Abuja — THE Federal Executive Council (FEC) yesterday approved N2.6 billion for the printing of 40 million permanent voter's card by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Briefing pressmen after the weekly FEC meeting, chaired by President Goodluck Jonathan, the Information Minister, Labaran Maku, along with the Minister of State for Finance, Yerima Ngama, said the idea of the permanent voters' cards was in line with the 2010 Electoral Act.
He said the approval was only for the first phase as INEC is expected to produce more cards by next year to meet the required number of voters in the country.
The permanent cards, which, he said, would replace the 73.5 million temporary voters' cards issued by the commission for the 2011 general elections, will carry microchips containing the voters' bio data and will be valid for a minimum of 10 years.
The contract to print the new cards was awarded to ACT Technologies Limited, which is expected to deliver in seven months.
Maku, who explained that the features of the cards would prevent multiple voting in any location across the country as the cards will be electronically enabled, added that it would further strengthen the efforts of the Jonathan administration to clean up the nation's electoral process by achieving more credible and transparent polls.
'Next year, INEC is expected to bring another proposal for the production of another batch of voter's card to Council for approval.
The electoral process is one of the key programmes of this administration. We saw from the last election that our electoral process is getting cleaner by the day.
Post election cases were down by more than 2/3, 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 are distributed to voters, so that they can be ready for other elections between now and 2015.'
The minister stated that the president directed all Federal ministries, departments and agencies to step up action on his earlier instructions on local procurement of items.
Consequently, the minister said the president ordered the MDAs to list items in their respective budgetary provisions to be procured locally and present it to the Federal Executive Council.
The president had last year directed that in public procurement, locally produced goods must first be considered at least at the federal level.
But the minister said while this is to encourage local producers and to also encourage the creation of jobs within the economy for the unemployed and school leavers, the president 'noted in council today that in spite of this directive, MDAs are yet to fully implement it.
So he asked all MDAs as we prepare for the 2012 budget year, to list out in our procurement plans those things that should be procured locally.'
But the president was said to have directed the Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr.Olusegun Aganga to prepare a plan for those items, goods and services, that Nigeria has local capacity to produce.
'This will enable the government, through the economic management team, to sort out those items that we must deliberately set out to encourage local producers to produce within the country,' the minister said.
'You will also recall that the president has directed that those big suppliers that tap on the huge Nigerian market' would need to begin to look into transiting from importation to local production and assembling of those goods in Nigeria to meet the need of our market', the minister added.
He explained that 'for the memos we will be presenting to Council in the next one year, we must show evidence that if we are taking something completely from outside Nigeria, we should show that there are no suitable local alternatives.
This is important to the growth and development of Nigeria's economy.'
In a presentation to Council, on the outcome of the last (37th) meeting of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) which rated Nigeria as the third fastest growing economy in the world with a GDP of 7.68 per cent, the Minister of State for Finance, Yerima Ngama, said Nigeria comes behind Mongolia (14.9 per cent) and China (8.4 per cent), according to the IDB which puts the nation among the middle income countries.
According to him, the rating is a significant development which shows growing investors' confidence in Nigeria, and is indicative of Nigeria being on track to achieving Vision 2020 in the next eight years, ranking among the world's top 20 economies.
According to projections of the IDB, which has 56 member countries, Nigeria's competitors are not moving at a faster rate, meaning that the country is soon to become the fastest growing economy in the world.
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