy. And you can see the relationship is extremely cordial. But just like any other jurisdiction, you have your normal monetary policy and fiscal policy tension that takes place. The Chief Economic Adviser can testify to it that it exists everywhere.
“However, apart from that, we have a remarkable meeting of minds in terms of the goals for the economy. He is quite focused on the real sector and we want to work with him and he has been concerned with the fiscal policy, we want to work on it,” she said.
On job creation, she said the government is looking at both skilled and unskilled areas to generate gainful employment in Nigeria but needs different approaches to address different categories. “I am very happy to announced that Mr President will soon announce a programme targeted at skilled population called Youth Enterprise Programme. This would be launched within couple of weeks to try and launch business enterprise competition asking our youths to create enterprises. If they have innovative ideas about how to expand and employ more people, we would run a competition to support those ideas. We will support those ideas by working with banks.
“We are also working with the Ministry of Youths and ICT. This is going to go life on the web and use all the modern tools to encourage participation. We are in partnership with the Lagos University and the World Bank. It is really a consortium to try and launch this across all the zones and to get all these ideas. Hopefully at the end of the day, we can get like about 600 proposals, which can be supported and finance and that will create the jobs. We are targeting several thousand jobs out of this. This is a very interesting programme and part of the N50 billion set aside in the budget will go to the financiers.
“We are also looking at public works programme for the unskilled and we are still working to finance that. We are also looking at women and will also launch for the women in various categories,”