Worried by the constraints to Nigeria’s seed industry, the House of Representatives, last week, passed the amended bill on agricultural seed industry for assent by President Muhammadu Buhari. Taiwo Hassan reports that this is a step in the right direction
Indeed, President Muhammadu Buhari administration has prioritized agriculture as a national rebirth to fix the country’s ailing economy and bring back Nigeria on the map as one of the leading nations in agriculture.
To fix agriculture and the economy, therefore, Nigeria needs to harness its various policies that would reposition the way agriculture is run locally in order to deliver the set objectives.
Doing this by the present administration in a coherent and consistent manner will instill confidence in the citizens, investors, market operators, farmers, traders and everyone along the various agricultural value chains.
Ideally, one of the key segments of the country’s agric sector that needs such critical intervention and repositioning is the agricultural seed industry, which has faced series of neglect in the past, including inadequate funding, sharp practices and low seeds.
In order to put the icing the cake, an agricultural seed industry bill was sent to the National Assembly to reposition the way the sector is regulated for national rebirth.
Amid the uncertainties trailing the country’s seed industry and the need to correct the sector’s abnormalities, the lawmakers in the House of Representatives swung into action to hasten the passage of the bill into law.
Particularly, the House of Reps passed the amended bill on the Agricultural Seed Industry for assent by President Muhammadu Buhari last week.
Speaking at the seed fair and farmers’ field day in Sheda, Abuja, Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture, Hon. Tukur Muhammad Mongunu, said the bill had gone through second reading and would be sent for consideration before the Committee of the whole National Assembly meet to debate it.
He said former President Goodluck Jonathan withheld assent when the bill was first passed by the National Assembly, before the legislative sessions of the 7th assembly ended.
He said the House attached enormous importance to the bill, which when passed, will uproot quackery in the seed industry and encourage only genuine entrepreneurs.
Mongunu clamoured for a robust seed industry regulated by the National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), empowered to provide bite to the sector.
He said the National Assembly would invoke the constitutional provisions on the passage of bills by overriding the President should he decide not to veto the bill.
Mongunu said the passage of the bill into law would empower NASC to arrest and prosecute anybody that imports or exports adulterated seeds.
“Once you are able to solve the problem of seed, then you have solved 50 per cent of productivity problem in the agriculture sector,” he said.
No doubt, farmers nationwide have been complaining against the supply of low quality seeds by the government funded agencies and international donor organisations, which they said was hampering the national food security.
In a bid to curtail sharp practices in the sector, Director General, NASC, Dr. Philip Olusegun Ojo, had issued new seed regulations and vowed to clamp down on producers of fake and substandard seeds.
He said all seed variants produced by research agencies and international donors will now carry approved NASC certification tags different from the seed producer as prescribed by the Nigerian seed law.
Some of the sharp allegations against the operators included inscription of false information on label, use of trickery to mislead third parties on quality of seeds offered for sale, distribution for animals or human consumption of seeds treated with harmful substance and production and marketing of seeds without approval.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh rued the sharp practices in the seed industry.
He alleged that too many crooks were operating in Nigeria’s agro industry.
The comment was a response to allegation of Seed Entrepreneurs Association of Nigeria (SEEDAN) of indebtedness to banks.
He said in 2015, the ministry was presented with an inflated claim of N63 billion by some of the agro dealers, who presented many bogus bills with the intention to defraud the ministry.
Consignments of seeds that fail to meet with regulatory standards were seized in Ibadan, Oyo State during the sensitisation exercise for seed sellers in notable seed markets within the city.
The sensitisation exercise, organised by the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC) was led by the Director General of the federal government agency, Dr. Philip Olusegun Ojo, as part of a nationwide campaign against seed adulteration.
For agric stakeholders, passage of the country’s agricultural seed industry bill is critical to sanitising Nigeria’s seed industry.
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