Nigeria's quest for technological advancement may have received a boost as the Federal Government yesterday approved the setting up of a technology village in Abuja.

The project, which is to cost N55.2 billion (USD400 million) will be cited on 650 hectares of land and will be a few minutes drive from the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport.

The council also approved the repeal of the Chartered Institute of Bankers Act as requested by the institute, in order to allow the bankers powers to regulate the activities of their members in the reformed banking sector.

It also approved the award of contract for the completion of the abandoned central library complex of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN).

Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mallam Nasir el- Rufai told State House correspondents after the meeting that the Abuja technology village would aim to be a city of knowledge in Africa and Nigeria's own future Silicon Valley.

According to El-Rufai, "we want to create a city of knowledge in Abuja. And on the way to the airport, we have got about 650 hectares of land we have reserved out of the Abuja master-plan. What we hope to do with the technology village, which is going to cost us between USD300 to USD400 million is to have the highest quality infrastructure attracting the best brains in information and bio-technology, pharmaceutical and Information Technology (IT) research to work in Abuja.

"As you know, one of the fastest growing businesses today is out- sourcing IT services. India got USD12.5 billion in 2003 from export of softwares only, more than what we make from oil. Ten years ago, they were making zero in that area. We believe that Abuja and Nigeria have the capacity to take some of these businesses that go to India. It is expected that by the year 2015, 430,000 IT jobs would leave America for developing countries because of very high wages in the United States (U.S.)," he added.

He added that the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology has been working on the project since 2001, but added that very little progress was made because about N20.7 million (USD150,000) was needed to do a feasibility study for the technology village.

"We've got Nigerians in the disaspora that are interested in this project to do the study at their own cost. And they spent about N13.8 million (USD100,000) to do the business plan and the feasibility study. El-Rufai said that the first phase of that technology village will be commissioned during the life of this administration and it will create about 40,000 jobs, many of them in the IT area for Nigeria.

On the repeal of the Chartered Institute of Bankers Act, El-Rufai noted that "this is the law that governs the regulation of professional bankers. The institute sanctions those that behave in an unethical manner as well as provide for the training and professional development of personnel in the banking industry. What was found defective about the existing act is the fact that there are many people working in banks that are not members of the institute and cannot be members of the institute. The new act makes provision for certain classes of members that would enable the institute to oversee everybody that works in the banking sector." On the Nsukka University library project which will cost about N900,176,134, the Minister of Education, Prof. Fabian Osuji said that "the project was conceived as far back as 1981 and awarded in April 1982 for N14,834,066 with a completion time of 32 months.

He said that work started then and went on quite well, almost to 70 per cent completion, but by January, 1985, the funds dried up and the work stopped.

"For about 20 years now, it has been abandoned. Over the years, it has become one of the sorry sights at the UNN because of the embarrassing structures there. In keeping with the policy of the present administration to complete all abandoned educational structures in our institutions, the government re-opened negotiation with the original contractors. They submitted a bill of about N1.719 billion for the completion of the project. We called in consultants who reduced it to N1.333 billion. We were not satisfied and we set up a committee to negotiate with them and the negotiation reduced the figure to N1.125 billion. The Due Process slashed the contract sum as negotiated to N900,176,134," he added.

The council also approved the contract for the completion of two sub- stations in Talata Mafara in Zamfara State. The project, when completed will supply power to Zamfara and Sokoto including other northern states. The value of the contract put at USD2,380,432, about (328.44 million) with a local component of N1,922,015.60, is to be completed within 12 months.