By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu
The Senate on Tuesday urged the Federal Government to accelerate its policies on the diversification of the economy to improve the country’s foreign exchange earnings.
The call was made in resolutions reached by the Senate following consideration of a motion titled “Urgent need to revive the Palm Oil industry in Nigeria”.
The motion was sponsored by Senator Francis Onyewuchi (PDP, Imo East) and co-sponsored by 15 other senators.
The Senate, which resumed its plenary session on Tuesday, urged the Federal Government to support an improved palm oil production in order to meet the domestic needs of the market, as well as revive the moribund Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) in Benin, Edo State.
The motion to revive NIFOR seeks to improve investment in research and production of quality oil palm seeds.
The upper chamber said that the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantity has resulted in the gradual neglect of agriculture by successive governments.
According to Senator Onyewuchi, “Nigeria spends $500 million on oil palm importation annually despite being the largest producer and exporter of the product in the 50’s and 60’s.”
He added, “The country is now the net importer of palm oil, importing 400,000 – 600,000 metric tonnes of palm oil in order to meet local demand.”
In his contribution to the debate, the Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, bemoaned the lack of discipline and implementation in the agricultural sector.
Abdullahi said, “Until this is done, there can be no meaningful development to be achieved economically from the sector.”
In his remarks, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, underscored the need and importance to finance the growth of the agricultural sector in Nigeria.
“In 2005, I was Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture. We funded the Institutes; 22 of them and they did very well. I agree completely that we have not been funding these institutes.
“So, if we need an economy that will work for everyone, then we must invest in the agricultural sector.
“Our committee should engage with the MDAs. So that at the end of the day, we can contribute meaningfully to take agriculture to the next level, the Senate President said.
Meanwhile, two bills passed their first reading in the Senate on Tuesday following the resumption of plenary session.
The two bills are: the Nigerian Transportation Accident Investigation Bureau (Est, etc) Bill, 2019 and Criminal Code (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
The Nigerian Transportation Accident Investigation Bureau (East, etc) Bill, 2019 (SB.1) was sponsored by Senator Na’allah Bala Ibn (Kebbi South) while the Criminal Code Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (SB,2) was sponsored by Senator Tinubu Oluremi Shade (Lagos Central).
The Senate also received the report of the Ad-Hoc Committee on the investigation of the use of Avastin Injection for eye treatment by the National Eye Centre, Kaduna.
The report was presented by Senator Mathew Urhoghide (Edo south).