SENATE URGES ECONOMIC DIVERSIFICATION TO BOOST FOREX
The Senate has advised the Federal Government to accelerate the diversification of the economy to improve the country’s foreign exchange (forex) 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 Onyewuchi (PDP, Imo East) and co-sponsored by 15 other senators.
The Senate, which resumed its plenary session on yesterday, urged the Federal Government to revive the moribund Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) in Benin, Edo State as well as boost oil production in order to meet the domestic needs of the market.
On NIFOR, the motion urged the government to support 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 said: “Nigeria spends $500 million on oil palm importation annually despite being the largest producer and exporter of the product in the 50s and 60s. “The country is now the net importer of palm oil, importing 400,000 – 600,000 metric tons 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.
Abdullahi said: “Until this is done, there can be no meaningful development to be achieved economically from the sector.” In his remarks, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, underscored the need and importance to finance the growth of the agricultural sector in Nigeria.
“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.
“So, if we need an economy that will work for everyone, then we must invest in the agricultural sector.
“Our committee should engage with the ministries departments and agencies (MDAs) so that at the end of the day, we can contribute meaningfully to take agriculture to the next level,” the Senate president said.
“Being too poor to travel long distances to receive the monthly N5,000 disbursements, the decision was taken to ensure the funds are conveyed to them at their places of residence.
“Furthermore, in a departure from past experiences in similar programmes, whereby beneficiaries were selected in an opaque manner, this Administration’s Cash Transfer beneficiaries are identified by members of the communities themselves through a tripartite method.”
It said at the commencement of the programme, geographical poverty mapping was utilized to determine the sequence of Local Government Areas to commence work.