Just recently, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, called for the enactment of new legislation that can foster, guide and revolutionise agricultural activities in the country. TAIWO HASSAN juxtaposes this move with the realities on ground
Overview of Nigerian agric sector
Indeed, since the nation’s independence in 1960, agriculture had been the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy, providing the largest chunk of foreign exchange inflow into the country. Moreover, it contributed about 63 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to official statistics from the National Bureau of Statistic (NBS).
The incomes as at then were derived from the export of major cash crops such as rubber, cocoa, palm oil, cashew nuts, groundnut and cotton, among others. Notwithstanding the low prices that agricultural products suffered at that time, the sector remained resolute by continually sustaining the country’s economy. Indeed, the sector was the largest employer of labour in the country then.
However, on assuming office as the Head of State in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari pledged to introduce diversification programme where agriculture, solid minerals and manufacturing sectors were identified to stabilize the moribund economy.
Particularly, the government floated the various economic policies including the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), in order to stem the steady decline in the country’s economic fortunes.
For agriculture, the present administration launched the Green Alternative: Agriculture Promotion Policy (2016-2020) as a roadmap towards the revival of country’s agricultural sector.
According to the government, it is a comprehensive plan and a well thought-out strategy -to meaningfully and systematically address the myriad of challenges militating against the growth of the agricultural sector, with a view to providing innovative solutions for reviving and repositioning the sector for accelerated national development.
However, the agric policy of the government became the toast of some eminent industrialists, commercial farmers, foreign/ local investors and agro-allied industries as they ventured into different aspects of farming in order to provide food sufficiency and security for Nigerian populace.
Nigerian agricultural policy
Indeed, Nigeria has a robust agricultural policy set out in the Nigerian Agricultural Policy 2000, which provides the framework for the implementation of programmes and guidelines for agricultural development. The overreaching objectives of the Policy are:
The achievement of self-sufficiency in basic food supply and attainment of food security, increased production of agricultural raw materials for industries, eradication of poverty, development of the rural economy, and protection of environment.
This is expected to be achieved through the: Creation of a conducive macro-environment to stimulate private sector investment in agriculture, rationalisation of the roles of the three tiers of government in their promotional and supportive activities to stimulate growth, articulation and implementation of integrated rural development as a priority, National programme to raise the quality of life for rural people, increased agricultural production through increased budgetary allocation and promotion of the necessary developmental, supportive and serviceoriented activities, increasing fiscal incentives and promotion of increased use of agricultural machinery and inputs through a favourable tariff regime.
The policy is successfully implemented in areas of food crops such as maize, beans, sorghum, yam, millet, cassava, pineapple, and oranges.
However, the policy is less successful and greater investment will be required in areas of cash crops such as oil palm, cocoa, rubber, groundnut, cotton, cashew and sugar cane, and food crops such as potato, rice, wheat and fruit crops. House of Reps’ new agricultural laws However, having realized that the country had ots of agricultural laws that are no longer relevant and obsolete, the House of Reps called for the enactment of new laws that will take the agricultural sector to new highs while turning it into a major foreign exchange earner for the country in the nearest future.
The Speaker of House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara while speaking at a two-day public hearing organised by the House Committee on Agricultural Colleges and Institutions in Abuja, recently affirmed that it was time for legislating new agricultural laws for the country.
He said that there was need to ensure bills processed by the legislature were cost-sensitive and did not increase the financial burden of the nation through the multiplication of agencies.
The proliferation of agencies, according to him, is not conducive to the economic well-being of the nation as a new agency “comes with its complement of bureaucracy.”
Instead, he advocated for the amendment of the functions and mandate of existing agencies, where possible. Dogara added: “Furthermore, in cases where there is need to reinvigorate a particular sector and lay emphasis, it may become necessary to carve out an agency from an existing one.”
He reiterated that the agricultural sector requires up-to-date legislation for continuous growth and development. He said, “It is very gratifying to note that giant strides are being made in the sector.
“Up-to-date legislation is required to aid the drive to modernize agricultural practices, drive economic diversification, achieve food self-sufficiency, and ultimately turn agriculture into a major foreign exchange earner in the nearest future.”
New agric bills
The bills being considered by the committee include a Bill for an Act to Regulate the Profession of Agriculture and to make provision for the Establishment, Functions and Administration of Nigerian Institute of Agriculturists, and for Other Related Matters. (HB.838). Also under consideration, is a Bill for the Act to Repeal the Veterinary Surgeons Act. Cap. V3, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and for Other Related Matters (HB. 836). In his remarks, the Speaker urged the committee to ensure the bills were in accordance with legal, regulatorky and economic goals set out for the agricultural sector through appropriate scrutiny.
Agricultural experts, under the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), are however, pessimism about the lawmakers’ stance to promulgate new agricultural laws given the lifespan of the current administration, saying the bills could be waste of national resources.
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