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FG approves N146b loan for irrigation, flood prevention

By The Citizen
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The Federal Executive Council (FEC), at its weekly meeting yesterday in Abuja, approved three foreign loans totalling $945 million (about N146.5 billion) aimed at improving irrigation, preventing flooding in Ibadan, Oyo State and providing water for Bauchi, Ekiti and Rivers states. 

   The council also approved four different road projects totalling N22 billion. Yesterday's meeting was presided over by Vice President Mohammed Namadi Sambo, in the absence of President Goodluck Jonathan, who left as part of ECOWAS leaders to troubled Burkina Faso.

   Ministers who briefed State House correspondents at the end of the meeting were Taminu Turaki  (Special Duties); Bashir Yuguda (Minister of State, Finance); Sarah Ochekpe (Water Resources); Akinwunmi Adesina (Agriculture and Rural Development); and Stephen Oru (Niger Delta Affairs).

  On the foreign loan for irrigation, Ochekpe said 50,000 hectares of land would be improved for cultivation over a period of seven years. She added that five irrigation schemes across the country were involved in the project and major beneficiaries included the basin stakeholders, the irrigation and drainage entities and the water users association of the federation.

   She said: 'In each of the irrigation schemes, we expect that 550 multiple, secondary and tertiary level water users' associations will be strengthened with different skills in managing water resources for improvement in their agricultural activities.'

  She added that over 140 farming families at the average of 12 persons per family would be involved in this project. 'We expect that the villages within the catchment areas of the project will also benefit from a cross range of activities that will be undertaken in the cause of implementing this project.

   'We expect over 10 million people will benefit from the flood emergency information system and flood forecasting tools that will be developed within the three hydrological basins where the projects are sited.

   'One major benefit of the project that we expect is the increase in the income of the households that will be participating. We expected that their incomes will rise from N259,000 annually to N781,000, about three times more than that of farmers operating within non-project area. The project was approved by the World Bank Board in June 2014 and it is to be effective within this month, 'she stated.

  She said that the water project came up because of the successes recorded in the first and second projects executed in Lagos, Cross River, Enugu, Ogun and Kaduna states.

  According to her, six projects have already been completed or rehabilitated in Kaduna, six in Ogun State, two in Enugu, one in Cross River, three main and seven minor projects in Lagos.

   On the road sector, Oru said the construction of Mbaise Ring Road intersecting Owerri-Umuahia Road in Imo State was awarded for N6.178 billion with a completion period of 18 months.

  He added that the construction of Calabar-Oban-Nsan-Okoroba-Ajassor Road in Cross River State was awarded for N9.067 billion with a completion period of 24 months.

   The other two road projects were the phase one of Mbak Mkpeti-Itu-Okoita-Arochukwu Road in Abia, Cross River and Akwa Ibom awarded for N3.55 billion with a completion period of 24 months; and the Mbak Atai-Ikot-Ntu-Mkpeti-Okuiboku Road in Akwa Ibom, awarded at the cost of N3.246 billion with a completion period of 18 months.

   Yuguda noted that the first of the five memoranda presented to the council by his ministry for approval was the one on the International Development Association's credit of $495 million for proposed irrigation management. 

   He noted that the idea behind the facility was to upscale what the Federal Government was doing in improving the irrigation system to ensure a year-in-year-out farming season in the country.

    According to the minister, the facility which enjoys five years' grace period, has a repayment period of 20 years and it attracts a service charge of 0.75 per cent. He added that the loan would also attract an interest rate of 1.25 per cent per annum and a commitment fee of 0.5 per cent per annum.

  He said: 'Part of the fund under this IDA credit is to upscale the cultivation of the irrigable land in the country. Currently, we have estimated 2.2 million hectares of potentially irrigable land in the country out of which about  one million hectares are situated in the northern part.

   'The beneficiaries for this loan which will be managed by the Ministry of Water Resources are in four components. One is water resource management and dam operation improvement to the tune of $81 million, irrigation development and management to the tune of $294 million, enhancing the agriculture productivity and supporting the value chain development is $38 million, and governance and institutional framework is $30 million and the contingency under this programme is about $52 million.

  'For specific intervention for the $495 million, the Bakolori Dam and Irrigation Scheme in Zamfara State will benefit. We are talking about the rehabilitation of the dam which has an existing 8,000 hectares irrigation scheme, recovering the over 1,557 hectares lost due to poor drainage and converting 13,000 hectares of abandoned areas.'

   Yuguda also said the council approved  $200 million loan to arrest the frequent flooding being witnessed in Ibadan, Oyo State, adding, 'We have all been witnessing the flood that has happened in Ibadan, the first one was in 1980 and the second one in 2011.

   'Some remedial work was carried out to avert the future occurrence of flooding in the city but we believe, with this credit facility of $200 million, we will be able to arrest the frequent flooding within the Ibadan city.

  'The idea is to work with the Ministry of Water Resources and Ministry of Agriculture in order to arrest the situation,' he added. 

  The minister also disclosed that the council approved another $250 million for the proposed third national urban water sector reform project. About one million Nigerians are to benefit from the project in the three states.

   He explained that the Federal Government would take the facility and then lend it to Bauchi, Ekiti and Rivers states. 

   According to him, the project, which would be implemented over a period of six years, has components such as water sector governance, institutional frame work and human capital development, sector-wide improvement and project management at the federal level and sector reforms on water.

   He explained that the facility is to address the increasing demand for water in the affected states.