House Passes Amended Bill on Seed Industry

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  • Ogbeh derides bloggers on yam export

Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja

The House of Representatives has passed the amended bill on the Agricultural Seed Industry for assent by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The Chairman of House Committee on Agriculture, Hon. Tukur Muhammad Mongunu, made this disclosure yesterday at the Seed Fair and Farmers’ Field Day in Sheda, Abuja.

Mongunu said the bill had gone through second reading and would be sent for consideration before the Committee of the Whole, when the National Assembly resumes from the Sallah recess.

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.

Farmers nationwide have been complaining against the supply of low quality seeds by government funded agencies and international donor organisations, which they said was hampering the national food security.

In response, 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.

In a bid to curtail sharp practices in the sector, the Director General of NASC, Dr. Philip Olusegun Ojo, 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.

Meanwhile, Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has defended the government yam export policy, subjected to a barrage of criticisms by bloggers and social media users when the programme started in July.

He said Nigeria’s yam was now highly in demand in the UK and the United States, where three tubers of yam now sell for $35.

He accused the bloggers of ignorance, saying they delved into a subject they knew nothing about.
“All the bloggers were saying things they knew nothing about. For 30 years, Nigerian yam was exported through Ghana. Now we want to export directly to Europe through Nigeria,”Ogbeh said.
The minister, who mooted government efforts to ensure zero rejection of Nigeria’s exports, alleged that too many crooks were operating in Nigeria 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 claims of N63 billion by some of the agro dealers, who presented many bogus bills with the intention to defraud the ministry.