The National Economic Council (NEC) has approved the raising of the Excess Crude Account (ECA) savings from the current $5.3 billion to $10 billion.The Council said this would help provide the necessary buffer to shield the country’s economy from the shocks of incessant global economic uncertainties.Though the economies in Europe, America and Asia are currently experiencing some pressure as a result of mounting instability at the international commodities market, the Minister of Finance and Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy (CME), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, told the Council that Nigeria’s economy was still in good standing.”A healthy ECA savings would provide a buffer for the country’s economy for at least three months as a means of protecting the country from the mounting uncertainties in the global economy,” she said. The minister, who was presenting update on the implementation of the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) and the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Athority (NSIA), emphasized the need to take urgent steps to protect country’s economy from persisting global economic crisis.While underlining the importance of ensuring more judicious borrowings as well as application of funds by the different levels of government, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala solicited the support of the Council to President Goodluck Jonathan’s plan to appoint members of the SWF Board of Directors, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer as well as the executive and non-executive directors at the end of the recruitment process. Senior Special Assistant to the President on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Precious Gbeneol, briefed the Council on the assessment of the 2012 MDGs conditional grants Scheme for States and Local Government Areas.Under the grant, Mrs Gbeneol said about N20.5billion and N15billion respectively were provided for the 36 States and Local Government Areas in the MDGs Fund for 2012 for the execution of various development projects.The Council, in approving the release of the funds to the beneficiaries, said they must fulfil specific conditions, including provision of matching funds and bank guarantee bonds.It however advised the states to take advantage of the programme by meeting the required conditions, which would enable each of them access a financial support facility to the tune of as much as N550million.The council also mandated the MDGs office to provide a quarterly report on the progress made by the States as a means of gauging the overall progress made towards meeting the 2015 MDG goals and objectives.The NEC also reviewed the report of the inter-ministerial inspection of Federal Government Water Projects presented by the Minister of Water Resources, Sarah Ochekpe. In considering the report, the Council noted that the 111 projects in various locations across the country at various stages of completion would require additional N191.7billion to complete.Consequently, the Council recommended that all ongoing projects must be completed as soon as possible to achieve meaningful development and avail Nigerians the opportunity to benefit from their expected gains.Meanwhile, the Federal and State governments are to partner towards the completion of various water, irrigation and dam projects in a more beneficial and sustainable manner.The directorates of the Federal and state Ministries of Water Resources are to jointly review the details of the projects to enable government to work out the funding arrangements and prepare a framework for their completion.Similarly, the two tiers of government would henceforth collaborate in the budgetary processes of some strategic ministries, including Water Resources, Health, Education and Works, to promote synergy in projects implementation. On the status of trafficking in persons in Nigeria, the National Agency for the Prohibition of traffic in Persons (NAPTIP) also made a presentation to the Council on the growing incidence of trafficking and child labour and the danger they pose to the country’s growth and development.The Council noted the worsening development and backed the range of measures recommended by NAPTIP to check trafficking, including deepening public enlightenment, rehabilitation and reintegrating of victims, establishing vocational centres for youths training, effective prosecution of traffickers and functional policing of our borders.The council also recommended greater collaboration with the States and Local Governments to address the push factors of trafficking and child labour.The Minister of National Planning, Shamsudeen Usman, and his counterpart in the Ministry of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, are to co-ordinate the buy-in process and active participation of the states in the effort to reduce or eliminate trafficking in persons and child labour.
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