Stakeholders and calls for presidential assent to pending agriculture bills

As the first term of this administration winds down on Wednesday, stakeholders in the agriculture sector has enjoined President Muhammadu Buhari to give assent to all pending agriculture Bills before him, JOHN OBA reports.

A Bill

According to Wikipedia, a bill is proposed legislation under consideration by a legislature. It does not become law until it is passed by the legislature or assented to and, in most cases, approved by the executive. Once a bill has been enacted into law, it is called an act of the legislature, or a statute.

In Nigeria, with the recent focus by the executive arm of government on the agriculture sector as a major revenue generating sector, experts have been working on improving on some outdated Acts and developing new ones to ensure that stakeholders in the sector across the value chains exploit the potential of the sector appropriately.

The Clamour

Several bills in the recent years have been developed, some assented to while others are still at various stages of development, but stakeholders recently have been clamouring for Presidential assent on those bills that have scaled the legislature hurdles saying these bills, among others, will ensure that farmers enjoy high yields of agriculture produce. They will also promote adequate manpower, disease resistant varieties and unadulterated fertilisers.

Some of these Bills pending before President Buhari, are the National Agricultural Seed Council Bill, Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme Fund (Amendment) Bill, Fertilizer Quality Control Bill, and the Nigerian Independent Warehouse Regulatory Bill passed by the two chambers of the National Assembly.

Speaking to Blueprint recently via phone call, the national programme coordinator, Association of Small Scale Agro Producers in Nigeria (ASSAPIN) Mr Adu Yerima Charles, urged President Buhari to assent to the bills before the end of his first tenure.

Charles said: “There are some critical bills before the president, he should sign them to law before commencing his next tenure, particularly important are the National Agricultural Seed Council Bill, Fertilizer Quality Control Bill, and the Nigerian Independent Warehouse Regulatory Bill. As far as farming is concern, these three bills are very significant, Mr. President without waste of time should assent to these bills before May 29 and as he commences his second term in office, he must ensure that this bills now made Acts are properly implemented.

“If farmers don’t have access to improved quality seeds, apply appropriate fertilizer and produces good harvest, i f you do not have a warehouse to preserve them, thereby avoiding post harvest losses and farmers can have access to loan, since they may also be shareholders in the warehouses, or use their products in the warehouses as collateral for loan, we will experience tremendous improvement in the sector and in the economy,” he said.

Nigerian Economic Summit Group

Also stakeholders at the recent Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) organised in collaboration with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) called on the President to assent to the Bills before him to enhance food productivity and guarantee food security in Nigeria.

The Chief Executive Officer of NESG, Mr Laoye Jaiyeola, at the public-private dialogue with agriculture sector stakeholders on strengthening enabling policy environment for fertilizer system, seed system and warehouse receipt system in Nigeria said the president should do the needful before his first tenure close.

Rejected Bills

President Buhari had refused to assent to the Fertilizer Quality Control Bill, Nigerian Independent Warehouse Regulatory Bill and the National Agricultural Seeds Council Bill passed by the two chambers of the National Assembly, as he pointed out discrepancies and lapses noticed on the bills.

However, Jaiyeola said those lapses noticed by Mr. President have been corrected by the National Assembly, noting that the bills would soon be presented to the President for his assent.

He underscored the need for the Passage of the Fertilizer Quality Control Bill, Nigerian Independent Warehouse Regulatory Bill and the Presidential Assent of the National Agricultural Seeds Council Bill, adding that the passage of these bills into law would reposition the agricultural sector.

An Enabling environment

He further stressed the need to create an enabling environment for agribusiness to thrive in Nigeria, particularly as regards to how to increase the income of Smallholder Farmer Households in the country.

He also pointed out that Nigerian farmers have over the years been grappling with the issues of low yields and inability to access quality fertilizers for increased productivity.

Low yields

He lamented that only about 5% of Nigerian farmers have access to improved seeds, a situation he portends great danger, in view of the huge population in the country.

Therefore, Jaiyeola urged all the stakeholders to intensify efforts in the facilitation of the passage of the agricultural bills as well as the presidential assent.

Fake farm imputs

Also speaking, Programme Officer, Policy and Partnerships, (AGRA)

Dr. Gbenga Arokoyo, called for stringent legislation in the farm inputs sub-sector to curtail the dubious activities of unscrupulous elements who swindle farmers with fake and adulterated fertilizers and seeds.

Arokoyo noted that Nigerian farmers require quality fertilizers and improved seeds as well as proper warehouse receipt system to thrive in their occupation.

A member of NESG, Feyi Ajayi, said the bills are important for the economic development of the country.

Ms Ajayi said: “Some fertilisers damage the soil. Even after production they (farmers) lack storage capacity,” she said.

Ms Ajayi said NESG will ensure that the bills are passed into law and implemented.

A fertiliser expert, Ishaka Buba, said the fertiliser bill will help ensure quality outputs by farmers.

He said many industries produce substandard products. “There is need for the bill so that the product can be regulated,” he said.

Mr Buba lamented that farmers are helpless as they are being cheated by the manufacturers.

A farmer, Timi Agaba said warehouses will help build sustainable agriculture in Nigeria. He said they will help reduce wastage of agricultural produce during and after harvest.

“Without good warehouses, farmers are forced to sell below the cost price,” he said. He said the warehouses may not be sufficient but will be affordable to small scale farmers.

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