FG Approves N3.5 Billion for Prisons to Buy 350 Vehicles, As Fashola Says Budget Constraint Hampering Roads Construction
The Federal Government has approved N3.5 billion contract for the procurement of 350 operational vehicles for the Nigerian Prisons Service.
This was disclosed on Wednesday by the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazzau, who briefed State House Correspondents after the Federal Executive Council held at the council chambers in Aso Rock.
Dambazzau was accompanied by the Minister for Works, Powers and Housing Development, Babatunde Raji Fashola and the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu.
The interior minister said the approval to buy the vehicles was part of logistics being put in place to de-congest prisons by making it easier for the prison service to convey inmates to courts for the hearing of their cases without delays and as at when due.
Dambazzau also said that the move was part of the processes being undertaken by the ministry in collaboration with the judiciary and the police at strengthening the criminal justice system in the country which he said had has been effective and favourable to inmates.
According to him, there are currently 65, 000 inmates in Nigerian prisons out of which 70 percent are awaiting trials in the 5,022 courts situated across the country.
He said that lack of such operational vehicles in the past had made it difficult to convey awaiting trial inmates to courts and had thus resulted in prolonged trials and overcrowding in prisons.
He said: "We are trying to see how we can reduce the number of inmates awaiting trial. But the Criminal Justice Act of 2015 has also made provision for alternatives to sentencing, otherwise known as non-custodian sentencing. The courts can now use that to rather than sending the individual to prison, depending on the crime committed, apply other means of dealing with his case."
In his briefing, Fashola painted a picture of hopelessness regarding the state of roads construction citing limited resources.
He said government could only undertake repairs and reconstructions on critical network of roads due to poor resources allocated for roads in the 2016 budget.
He revealed that the liabilities and debts on road projects stood at N1.5 trillion while only a paltry N200 billion was made available for road projects.
As a result of this, he said government had to prioritise works only on roads that were used for conveyance of energy needs, food and high vehicular traffic for transportation.
He said the government inherited contracts amounting to N2.2 trillion already awarded for roads construction.
According to him, contractors are owed about N1.5 trillion in works they had already done.
He explained that with limited budget, government had to prioritise.
Fashola further explained that "the budget that we have for the three ministries that I superintend are in the region of N400 billion plus. Over N200bn is dedicated to roads across the country.
"So that is the deficit that we have to deal with and in making those choices we then have to deal not with roads that necessarily bother us but roads that carry the heaviest traffic.
"First, is to deal with roads that evacuate our energy needs because without energy the nation will grind to a halt. Those roads evacuate energy from south to north, fuel in particular.
"Secondly those roads that evacuate our nourishment and food supply, our millet, tomatoes and yam from north to south.
"We also have to ensure that the transportation business does not die. So when you are hearing Lagos-Ibadan, it is not Lagos- Ibadan itself it is Lagos Ibadan that is a critical support to keep the economies of this country going.
"That is where importers from north or south, the bulk of imported cargo comes from: the Apapa and Tincan ports. That is where fuel is largely discharged for the country from the tank farms in Apapa and discharge to the further most part of the country.
"We are in situation where we have to make choices and this is how a family makes choices, what gives the greatest good to the possible greatest number with the most limited resources."
"So we are limited by resources but trying to ensure that each geo-political zone is not left behind we are also trying to ensure that we are able to keep the economy of the nation going.
"Hopefully next year we would move on to the next phase. We have provided a three year plan to begin to address the road but these are subject to the appropriation we receive and once a road is not appropriated for you can not spend money on it, it is a violation of the laws of this country and you will be penalised for it and I wont breach the law. So I am limited by what am authorised to do when appropriation comes."
On power, Fashola said FEC approved the procurement of 150 Mega Volts transformers for three transmission sub stations located in Oshogbo, Shiroro and Ondo.
He said the procurement became necessary following increase in power generation which needed infrastructures for evacuation to distribution areas.
He also noted that the acquisition of the transformers which he placed at a cost of over a billion naira, would reinforce, expand and maintain current transmission capacity as power increases.
Also speaking, the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu said FEC approved the resuscitation of the National Council on Hydrocarbon as parts of move to bring peace to the Niger Delta.
Kachikwu said the council consisted of stakeholders from the oil producing areas with a mandate to delineate on challenges facing the oil sector and on proffering solutions.
He explained that, the council also had, as part of its functions, the continuous review of policies in the oil minerals sector in relation to how they affected the indigenes of such areas especially with current issues of militancy by creating fora where everyone converge to discuss the problems affecting all participants in the sector.
He also spoke on the China Road Show. He said about 40 Chinese investors would be visiting Nigeria by the end of the month.
He said: "Generally when you have Memorandum of Understanding, the gestation period spends over a year, because when you have your road show you get your MOUs signed you have to set up teams from both countries on bilateral basis. Then begin to look specifically on the areas you pledged what are the business incentives, the terms and whether to invest.
"That is still work in progress, we are having a team of over 40 Chinese, members of some of those bodies about visiting Nigeria by the end of this month. We are also setting up a full inter ministerial panel that will be deliberating with them for each of those sectoral investments.
"I will say that the target we had while going to China was to raise $40billion which is the total cost of our infrastructural gap for the oil industry we raised about $75.6billion, $69bn of which were NNPC and government related potential investments and loans and the rest directly to the private sector, if we get even 20% of that, that will be a major achievement for us.
"We have one year period to work on this, we expect that some will come earlier, there are some facility lines that are almost readily available close to about $3 or $4billion but the investment packages will take us time. Realise that this is different from the pledges that were made when the president visited China which was an all African type front basis, this is completely separate.
"I know that that fund, an all African basis which is roughly about $60-$70bilion we just realised the enormity of the sort of success that the road had. So a lot more work is still on the pipeline and how we would now cristalize this into actual investment, but we are encouraged by what we are receiving in terms of the distinction and the contacts. Hopefully by the end of the month when this 40 man team comes we would be able to make substantial progress.