The Nigerian Senate has urged the Executive arm of government to accelerate its policies on 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 Ezenwa 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.
Senator Onyewuchi, stressed that “Nigeria spends $500 million on oil palm importation annually despite being the largest producer and exporter of the product in the 1950’s and 60’s,” adding that “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. He expressed the view that “Until this is done, there can be no meaningful development to be achieved economically from the sector.”
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, underscored the need and importance to finance the growth of the agricultural sector in Nigeria. He recalled that “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.
Lawan expressed the view that “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.”