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FG releases N460b for capital budget

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…to raise shareholding in Afreximbank
By Emeka Anaeto & Emma Ujah in Bali, Indonesia

The Federal Ministry of Finance has released a total of N460 billion for the execution of various capital projects captured in the 2018 Budget.
President Buhari signed the 2018 Budget into Law Wednesday June 20, 2018 at the State House, Abuja.

The Minister of Finance, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, disclosed this in a joint interview with the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Sen. Udoma Udoma, on the sidelines of the on-going International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank Annual Meetings in Bali, Indonesia.

She also gave indications that Nigerian government’s shareholding in the African Export -Import Bank (Afrexim) would be increased to regain the nation’s leading position in the continental bank.

Fielding questions on capital releases, Sen. Udoma said, “The amount of capital releases as of today is N460 billion. We just need a resolution of the National Assembly on the Borrowing Plan then we can fund it (2018 budget) even more.”

On Afrexim bank’s shareholding, Hajiya Zainab said that the bank was very important to the nation and therefore the current administration would take necessary steps to increase Nigeria’s shareholding.

Her words, “We have met with a delegation of Afrexim Bank from Cairo. Nigeria is a major shareholder in the bank. Part of what we have discussed is the possibility of increasing our shareholding and we discussed some of the projects and programmes that Afrexim Bank is supporting in Nigeria.

‘‘Afrexim Bank has a very large portfolio in Nigeria. About 40 percent of the bank’s portfolio is in Nigeria – support to the government but largely to the private sector.

“We have the need to increase our shareholding in the bank because there is a lot of value that we are getting from Afrexim Bank

“We also discussed the setting up of a medical park in the FCT (Federal Capital Territory) which is a discussion that has been going on for quite a long time. There was also a discussion on the establishment of Quality Assurance Centres in Ogun State and other parts of the country.

“In addition, we discussed the setting up of Industrial Parks in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment in three Centres- Lekki, Kano and one in Kaduna.”

Free Trade Agreement

On the Africa Free Trade Agreement, the minister said that the federal government was taking time to widely consult with the private sector before signing the document.

According to her, “Trade Agreements are not things that the government will just enter into without due consultations with stakeholders in the private sector.

“We need to discuss with the private sector and agree with operators in that sector before we join. The discussions have been going on but we have not reached a consensus. We need to reach a consensus before we sign the agreement.

“That discussion is being driven by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.”

How Nigeria lost her position in Afrexim- CEO

Speaking on the high-level discussion between Nigerian officials and the Afrexim Bank delegation, the President and Chief Executive of the Bank, Dr. Benedict Oramah, said that it became necessary for Nigeria to invest more in the bank which it pioneered.

According to him, Nigeria used to be the largest shareholder or the second-largest shareholder but had fallen to third position, having been displaced by Egypt and Zimbabwe.

His words, “Nigeria is still a major shareholder in the bank, although of recent, it has fallen back in terms of its relative position. That is why we have had these discussions with the Minister of Finance to see how Nigeria could return to the position it was.

“We have gotten assurances that the government would look at it and we hope that Nigeria’s holdings would come to the levels that would reflect the size of the Nigerian economy.

Asked to give details of Nigeria’s government’s current holding in the bank, the President said, “the equity holding of Nigeria is a Nigerian affair. In terms of Nigerian government, it is number three, today. But they have always been number one or number two in the past. Egypt and Zimbabwe are now number one and two, respectively.

“In terms of business in Nigeria, we have exposure of more than $3. 2 billion.

“We are supporting virtually all the banks in Nigeria in terms of lines of credit to be able to do export and import as well as in terms of supporting SMEs.

“We are also supporting many private businesses. We are into manufacturing and other activities. Beyond that we are also pursuing what I would call ‘impacting initiatives’, We have finalised arrangements to begin the development of a centre of excellence for health care because we want to see how we can begin to promote medical tourism in Nigeria.

“We want to develop a centre that will make it possible for Nigeria to have facilities to take care of complex diseases oncology, Haematology, cardiovascular and other complex diseases. That is a major project that we are working on’’.

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