Palestine:UN votes overwhelmingly for status upgrade


By OLUSEGUN  OGOLO

Last night, at  about 10.30pm (Nigerian time) I watched on  Al-Jazeera live,  voting by the united nations General assembly to recognize the state of Palestine.

A Palestinian girl waves a flag during a rally supporting the Palestinian U.N. bid for observer state status, in the West bank city of Ramallah, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The Palestinians are certain to win U.N. recognition as a state on Thursday but success could exact a high price: delaying an independent state of Palestine because of Israel's vehement opposition. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

A Palestinian girl waves a flag during a rally supporting the Palestinian U.N. bid for observer state status, in the West bank city of Ramallah, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The Palestinians are certain to win …

The results are as follows:

YES     138

NO           9

ABSTENTIONS          41

Although  the result does not grant independence to palestine,”  the vote grants Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas an overwhelming international endorsement for his key position: establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, the territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war. ”

General Assembly Appoints by Acclamation Seventh Secretary-General

A close look at the result shows that: the “NO” voters were United States, Israel Canada, the Czech Republic, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Panama while   France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden and Ireland, as well as Japan and New Zealand received Palestinian support. Germany and Britain were among the many Western nations that abstained.

In response to the result, Susan Rice the US Ambassador to the United nations lunched a tirade, calling the vote “unfortunate and counterproductive”.

Susan Rice’s speech makes a mockery of the democratic process because voting on this issue  at the General Assembly was free and  fair.A voting result of 138 to 9 requires one simple statement:CONGRATULATIONS,in this instance to Mahmoud Abass and the Palestinian people

Of the 193 members of the General assembly,132 already recognise Palestine as state.

Yesterdays vote came on the 65th anniversary of a similar vote by the  UN General Assembly to ” dividePalestine into two states, one for Jews and one for Arabs. Israel became a state but the Palestinians rejected the partition plan, and decades of tension and violence have followed. ”

Further Reading

Who’s Afraid Of The ICC?

 EXCLUSIVE: Former Israeli PM Olmert Supports Palestine U.N. Bid

China reiterates support for Palestine statehood

UN votes to give Palestinians ‘non-member state’ status

From Canada, a tough economist for Bank of England


The Associated Press.ROB GILLIES | November 28, 2012

TORONTO (AP) — Naming the first foreigner to serve as governor of the Bank of England since it was founded in 1694 might have been expected to cause a fuss. Yet the appointment of Canadian Mark Carney has won bipartisan praise in Britain.That’s because few people in the world have Carney’s qualifications.

The Bank of Canada governor is a highly-educated economist with Wall Street experience who is widely credited with helping Canada dodge the worst of the global economic crisis. He gained a reputation along the way as a tough regulator who stood up to JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.

Moving to the top job at Canada’s central bank just before the global financial crisis hit in 2008, Carney slashed interest rates to historic lows and was the first central banker to commit to keeping them at a historic-low level for a definite time, a step the U.S. Federal Reserve would follow.

Canada was spared a mortgage meltdown or subprime lending crisis, and its banks, more regulated and less leveraged than Europe’s, are rated among the world’s soundest. Britain, however, has endured a decade of economic turbulence, and seemed ready for a foreigner to shake up its central bank.

Besides his job as a central banker, Carney, 47, also heads the G-20’s Financial Stability Board, a global supervisor of regulatory changes in the financial system. Carney’s championing of stiffer regulation was highlighted in a run-in last year with Dimon. The Bank of Canada chief stood his ground in a closed-door meeting in Washington when Dimon directed a diatribe toward Carney over what the JPMorgan Chase chief called “anti-American” global reforms against banks.

“When there was pushback on the regulatory front he dug in his heels and made his case that, no, we shouldn’t slow down, we should be pushing forward,” said Craig Alexander, a Toronto-Dominion Bank economist.

“This is the sort of thing that makes him qualified to take on the challenge of the Bank of England because he’s going to be materially involved in shaping regulatory reform of the financial system in London,” he added. “So the fact that he would stand up for the regulatory regime is exactly the characteristic one would be looking for.”

The transnational appointment is a mark of today’s globalized world, while also echoing a past in which Canada was a part of the British Empire.

Like other central bankers, Carney is a former Goldman Sachs executive. He worked for 13 years in London, Tokyo, New York and Toronto, before being appointed deputy governor of the Bank of Canada in 2003. He has both financial industry and government regulatory credentials.

“He looks and sounds the part,” CIBC World Markets economist Avery Shenfeld said. “He has the academic background, the gravitas and the experience to withstand the fray of central banking in a city like London.”

Carney, from the remote northern town of Fort Smith in the Northwest Territories, gained a bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard University in 1988, and master’s and doctoral degrees in economics from Oxford University. Like many Canadians, he played ice hockey, serving as a backup goalie for Harvard.

He lived in London for a decade and his wife and children are dual nationals. British Treasury chief George Osborne, announcing the surprise choice to the House of Commons on Monday, said Carney will apply for British citizenship. He takes up the new position July 1, succeeding Mervyn King, who has headed the bank since 2003.

Before Monday’s announcement the frontrunner for the job was widely seen to be Paul Tucker, the bank’s deputy governor. But Tucker was likely bypassed because of his embroilment in the Libor-fixing scandal. In July, he was forced to testify to lawmakers after emails emerged showing he had communicated with Bob Diamond, the ex-chief of Barclays, over the setting of the inter-bank interest rate.

Carney’s appointment won bipartisan praise in Britain. Ed Balls, the opposition Labour Party’s economics spokesman, called it “a good choice,” while Osborne said Carney was “quite simply the best, most experienced and most qualified person in the world to do the job.”

Although Osborne said it was the first time the Treasury advertised the governor’s job, Carney said he hadn’t applied.  “I didn’t apply as part of the formal process to the position. These discussions really only intensified in the last two weeks,” Carney said at a news conference in Ottawa.

Carney said he initially turned down the job but British officials kept after him. He said he changed his mind because his term as governor of the Bank of Canada was ending soon, the London job was a big opportunity and the fate of the British economy was critical.

“It’s very important for the global economy that the U.K. does well, that it succeeds in this rebalancing of their economy, that the reform of the British financial system is completed, ” he said.

Carney said he would take the job for five years instead of the usual eight, and many Canadians are speculating that Carney may return to Canada to run for prime minister. The opposition Liberal Party of Canada had eagerly courted him, but Carney said this month he would remain a central banker for some time.

Sanusi to FG: Sack 50% of civil servants


 By Agency Reporter .November 28, 2012

Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mallam Lamido SanusiGovernor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mallam Lamido Sanusi | credits:

Central Bank of Nigeria  Governor Mallam Sanusi Lamido on Tuesday lamented the high cost of servicing the nation’s  civil service and called on the Federal Government to fire at least 50 per cent of its entire workforce.

Sanusi, in his presentation at the  Second Annual Capital Market Committee Retreat in Warri, Delta State,  said the country  spends  70 per cent of its earnings on salaries and entitlements of civil servants.

He argued that having the Federal Government’s staff strength reduced by half would free up capital for infrastructure development in the country and buoy the economy.

The CBN governor had in a lecture  last year claimed that 25 per cent of the overheads of the Federal Government budget went to the National Assembly.

“Twenty five per cent of the overhead of the Federal Government budget goes to National Assembly. I have figures from the office of budget for the year 2010. Total government overhead is N536, 268,49, 280. Total overhead of the National Assembly is N136,259,768, 112 which is exactly 25.1 per cent of Federal Government overhead. The overhead of the National Assembly as a percentage of the Federal Government budget in 2009 was 19. 87 and in 2008 was 14.19”, he had  said.

Sanusi, at the retreat on Tuesday, advocated a more compact and less expensive system of government that would reduce overhead costs.

He said, “At the moment 70 per cent of Federal Government’s revenue goes for payment of salaries and entitlement of civil servants, leaving 30 per cent for development of 167 million Nigerians. That means that for every naira government earns, 70 kobo   is consumed by civil servants.

“You have to fire half of the civil service because the revenue  of the government  is supposed to be for 167 million Nigerians. Any society where government spends 70 per cent of its revenue on its civil service has a problem. It is unsustainable.

“The various tiers of government should cut down their recurrent expenditure and use the fund to provide basic infrastructure like schools, hospital, etc.

“How can we be using the proceeds from our major source of revenue to service recurrent expenditure, by paying salaries, allowances, etc. The country should be thinking of enhancing its productivity base rather than spending on things that cannot create wealth.”

Sanusi  added that  the country did not need  over 100 senators,  400 members of  the House of Representatives to make laws. He said when the expenses of lawmakers, civil servants and those in the executive arm of government are totalled, Nigerians will find out that their national  revenue has been consumed by the Executive,  lawmakers and civil servants.

He also  faulted ‘wastage’ of funds on  the maintenance of 774 Local Government Area chairmen,  their   aides, councillors and other appendages of the  third  tier of government.

“Do we need 774 LGAs? Do we need 36 states some of which are  not viable? why not just remove them and have only state governments?,” he asked rhethorically.

According to him, “there are state governors whose monthly allocations are barely enough to pay salaries. I hear such governors complain and I say ‘why complain when the solution is simple?’ It is irresponsible to use all your money to pay salaries and wait for another month’s allocation and pay salaries and after four years, you would have done nothing.”

Sanusi also  maintained that the Federal Government  needed to totally remove petrol subsidy. He   suggested that those who stole subsidy funds  should be  punished. He said, “People have the right to demand transparency. If you want to remove subsidy, you have to show what happened to those who stole.”

The CBN governor  advised   the Federal Government to stop investments on infrastructure that  could  be  handed over to the private sector to run  so that it (FG) can concentrate on building of schools, health centres and the provision of  other social services.

But Delta State Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, who was also at the event, faulted Sanusi’s call for a purge of  civil service.

Although the governor agreed that there was the need   to cut  expenditure, he said,  “If we must do that, then we should provide alternatives where the sacked workers can become economically viable.

“The  reason why we are asking the Federal Government to provide basic infrastructure and enabling environment for private investors to invest is because they can employ workers who will be disengaged from public sector.

“Therefore, I don’t agree with the CBN governor that we should sack our workers to reduce the recurrent expenditure in our budget without providing alternatives.”

Vladimir Putin Forms His Own Human Rights Council


By Tom Balmforth.Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.Nov 13, 2012

 …and the results are about what you would expect them to be.

putin binoculars banner.jpg

Russian President Putin uses a pair of binoculars to observe troops in action during a training exercise named Kavkaz 2012 in Krasnodar region, on September 17th, 2012. (Reuters)

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has  approved new members for an expanded Presidential Council for Civil  Society and Human Rights. The appointments follow a walk-out by some of the fiercest critics on the advisory body earlier this year.

The new 62-member council includes liberal journalists and prominent  rights activists. But also noteworthy are the names that are missing,  including Lyudmila Alekseyeva, the 85-year-old figurehead of Russia’s  human rights movement. Alekseyeva is one of 15 prominent figures who left the presidential  council in the wake of the disputed December parliamentary elections  that were criticized for being skewed to favor the United Russia ruling  party.

In a presidential decree on November 12, Putin officially struck  Alekseyeva from the roster, along with commentator Dmitry Oreshkin,  Yelena Panfilova of Transparency International Moscow, and Svetlana  Gannushkina, head of the Civic Assistance organization, as well as a  handful of others who tended their resignations this year.

Those members were replaced by mostly lesser known appointees — including pro-Kremlin figures and staunch critics of the Kremlin like  Liliya Shibanova, head of the Golos election monitor, Pavel Chikov of  the Agora Center, journalist Leonid Parfyonov, and Aleksandr Verkhovsky  of the Sova Center. The council is an advisory panel established to assist the president in  fulfilling his constitutional responsibilities to guarantee and protect  human rights. Its tasks also include helping the development of civil  society institutions in Russia.

The human rights council is traditionally comprised of fierce critics of Putin, but it has been criticized as little more than a talking shop. Alekseyeva has said Russia needs a nongovernmental civil and human rights council. Vladimir Pribylovsky, a political analyst and director of the Panorama  think tank, says the change in the composition of the council is  unlikely to have a large impact. “The point is that [the council] is a purely decorative body. It doesn’t even have the right to initiate a draft bill,” Pribylovsky says. “It  can advise the president, but it can’t even make legal initiatives. It  can advise the president — if the president asks for counsel. So the  council itself can simply speak its mind in the Internet media and  press. I don’t think that Lyudmila Alekseyeva and [Dmitry] Oreshkin have any problem speaking their mind about anything [without the council].”

The presidential decree increases the number of members in the council  by at least half, to more than 60. The additions were selected via  public debates and online voting involving more than 100,000 people,  according to Mikhail Fedotov, the council’s chairman. Pribylovsky, however, says that the decision to conduct the voting  online paved the way for falsifications using computer technology.

Pavel Salin, a Moscow-based political analyst, says that the expansion  of the council could be a trick to dilute staunch criticism from the  council’s remaining tough critics with mild, Kremlin-friendly rhetoric. “The role of this council has increased recently, because within the  political system of the country, there has taken shape an opinion that  sharply diverges from the outlook of the authorities and that wants to  strike down at the political system,” Salin says. “If the council before was effectively technical, then now it can it play a fairly serious  political role.” He says some United Russia and Kremlin officials are pushing Vladimir  Putin to weaken the council in light of the anti-Kremlin discontent that has crystalized over the course of this year.

BP barred from new US gov’t contracts, land leases


The Associated Press.JOSH LEDERMAN | November 28, 2012

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration put a stop to new federal contracts with BP on Wednesday, admonishing the British oil company for a “lack of business integrity” and also disqualifying it indefinitely from winning new leases to drill on taxpayer-owned lands.

A lengthy list of criminal counts against BP stemming from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 prompted the Environmental Protection Agency to temporarily suspend new contracts with BP and its affiliates, the agency said. Existing contracts won’t be affected.

“EPA is taking this action due to BP’s lack of business integrity as demonstrated by the company’s conduct with regard to the Deepwater Horizon blowout, explosion, oil spill and response,” the EPA said in a statement.

Eleven oil workers were killed when a rig explosion sent oil gushing unabated into the Gulf in the largest oil spill in U.S. history. More than two years later, BP faces criminal proceedings and massive civil claims related to environmental damage. Wednesday’s decision creates yet another obstacle in BP’s uphill battle to revive its tarnished image in the U.S. and abroad.

The London-based company sought to minimize the effects of the suspension, and said it already is working with the government to resolve the concerns. BP said it has been informed by the EPA that an agreement that would lead to lifting the suspension is already in the works.

“The company has made significant enhancements since the accident,” BP said in a statement, noting its efforts to adopt new drilling standards and highlighting its heavy investments in the U.S. economy.

A leading supplier of energy for the U.S. military, BP in September won two contracts with the Defense Department to provide almost $1.4 billion in fuel products over a yearlong period, according to federal contracting announcements. Those contracts, and any others already signed with other U.S. agencies, will remain in effect.

Of greatest concern to BP, analysts said, is the prospect of missing out on tens of millions of acres that the government plans to lease for drilling to oil and natural gas companies in the coming months. BP already is the largest deep-water leaseholder in the Gulf, the company said.

“This is really historic,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, an energy expert at the University of California-Davis. “It’s going to send a chill down the spine of the chairman of every company that operates in the United States, because it means if you don’t get this safety question correctly, it can really dramatically affect your business.”

The Obama administration’s decision made BP ineligible to bid for leases hours before the federal government held a sale for drilling in more than 20 million acres offshore in the Gulf. Thirteen offshore companies submitted bids totaling more than $133 million. BP did not participate. The government’s next sale is scheduled for March 2013 and will make 38 million acres available.

The EPA said a suspension is standard practice when a criminal case raises responsibility questions about a company. BP announced earlier this month that it will plead guilty to manslaughter, obstruction of Congress and other charges and will pay a record $4.5 billion in penalties. Attorneys and a federal judge will meet in December to discuss a plea date.

Environmental activists and lawmakers who have criticized BP heralded the suspension, calling it an appropriate penalty resulting from criminal behavior.

“When someone recklessly crashes a car, their license and keys are taken away,” said Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee. “The wreckage of BP’s recklessness is still sitting at the bottom of the ocean.”

BP’s optimism Wednesday that the suspension would be lifted quickly appeared to conflict with a complex set of steps the EPA said the company must take before the agency will begin to consider lifting the ban.

An EPA official said Wednesday that BP’s plea agreement in the criminal case includes a provision for how BP can satisfy the government’s concerns. That order, if the court accepts it during sentencing, would give BP 60 days to address the conditions that led to violations. If the government approves the plan, it becomes part of BP’s criminal probation.

Even once the criminal case is resolved, the suspension still could remain in effect as a civil case against BP goes forward, said the EPA official, who spoke on condition because the official was not authorized to discuss terms of the agreement publicly. BP’s resistance to billions of dollars in civil penalties might be seen as a sign it still hasn’t taken responsibility for the disaster.

BP faces huge claims covering the billions of dollars in civil penalties the U.S. government and the Gulf states are seeking because of environmental damage. A trial is scheduled for early next year, although negotiations to reach a settlement have been under way. Attorney General Eric Holder has said the government intends to show in the civil case that BP was grossly negligent in causing the spill.

Shares of BP PLC, the parent company, initially dropped on the New York Stock Exchange when the Obama administration announced the suspension, but had recovered by the close of trading Wednesday.

“How big this is depends on how long it lasts,” said Phil Weiss, an analyst at Argus Research, adding that if BP misses out on multiple sales of public lands, “it’s a much bigger concern.”

INEC to issue permanent electronic voters’ cards


By Emmanuel Okubenji |DAILY TIMES | November 28, 2012 

The electoral body says the cards will have a 10-year lifespan to enable them be used in two general elections

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced that it is set to issue permanent electronic voters’ cards that would be valid for 10 years.

Attahiru Jega, the commission’s chairman, stated this in Abuja on Wednesday at an INEC/civil society dialogue on plans and progress towards the 2015 elections. “With the design of the card and specification, it will serve for an average of 10 years, as it could also be used for the 2019 elections,” he said.

According to him, this would eliminate electoral fraud and ensure credible and transparent polls due to the features on the electronic card

The chairman said that card readers would take the finger prints and determine the legitimacy of the owners of the card.

He said with the introduction of card readers, matching the electoral manipulations and fraudulent activities of people buying voters card and multiple voting would be eliminated.

“There is a lot of work to be done,” he said. “We have to procure card readers and we have started this; we have made budget for it and we are receiving support. This budget year, we are buying 500; and under the 2013/14 budget, we are buying the rest. So by 2015, there will be enough card readers to deploy to polling units to ensure 100 per cent authentication.”

Jega said INEC would commence the issuance of permanent voters’ card early in 2013, as the contract for the production of 40 million voters’ cards, out of the 73.5 million registered, had been awarded.

He said INEC was doing the last stage of the processing of the second batch of the contract; adding that by the middle of 2014, all the eligible voters that had registered would have been given their permanent voters’ card.

“There is a continuing process of registration in which any person who is eligible as required by the law can go to an established office and be registered,” he said. “There are so many processes of this globally and INEC is embracing the best methodology; which will be launched nationwide next year.”

FG okays N2.2bn party, events hall for Aso Villa


 By Olalekan Adetayo and Sodiq Oyeleke.THE  PUNCH.November 29, 2012

Federal Capital Territory Minister, Senator Bala MohammedFederal Capital Territory Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed | credits:

The Federal Government is to build a new N2.2bn banquet hall in the the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

An approval for the hall, according to the  Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Muhammed, was granted by the Federal Executive Council  during its meeting on Wednesday.

Wikipedia dictionary defines a banquet hall  as a room or building for the purpose of hosting a party, reception, or other social events.

There is an existing hall in the Villa where national events are held.

The proposed  150- capacity hall will have walk ways, security post, hall conveniences, technical room and press briefing room.

Defending the approval,  Muhammed, told State House correspondents that the council  did so  because smaller countries had befitting banquet halls in their seats of power.

Muhammed said the contract for the construction was awarded to Julius Berger, a company  that  is already in charge of services in the Presidential Villa.

He said, “The second project approved by council is the building of a 150-seater Banquet Hall in the Presidential Villa.

“We noticed that it(existing hall) is inconveniencing;  it is not in tandem with what is outside the country. Even smaller countries have better Banquet Halls near their Presidential residences. Of course, part of the things we are going to provide there is a 150-seater (hall) with all the facilities that will cover the walk ways, security, hall conveniences, technical room and press briefing room that  are  more and more enhanced so that national broadcast can be done from there.

“The contract was awarded in the sum of N2.2billion  to Julius Berger because they are more familiar with the terrain in the Presidential Villa and for security reasons.”

But the approval of the contract  for the hall was flayed by the Executive President, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, Mr. Debo Adediran, as “irresponsible and wicked.”

Adediran, who  said the government did not care about the  welfare of the people, added,  “This goes a long way to demonstrate the weakness of our leaders. They only care for things that favour them, their relatives and their caucus.

“ This is unimaginable, it can never be done under a dedicated government. Of what use is the hall? Is it for them to deepen corruption or to legislate? Personal satisfaction must be suppressed for the country to grow.”

The first contract okayed by  FEC  during the meeting which was chaired by President Goodluck Jonathan is for the rehabilitation of some selected roads in Garki and Wuse Districts at the cost  of   N2.78bn

The FCT minister  said the contract   became necessary because the affected roads had exceeded their 15 years average designed life span.

He said the reconstruction work, which had been scheduled in phases, would focus on Herbert Macaulay Way, IBB Way, Olusegun Obasanjo Way, Sultan Abubakar Way, Michael Opara Way and Ladi Kwali Street.

Muhammad said that the project would be able to generate about 750 employment opportunities during its execution.

According to him, the FCT administration  set aside  N400m  in its 2012  budget for the commencement of the project.

The minister said that FEC also approved a Revised Estimated Total Cost of the contract for the construction of Tank 1 and 6 and Associated Truck Mains for Abuja Water project from N22bn  to N20bn.

Also briefing correspondents on the outcome of the meeting, the Senior Adviser on Media to the President, Dr Reuben Abati, said the Council approved N148.9m for the conduct of Fiscal Allocation and Statutory Disbursement Audit for the 2007-2011 Oil and Gas Industry Audit.

Abati and  Mohammed  were  joined at the briefing by the ministers of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Muhammed; Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu; Communication Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson;  Works(state), Ambassador Bashir Yuguda; Foreign Affairs I(state), Mrs. Viola Onwuliri; Power(state), Mrs. Zainab Kuchi; and Transport, Senator Idris Umar.

FEC,  according to  the presidential spokesman, approved a contract for the engagement of a consultant for the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative to conduct fiscal allocation and statutory disbursement audit of the nation’s oil and gas industry.

He said, “The assignment given is to track extractive industry sector funds received into the Federation Account as were distributed and received by the federal, state and local government councils, with special emphasis on the application and utilisation of the funds on beneficiaries of the 13 per cent derivation and relevant federal institutions that directly receive allocations from the Federation Account.”

FEC also approved two contracts totalling N6.3bn for the National Identity Management System project.

Johnson said a contract for the supply of 30 million customised blank smartcards meant for the production of the identity cards was awarded in the sum of N5.3bn.

She also said that a contract for the personalisation of the card was also awarded in the sum of N1bn with a completion period of 18 weeks.

Chukwu said the council also approved a contract for the supply of anti-tuberculosis drugs for the multi-drug resistant tuberculosis programme through the International Dispensary Association.

He said the government was requesting for drugs that would be sufficient to treat 500 Nigerians.

The minister said the government was intervening in the supply of the drugs because it would take about N400,000 to treat a patient suffering from the disease, adding that 5,000 new cases were being reported in the country annually.

Umar also said the council approved the contract for the design, manufacture, supply and commissioning of two sets of five-car diesel multiple unit trains, each with capacity of 540 passengers, and additional six 60-seater passenger coaches to be used on narrow gauge trunk in the sum of N4.3bn.

He said the DMUS would be used for mass transit train services to meet the present day high demand for inter-city passenger traffic.

The Council was informed by  Onwuliri  of a “landmark” diplomatic agreement between Venezuela and Nigeria to allow transit and 90-day stay, for holders of official and diplomatic passports of both countries.

The minister noted that the agreement was a show of confidence in Nigeria.