The Federal Executive Council (FEC) rose from its weekly virtual meeting yesterday with the approval of $2.1 billion for the procurement of railway rolling stocks and other operational materials as well as N4.96 billion printing contract for the National Examination Council (NECO).
FEC also banned the use of generic domain addresses on official government businesses henceforth.
Briefing newsmen after the meeting presided over by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, at the State House, Abuja, Transportation Minister, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, emphasised that the contract for the rail materials was necessary for the smooth running of the railway lines.
He said: “I have an approval of the cabinet to procure rolling stocks, operational and maintenance equipment for the new railway projects corridors in Ibadan to Kano standard gauge and Port Harcourt to Maiduguri narrow gauge rail lines to the tune of $2,810,574,064.92, including 7.5 per cent tax.
“Rolling stocks are consumables for the maintenance and operation of the railway. So, currently, anytime you hear of break down, which was discussed in the cabinet, it’s because maybe we have run out of rolling stock and we’ve also run out of stock for the railway.
“So, with this, we will replace all the rolling stock. They are essentially the consumables we use to maintain the trains, coaches and locomotives”.
Also briefing, the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, disclosed that FEC approved a contract that would enable NECO print materials that are to be used for Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) at the cost of N4,965,986,573.89.
According to him: “Today, the memo we presented from the Ministry of Education is a printing contract by NECO for the senior school certificate examination and the beneficiaries are nine contractors and the amount is N4,965,986,573.89. And it will be completed in eight weeks. And it is for the printing of sensitive, non-sensitive equipment and other ancillary equipment for the examination”.
Commenting on the on-going strike by university lecturers, the minister said he was looking for members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for declaring a one-month warning strike at a time the federal government was attending to their demands.
Adamu, who expressed surprise at the industrial action, saying he had several times in the past summoned them with a view to resolving outstanding issues.
He stressed that if after several negotiations between ASUU and government, agreement was still not reached, it was no longer the fault of government.
“ASUU, unfortunately, they have gone on strike and I am looking for them because all the issues are being addressed.
“The last thing that happened was that our committee looked at their demands but there are renegotiations going on. They submitted a draft agreement which the ministry is looking at,” he said.
Adamu expressed concern that the decision by the union to go on strike was abrupt in the mid of negotiations.
On the draft agreement with ASUU, he said: “A committee is looking at it. Immediately it finishes, the government is meant to announce what it had accepted. Then suddenly, I heard them going on strike.”
Faulting allegations that he does not attend meetings with ASUU, Adamu stated: “ASUU will never say that. I always call the meeting myself. The meetings I didn’t attend were those that happened when I was in hospital in Germany.
“We want a peaceful resolution. The federal government is ready to meet them on all issues they have raised and if there are so many meetings and the gap is not closing, then I think it’s not the fault of the government.
“There is a solution to this. The negotiations are the solution and that is why I have said that I am surprised that ASUU has gone on strike.”
Asked if the government could reach an agreement with ASUU before the end of the 30-day strike, Adamu further said: “I can’t give you time. I am ready to reach an agreement with ASUU now, but since I’m not the only one, I can’t give you time but certainly we are going to reach an agreement very soon.”
The Minister also defended the discriminatory cut-off marks for southern and northern prospective Common Entrance admission candidates for Unity Schools, saying it was in line with the Federal Character principle.
He said the policy would remain until such a time it is no longer necessary, saying: “I have nothing to say on that. I am not aware of any difference unless it is meant to satisfy the requirements of Federal character. I think federal character is required for the nation and it is accepted. There is nothing we can do about that. There would come a time when it would not be necessary.”
On his part, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Ali Isa Pantami, who also briefed newsmen on FEC’s approval for his ministry, declined to comment on claim by ASUU that the professorial rank awarded to him by the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), was illegal.
He however disclosed that Council approved the National Policy on the Government Second Level Domain, which he explained mandates federal public institutions, ministries, departments, agencies, and all government institutions to migrate from using generic domain in their websites and their emails to the government second level domain under government top-level domain.
According to him: “For example, you will discover today, some government institutions will engage in official communications using private email yahoo.com, hotmail.com, gmail.com and it is an official communication and someone may retire or will complete his tenure or the tenure can be terminated, and he will go with the same email. And in that email, there are many official documents.
“So, this will not be tolerated by government anymore. Any official communications must be using official email. And that email should not be a generic one. It must be ‘dot government dot ng.’
“What is most important is .ng that is our national identity. There are many categories of the second level domain, some are for military. You will see like mil.ng. mil is a short form of Military. Dot ng for Nigeria. You can see .gov.ng. Gov for government and ng for Nigeria.
“So, there are categories of the second level domain, while our country top level domain.ng must be there in our websites, so that whoever gets access will know that this website is from Nigeria. While for email, it must reflect the official name.
“Furthermore, there are so many benefits of doing that. Number one, our national security. Websites are being created in other countries without domain name and some claim to be from Nigeria. This will go a long way in compromising our cyberspace, which cannot be ignored.
“Two, national identity. Our national identity is key. Any website from Nigeria, particularly for government must have dot ng. From anywhere, you will know that this is a Nigeria website. And it will go a long way in promoting and improving our global ranking when it comes to human development, when it comes to fighting poverty and many more.
“If website doesn’t have this, when it comes to assessment, many international organisations doing this assessment would not be able to get the correct websites of Nigerian institutions, and this will definitely affect our global ranking. It is because of this. Our national identity is important.
“Number three, global recognition. It will give us a global recognition, because in the assessment, they will count and discover how many institutions are from Nigeria what have they been doing, what is their performance, what they have implemented so far.
“So, it is also important. Furthermore, there is transparency. This transparency will also help us in some ways.
“And finally, there is public confidence. If you receive an email, dot government dot ng, you will have that confidence that this is for government institution. But if you receive an email bearing my name email@example.com. you may start wondering, is it possible. But if it is dot government dot ng, you will not somebody will not just come and create an email using dot government dot ng without government approval. It will not be possible.”