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FG APPROVES N2.6BN FOR PERMANENT VOTERS' CARDS

By NBF News
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The Federal Executive Council (FEC), yesterday approved the sum of N2.6 billion for the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) for the printing of 40 million permanent voters' card. Addressing State House correspondents at the end of the FEC meeting chaired by President Goodluck Jonathan, Information of Minister, Labaran Maku, alongside the Minister of State, Finance, Yerima Ngama, said the unit-cost of the electronically enabled voters' cards was N65.00 and it was expected to be available within the next seven months. The printing contract for the new cards was awarded to ACT Technologies Limited.

According to Maku, INEC was expected to print additional cards by next year to meet the requirement of voters in the country, adding that the permanent voters' cards would allow voters to participate in elections irrespective of the location in the country. The printing of 40 million permanent voters' cards, which is the first phase of the project would replace the 73.5 million temporary cards issued to voters at the point of registration last year.

According to the Minister, the issuance of the permanent cards was in line with 2010 Electoral Act, and the new cards would remain valid for 10 years and contains security features and other bio-data of voters. Maku further argued that the idea of the permanent voters' cards would go a long way in curbing multiple voting, which is in line with the Jonathan's administration to clean up the nation's electoral process by achieving more credible and transparent polls, with the ultimate aim of ensuring a stable polity.

'Next year, INEC is expected to bring another proposal for the production of another batch of voters card to Council for approval; adding that 'the electoral process is one of the key programmes of this administration. We saw from the last election, that our electoral process are getting cleaner by the day. Post-election cases were down by more than two/three, so the electoral process will continue to receive the attention of this administration. We urge INEC to ensure that the cards are printed as soon as possible and distributed to voters so that they can be ready for other elections between now and 2015.'

Council also approved the President's directive to all federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to list out all items in their respective budgetary provisions that could be procured within the country. The lists are to be made available in the forthcoming FEC meeting. The directive which was a follow-up to an earlier one given by President Jonathan, according to Maku, was aimed at encouraging local manufacturers and foreign investors to start manufacturing locally, thereby buoying the nation's economy.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Development Bank has rated the country as the third fastest economy in the world with the GDP of 7.68 per cent. The two countries ahead of Nigeria according to IDB rating are Mongolia (14.9 per cent) and China (8.4 per cent) The Minister of State, Finance, who presented the outcome of the last (37th) meeting of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) held in Sudan, said Nigeria was placed among the middle, income countries.

Ngama said the rating was a significant development as it showed growing investors' confidence in Nigeria, an indicative of Nigeria being on track to achieving Vision 2020 in the next eight years, with Nigeria being among the top 20 economy in the world by then.

This is even more so as, according to projections of the IDB, which has 56 member countries, Nigeria's competitors are not moving at a faster rate, meaning that Nigeria would soon become the fastest growing economy in the world.

'Today in council, I presented a report on the presentation made at the 37th annual general meeting of the Islamic Development Bank, IDB. The bank has 56 member countries and at annual general meeting, each country is expected to present a report on the economic development in the country.

'The aim is to educate ourselves about what is happening in our countries. In the case of Nigeria, our report was actually the best. For the year, for the quarter, which ended on December 31, 2011, only about 46 countries have actually submitted their data and Nigeria was 3rd in terms of GDP growth. We recorded a GDP growth of 7.68 per cent in real terms and this is largely due to growth in the non-oil sector.

'The previous year, 2010, the GDP growth was 8.4 per cent but last year, it dropped to 7.68 per cent because we had a negative growth in the oil sector. So, it means that the non-oil sector is actually resilient and strong enough to carry the economy forward with or without the oil sector. 'This actually placed us as the third fastest growing economy in the world, the first being Mongolia with 14. 9 per cent real growth rate, then China with 8.4 Per cent real GDP growth rate followed by Nigeria with 7.68 per cent.

'But the more important story out of it is that as a nation, we have our vision 20-20-20 we have the objective of having one of the world strongest economy by the year 20-20-20. All the other countries apart from China that are ahead of Nigeria are growing at a slower rate than Nigeria. When those ahead of you are growing slower, it means that in the next eight years, we will achieve our objective of being one of the strongest economies in the world. As at last December, our total GDP was more that N10 trillion and that is a growth that is unprecedented despite our challenges,' he said.

He added, 'We are lucky to get a board seat in the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the private sector which is like the private sector arm of the IDB and Nigeria will be representing Africa on that board. This mean most of our private sector will benefit from their finances.'

On the impact of the rating on the masses, he said 'actually, standard of living has improved in Nigeria as a result of this growth, as at December, 2011, our income per capita grew from US$1,200 to US$1400 and this actually moved us from low income countries to middle lower income countries by World Bank classification.'