By Musa Baba Adamu
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has advised the federal government to deploy the Natural Resources Development Fund to support enterprises within the agriculture and solid minerals sector, as a way of diversifying the nation’s economy.
Lawan made the call in his concluding remark after the upper chamber considered a bill during plenary seeking to develop tea and coffee growth, production and marketing in Nigeria.
According to the Senate President, “the Natural Resources Development Fund is supposed to support such enterprises in diversifying the economy through the real sectors such as agriculture, solid mineral development and so on.
“I believe that we have a way of ensuring that this bill and subsequent other bills would definitely help to improve and sustain our economy,” he said.
Earlier, sponsor of the bill, Senator Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf (APC – Taraba Central), said the Bill for An Act to provide for the establishment of the National Tea and Coffee Development Council, if passed into law by the National Assembly, would enhance rapid economy diversification of the agricultural sector, as well as enhance revenue to government.
He noted that states like Taraba, Plateau, and Cross River in the South are endowed with suitable climate and soil conditions that could be harnessed for commercial cultivation of tea, especially around the Mambilla, Jos Plateau and Obudu Range.
He added that, “it is regrettable that governments have not made any major impact in terms of active involvement and/or participating in tea and coffee growth, production and marketing sectors of the economy.”
“The only government presence in the development of tea production could be placed to the mid 70’s, when government officials netted into joint venture with some state governments and private entrepreneurs to setup a tea farm and factory in Taraba State,” the lawmaker said.
He further observed that the New Nigerian Development Company Limited (NNDC) and the Adamawa State Government had since sold equity shareholding in the above mentioned tea company, adding that, “the only government presence in coffee development is the establishment of Coffee Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN)”.
Yusuf further noted that the East African Country of Kenya has for long been generating considerable foreign exchange earnings owing to the aggressive expansion of its vast growing potentials.
According to the Adamawa lawmaker, the National Tea and Coffee Development Council Bill 2017 before the Senate, “seeks to amongst others establish an authority, that will be saddled with the responsibility of assisting farmers to set up out-growers, tea and coffee factories and provide some with ready training in the latest tea and coffee technology as well as supply agricultural input in aid of tea and coffee growth and production in Nigeria.”
Contributing to the debate, Senator James Manager (PDP – Delta South), while lauding the bill for its ingenuity to attract foreign earnings to the coffers of the federal government, faulted the non-inclusion of a financial proposal detailing expenditures for the establishment of the National Tea and Coffee Development Council.
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, in a swift intervention, advised that the bill be treated on the basis of its importance to revenue generation, adding that a cost implication of establishing the council is one that the Committee mandated to carry out further legislative work on the bill can come up with in its report to the upper chamber.
The bill after scaling second reading was referred by Senator Lawan to the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development.