By Ismaila Chafe
Abuja, Nov. 11, 2020 The Federal Executive Council ratified Nigeria’s membership of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement on Wednesday in Abuja.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made this known at the end of the weekly meeting of the Council chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to the minister, with the ratification, Nigeria has beaten the Dec. 5 deadline set for all countries to ratify their membership of the African Free Trade Area.
He said: “the Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment presented a memo on Wednesday asking the Federal Executive Council to ratify Nigeria’s membership of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA).
“You remember that on the July 7, 2019, Nigeria signed the AfCTA agreement in Niamey during the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union.
“The effective date ought to have been July 2020, but it was postponed to Jan. 1, 2021 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. All member states were given up to Dec. 5 to ratify the agreement.
“That is precisely what Nigeria did today. The Federal Executive Council approved the ratification of the country’s membership of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement.
“It was ratified and as such, we beat the deadline of Dec. 5. Effectively, we hope that by Jan. 1, 2021, the agreement will come into force.’’
Mohammed also said that the Council approved N470 million for the procurement, installation, and commissioning of fully dimensional aerodrome and approach simulator at Lagos Airport.
“The Minister of Aviation presented a memo in which he sought the approval of a contract for the procurement, installation, and commissioning of fully dimensional aerodrome and approach simulator at the Lagos Airport for the sum of N470,263,037 with a completion period of six months.
“The contract became necessary in view of the increase in the number of personnel who have been recruited and trained as air traffic controllers.
“It is important to us to ensure safety in all the 32 aerodromes of the country. That memo was also approved today,’’ he added.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, who also briefed State House correspondents on the outcome of the meeting, said the Council approved the opening of a Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre in Abuja.
Pantami said the centre would help to address the problem of unemployment among Nigerian youths.
He said: “I presented two memos. Number one is on the National Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre here in Abuja and this is part of the efforts of the Federal Government of Nigeria to produce many entrepreneurs, particularly looking at the challenge of unemployment and unemployable citizens.
“We came up with this plan to establish a digital innovation and entrepreneurship centre where millions of our citizens are going to be trained as entrepreneurs, particularly in ICT so that they will be future potential employers rather than being employees.
“This is in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the U.S.A. It has a programme called Regional Entrepreneurship Accelerated Programme, where it supports a country or an institution to produce many entrepreneurs in the area of their choice.
“So, our focus, looking at our mandate in the ministry, is on the development of ICT and this centre will be managed by the National Information Technology Development Agency, while the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy will provide the policy direction for the centre and supervise the implementation of the policy.
“It is going to be completed in three years.’’
The minister also said that the Council approved the registration of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) so as to give them digital identity.
He said: “the second memo is in relations with the National Identity Management Commission.
“As we all know that the NIMC Act 2007 makes it mandatory that each citizen must have a National Identity Number. Accordingly, the Act’s section 5 and section 27 emphasise that it could be an offence not to acquire the number.
“Most of us here do not have the number, but they have at least a form of identification, an official one; either driver’s license or passport for travelling and many more.
“But people in IDP camps do not have that usually; so we came up with a policy that will prioritise providing national identity to people living in the IDPs.
“The policy has been entitled: National Policy for Digital Identification for Internally Displaced Persons.’’
According to Pantami, the digital ID will support government in establishing the total number of IDPs, make budgetary provisions for them, and assist in national planning with regards to their education, health and many more.
He expressed the hope that the digital identification policy would enable government to reach out to IDPs across the country.
“When it comes to social intervention being provided by the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, government will have an up-to-date record of IDPs; their number and locations and government will reach out to them easily through that database that will be domiciled at the National Identity Management Commission.
“Based on the report during the formulation of the policy, we have around three million people living in IDP camps in Nigeria, which is more than 1 per cent of our population.
“In addition, from the records that we have received in the course of the formulation, there is no single state in the country without IDPs; the highest number is in Borno State with 1.4 million people and the lowest is in Ondo State with 1,024 persons,’’ he said.