By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
The Federal Government yesterday approved the establishment of ten rice mills in the six geopolitical zones at the cost of N10.7 billion.
Government also approved the establishment of department for traditional medicine in the Federal Ministry of Health with the sole aim of finding ways to use traditional medicine to tackle the scourge of malaria in the country.
This is as the government has also said that there was no previous agreement between the Federal Government and striking health workers under the aegis of Joint Health Workers Union, JOHESU but that efforts were on top gear to settle all the demands of the workers.
Briefing State House correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lekpobri, said each of ten rice mills will produce at 100 tons per day.
He said, “Today the Federal Executive Council approved the establishment of ten very large rice mills to enhance the milling capacity of rice value chain in the country.
“Few years ago, it was reported that this country needs a minimum of 100 large mills. As at today we have about 21 but the Federal Government in its wisdom decided that today we should approve the establishment of ten new rice mills at the total cost of N10.7 billion.
“This will be given to the private sector to manage which will be paid back within a given time frame as will be agreed between the Bank of Agriculture and the Rice Mills.
“The state will be ten. You know in Nigeria, over 30 states are growing rice, in today’s memo, the ten rice mills will be located across the six geopolitical zones including Kebbi, Zamfara, Benue, Kogi, Bayelsa, Anambra, Kaduna, Niger, Ogun, Bauchi.
“The capacity of the rice mills is 100 tons per day each.”
Also briefing, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole said that 25 percent Nigerians have sickle cell gene.
He said, “At today’s Federal Executive Council meeting, Government approved the licencing agreement between the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, NAPRED and May and Baker Plc.
“This is in respect of scaling up commercialisation and marketing of Niprisan, a very potent anti sickle cell drug for use in Nigeria.
“As you might be aware, sickle cell disease is a common problem particularly among blacks in Africa, South East Asia and Latin America and it is estimated that about 25 percent of Nigerians carry the sickle cell gene and over two million people have sickle cell anemia, that is having the two genes combined.
“And for many of them, when they are under stress, take ill, what happens is invariably they develop severe bone crisis, they develop infection and some of them will die from this.
“This drug was first used in Oyo State over 20 years ago and NAPRED conducted clinical trials to ensure that we are able to document that it is safe, it is efficacious and drug was licenced at an international organisation which went into bankruptcy.
“What we have done is to reactivate the product and it will now be marketed in Nigeria through this agreement and we believe that the marketing and production in Nigeria will bring a lot of comfort to millions of Nigerians who are infected with sickle cell gene.
“Again council also approved the construction of a Trauma Centre at Federal Medical Centre Owerri at the cost of N840,817 million and this must be completed within 48 weeks.
“We expect that it will serve as a first class centre of care for accident and trauma cases along Port Harcourt, Owerri, Enugu axis and will really change the dynamics of care in these areas.
Establishment of traditional medicine dept
“The approval of Naprisan is coming at the eve of an approval granted by government for us to establish a department of traditional medicine in the Federal Ministry of Health.
“This will be the first time that this will happen and that department will really provide us the leeway to research into many of our traditional products and the first mandate of this department will be to look into cure for malaria in our forest.”
No previous agreement between FG and JOHESU
Speaking on the striking health workers, he said, “Government has actually constituted a high level body to look into all aspects of demand including the financial implications and also to plan for the management of consequences of addressing those demands.
“That high level body met last week Tuesday, met again on Thursday, met on Friday, met on Sunday, yesterday and will also be meeting tonight. So we are really at work with respect to this we have done quiet a lot of computation, we have met with finance, we have met with budget and national planning. We are looking into all issues relating to this strike.
“But let me also put it on record that when we came on board, JOHESU approached us that they have an agreement with government but we discovered that they was really no agreement with government.
“What they were able to provide were minutes of meetings held previously and we told them that no responsible government will implement minutes of previous meetings and of the fifteen points demands, we have met 14 of them over the one and half years. The only one left is currently meeting on.”
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola who also briefed journalists said, “Council approved the award of Subaila-Falala-Bini-Baku-Bauchi Road that connects Kano and Bauchi States at the sum of N4.578 billion.
“Council also approved additional works on section one of Lagos – Ibadan express way. Council also approved additional works on over 43.6 kilometers for N64.108 billion which covers pedestrian bridges, toll plazas for that section so as to accommodate the changing nature of that road.
“Since its conception, so many new structures, religious institutions, factories, universities, increased human activities have come up along that road. The inherited design didn’t provide for these at all and also to modify the quality of bitumen, polymer modified bitumen, in order to deal with the heavy cargo that passes through that road.
“The first section is handled by Julius Berger. The second section under RCC which covers over 80 kilometres will come to council to incorporate similar works including drainage works when we finish the procurement.”