…Blames poor budget implementation on Procurement Act
By Nuel Suji – Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbe has asked National Assembly to repeal all extant laws in the country prohibiting export of yams.
Ogbe made the request on Thursday when he appeared before Senate Committee on Agriculture to give explanation for a poor implementation of the 2017 budget for his ministry.
The minister wants the extant laws repealed and new law enacted to enable farmers in the country benefit immensely from current export drive of Federal Government.
He said the current statutes constitute setback capable of denying Nigeria huge inflow of foreign exchange earnings
According to the Minister, Nigeria controls about 70% of yam produce in the world ahead of its neighbour Ghana which is currently enjoying a better market share in Europe and the United States.
The Minister said the same statutes currently prohibit export of tonnes of goat carcasses to Qatar where they are in high demand.
The Minister’s appeal comes after Nigeria’s first attempt to export yams to the United Kingdom suffered severe setback with consignments arriving London ports rotten.
Explaining delay in the implementation of the 2017 budget for Agriculture which currently stands at barely 20%, the Minister of State for Agriculture, Heneiken Lokpobiri attributed the slow pace to inherent bottlenecks in the Procurement Act.
He urged lawmakers to expedite action on the amendment of the document to ease procurement process for the ministry.
When confronted with information that National Assembly had already amended the Procurement Act and that the document was resting with the executive for assent; Lokpobiri revealed shockingly that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) was yet to take receipt of it.
He said President Muhammadu Buhari has not received communication on amendment of the Procurement Act; suggesting that the document is possibly “missing” in transit.
Capital budget for the Ministry of Agriculture currently stands at N75 billion out of which only about N30 billion has been released.
Ogbe said his Ministry will keep pushing for more even as the year is far spent into the farming season.
Apart from legislations, the Ministry laments lack of access to credit coupled with a regime of high interest rates, a situation which have seen foreigners dominating the sector at the expense of Nigerian farmers.
The Ministry hopes to cure the issue of credit facility by rejuvenating the Bank of Agriculture with the establishment of agriculture fund to be warehoused in a new Nigeria Development Bank.
The Minister hinted that Development Bank will sell 30% of its shares to farmers and that the Commercial Banks and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) an independent entity would be “compelled” to invest 10% of profit in the Development Bank.
The Ministry also hopes to push harder to have regulated prices for produce to protect and guide the interest of farmers ahead of planting seasons.
The Minister however said this can only be achieved if his ministry can guarantee minimum yields.