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Plenary proceedings, House of Reps, Tuesday, March 5th, 2024

The Deputy Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Kalu presided.


After leading the opening prayer and recitation of the national pledge, the Deputy Speaker approved the votes and proceedings of Thursday, February 29th, 2024


ANNOUNCEMENTS:

Membership of the Harmonization committee on the Bill for the revised age for retirement of National Assembly staff was announced.

Membership of the Conference committee on the harmonization of the Southeast Development Commission Bill was announced and it is to be Chaired by Hon. Kingsley Chinda.


PETITIONS:

Hon. Mohammed Muktar laid a petition on behalf of a complainant against the electricity provider in Jigawa state on the alleged high voltage that destroyed properties of residents in the community.

Hon. Abdullahi Halims laid a petition on behalf of a community on the effects of mining in the community and its adverse effects on their socioeconomic activities.

Hon. Jesse Onuakalusi laid 2 petitions, the first is against the Nigerian Army on the alleged unlawful dismissal of the complainant and the second is on the request for intervention for non-payment of money spent on a contract.

Hon. Kingsley Chinda laid a petition on behalf of a complainant against Total Energy Nigeria Ltd. who allegedly wrongfully locked out a staff and terminated his appointment after torturing him. He craved the intervention of the House to get justice.

Hon. Billy Osawaru laid a petition on behalf of a complainant against the Nigeria Police on alleged abuse of power, kidnapping, illegal extortion of funds etc. He craved justice from the House.

All petitions were referred to the House committee on Public Petitions.


MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE:

Hon. Isiaka Ibrahim moved a motion on the urgent need to investigate activities surrounding digital assets, international money transfers and other such platforms and it was seconded by Hon. Mike Etaba. Hon. Isiaka in leading the debate stated that Nigeria is grappling with the challenges of the floating of the Naira. He expressed concern over illicit transactions and money laundering using these means. Hon. Isiaka expressed further worry at the huge sums of money that have been allegedly used to finance kidnappings, insecurity, banditry and other illegalities. He called on the House committee on National Security as well as that on Intelligence to investigate the issue, engage all relevant stakeholders and identify all those engaged in such practices and establish their profile for proper oversight by the House of Representatives. The motion was voted on, adopted and referred to the relevant committees of the House.

Hon. Billy Osawaru moved a motion on the urgent need to avert the looming calamity and impending insecurity threats in some communities in Edo state and it was seconded by Hon. Adamu Ibrahim. Hon. Osawaru in leading the debate stated that considering that the primary responsibility of government is the security and wellbeing of lives and properties of the governed, it is pertinent to avert the looming insecurity in the region. He expressed worry at the incessant kidnappings and attacks on communities in Edo state. He stated that these attacks have left many victims severely injured and displaced. Hon. Osawaru also stated that the residents have lost confidence in the security apparatus to secure them. He called on the relevant security apparatus to increase the presence of personnel in the region, also to increase efforts to ensure the protection of lives and properties of the residents of the communities and that the House committee on National Security and Intelligence should ensure compliance and report back to the House in 4 weeks. The motion was voted on, adopted and referred to the relevant committees of the House.


MATTERS OF PRIVILEGE

Hon. Chinedu Ogah rose on a right of privilege that some parts of the National Assembly have been without electricity for some time and it is interfering with his work and relating with his constituents. This he stated breaches his right as an Honorable member to function effectively. The Deputy Speaker Of the House, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Kalu called on the secretariat to see that the repairs being carried out is wound up on time for Honorable members to function optimally.

Hon. Jesse Onuakalusi also rose on a matter of privilege querying why reports of the sectoral debate had not been forwarded by the concerned MDAs to Honorable members at least 2 weeks before the debate in order for members to engage them effectively.

Hon. Bamidele Salam clarified that the raised objection by Hon. Onuakalusi is misplaced as the report is exclusive to the knowledge of the Speaker of the House. The Speaker can relate the report directly to a relevant committee of the House to take action on the matter and the present sectoral debate is excluded from that provision.

The Deputy Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Kalu further clarified that the House is at liberty to deliberate on issues of National Importance and the Speaker has already approved the debate, hence Hon. Onuakalusi was ruled out of order.


ADMITTANCE INTO THE CHAMBER

Admittance into the Chamber:

Hon. Julius Ihonvbere:

“That the House, pursuant to Order Six, Rule 4(1)(ix) and (2) of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives, do admit into the Chamber, Hon. Minister and Minister of State, Agriculture and Food Security, Minister of Blue Economy, Comptroller–General of Customs, Director- General NEMAHA, The Country Representative of Food and Agricultural Organisation, (FAO), Managing–Director NISARL, Managing Director Bank of Agriculture, Chief Executive Officer, Agriculture Development Programme (ADP) and their entourage for the purpose of Sectoral Debates on the Agricultural sector”.

Hon. Abdullahi Halims moved for the admittance of the invited guests for the sectoral debate and it was seconded by Hon. Kingsley Chinda.


ORDER OF THE DAY

SECTORAL DEBATES

  1. Sectoral Debates on Agricultural Sector Pursuant to Order Seventeen, Rule 4 of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives.

Debate

Hon. Abdullahi Halims moved the motion for the commencement of the sectoral debate and it was seconded by Hon. Kingsley Chinda.

The Deputy Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Kalu stated that giving the need for food security, the House recognizes the concern of Nigerians on the fact that little percentage of cultivatable land is being utilized. It is important to recognize the challenges and proffer solutions on behalf of Nigerians. It is also important to take into cognition the challenges and points of solution for the expansion of cultivation of food and cash crops.

(a) Hon. Minister, Agriculture and Food Security;

Sen. Abubakar Kiyari stated that Nigerians are currently facing tough times but President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has begun to tackle the problem by declaring a state of emergency on agriculture months ago. He commended President Tinubu for the robust plans for ensuring food security for Nigerians. Sen. Kiyari stressed the role insecurity has played in causing food insecurity due to the problems between farmers and herdsmen/ bandits that has raged for many administrations gone by. He also stressed the negative impact of such factors as the COVID-19 pandemic, flooding activities as well as the Naira redesign policy of the Central Bank on food production by agriculturists. He stated that the ministry of Agriculture has put in place some policies to ensure the availability and affordability of food provisions. Sen. Kiyari stated that the President has also directed the mitigation of the hardship of Nigerians and the ministry has in response carved out long-term, mid-term as well as short term solutions such as the launching of the dry season farming to make farming an all year activity. The ministry he stated has also engaged continental and international partners to financially support farmers. He also stated that soya and grain cultivation has also been boosted nationwide to meet the existing demand and deficiencies. He also stated that the ministry has received approval from President Tinubu to distribute grains to Nigerians from the national storage as a short term solution. He stressed the need for agriculture to be practiced as a business venture which will ensure food sustenance as well as abundance for all. He pleaded with Honorable members with the resources to invest in agriculture and make it a truly prosperous sector. Sen. Kiyari also called for technological mechanization of agricultural practice to ensure optimization of output. He also stressed the importance of the protection of livestock nationally in a manner that satisfies all parties.

Q: Hon. Chike Okafor who is the House committee chairman on Food Security sought to find out what is the solution to the realities of market leakages as farmers now prefer to export food items to other countries for better value of payments?

A: The ministry is in cooperation with the Nigerian Customs to check these illegal leakages.

Q: Hon. Yusuf Baraje sought to know how the government intends to support Nigerian farmers to enhance their productivity in respect of climate change and what cross sectoral collaborations are aimed to achieve this?

A: The ministry recognizes the challenges of climate change and there has been due adaptation in working with NIMET. Adapting climate smart agriculture has also ensured the ministry mitigates these effects.

Q: Hon. Bamidele Salam sought to know what is being done to bridge the shortfall of estimated agricultural production?

A: A signed MOU and other programs in place in collaboration with state governments will ensure a boost to bridge any shortfall in agricultural production.

Q: Hon. Mark Esset sought to know why payments of the approved palliatives by President Tinubu have not been paid out?

A: All approved and processed palliatives have been paid, but it has to go through clarification processes, that is why there seems to be some delays in payments.

Q: Hon. Philip Agbese sought to know what the ministry is doing to make it easier for Nigerian contractors to do business with the ministry?

A: Once work done is verified, payment won’t be a problem.

Q: Hon. Leke Abejide sought to know why the dams built for dry season farming by then President Shehu Shagari are not being put to use now? And how can the ministry support those looking to go into large scale farming?

A: The dams belong to the ministry of Water Resources but the Ministry of Agriculture is working with them to ensure they function.

Q: Hon. Sada Soli sought to find out what is being done to secure rural infrastructure for farmer’s development?

A: Land development and rural infrastructure remains a huge problem, but the Presidency is fully engaged presently to resolve issues surrounding land development and rural infrastructure development in the current budget. The land tenure system is being reviewed to imitate the one being adopted in India that has worked very well.

Q: Hon. Aminu Daura sought to know why the high percentage of charges on food items?

A: The high charge on transporters by security agents make these percentage go higher than what should be obtained. The government has however directed the stoppage of unnecessary charges.

Q: Hon. Chris Nkwonta sought to know what recovery measures that have been put in place to ensure the problems blamed for food insecurity are checked?

A: The measures put in place such as anchor borrowing and rice pyramids erection are aimed at boosting production. The ministry continues to adapt and act proactively to these problems. There is also the revamping of the forest and agriculture rangers to boost the protection of Nigerian greenery and environment.

Q: Hon. Ademorin Kuye sought to know what the ministry is doing to promote value addition to boost the country’s GDP? Also what is being done to reduce the cost of production and engaging in large scale farming?

A: Special Agro Processing Zone Program in collaboration with international partners is a vital tool in developing agricultural programs in different states of the federation to boost the country’s GDP.

Q: Hon. Kalejaye Paul sought to know how effective the information output from the ministry to Nigerians can be developed for their enlightenment?

Q: Is there a partnership with the Parliament to boost food security?

A: There was a tripartite arrangement to boosting food security to ensure distribution to the most rural places nationwide. A lot of stakeholders are part of the agreement to ensure its widespread effect.

Q: Africa Development Bank has funds for agricultural development, is Nigeria well poised to access these funds?

A: The funds are being accessed and will be utilized for the intended use for boosting agricultural production.

Q: What interventions are there for wet season farming?

A: Advanced discussions with partners to supply fertilizer and other necessary inputs on time have begun yielding fruit and there is assurance that all will be in place on time before the rains come.

Q: What is the state of the intervention with Brazil for the quoted tractor supply?

A: The intervention had been in the pipeline for over 6 months but has not seen the day of light till now. He however expressed optimism for it to come to fruition for yield improvement.

The Deputy Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Kalu called for better multi ministry and agency collaboration for land development and optimal yield. He called for better collaboration with international agencies for more funds to be available for Nigerian farmers to access for improved agriculture development.

(b) Managing Director, Agriculture Development Fund:

Mohammed Ibrahim stated that the fund is to provide assistance and finance for agricultural development in Nigeria. It has gone into critical interphase with key stakeholders to ensure fund availability for agricultural development. The fund also engages in research and development to ensure products and profit output maximization. The fund also has spread nationwide to ensure no part of the country is left behind in fund mobilization and partnership as all parts of Nigeria is favorable for farming unique indigenous crops and wildlife. He commended the partnership with the National Assembly as a productive partnership for the development of the agricultural sector to benefit Nigerians.

(c) Comptroller–General of Customs;

Bashir Adeniyi stated that the role of the Nigerian Customs in ensuring food security in Nigeria can be seen in its functions under the renewed hope program of President Tinubu. He bemoaned the fact that many Nigerians are truly facing trying times of food insecurity. As a responsible agency of government, Customs have taken some proactive steps to tackle food insecurity in Nigeria. He stated that through a mixture of policies and framework the Customs have ensured its contribution to battling food insecurity. He stated that levies have been either removed or reduced for appliances and machinery imported into Nigeria for agricultural development. The Nigerian Customs have also adopted policies to ensure locally manufactured foods are not illegally exported to ensure local food sufficiency for Nigerians first and foremost. He also applauded the recent directive from President Tinubu for the Customs to directly sell seized food items to Nigerians and channel some into the local markets to help boost food security. He called for understanding from Nigerians in border communities not to take laws in their hands as the Customs only seek to prevent hunger. He stressed that there can be no short term solutions for long term problems as collaboration of all parties is the best way forward.

Q: Hon. Ginger Onwusibe sought to find out if this was the first time for the auction food items to Nigerians, and what had been happening with food items seized before now?

Q: Hon. Ahmed Satome stated that the purchasing power of the common Nigerian is the main problem, how can the Customs check the foreign exchange problem that influences high exportation of food products as a result of round tripping?

Q: Hon. Mark Esset sought sought to find out why the sale of seized food items are not being simultaneously carried out nationwide as directed by President Tinubu?

Q: Hon. Leke Abejide sought to find out where the rice being dispersed at the directive of President Tinubu is in other states?

Q: Hon. Sada Soli wondered why Custom Officers keep hindering the free flow of legitimate goods and services in border communities?

Q: Hon. Aminu Daura sought to know why the restrictions of the free movement of goods and services around border communities which has disenfranchised farmers and traders within the region? The conduct of these Customs Officers he stated is unprofessional.

Q: Hon. Chris Nkwonta sought to find out why the current exchange rate is used for the reduced levies on agricultural appliances and machinery?

Q: Hon. Ademorin Kuye sought to find out why Nigerians prefer to export their products through neighboring countries?

Q: Hon. Bello Ambarura sought to find out what the Customs are doing to bring down the incidents of harassment of traders in border towns. He called for more enlightening of citizens of the region on what is legal or what are contraband for trading.

Q: Hon. Kelechi Nwogu sought to find out if the grains being released for sale to Nigerians by President Tinubu are safe for consumption and if they are to be sold or released free of charge?

Q: Hon. Kalejaye Paul sought to find out if the border closures are general or discriminatory?

A: On the issue of palliatives, the Customs were asked by the President to engage in direct response of administration for Nigerians. The Customs in the past have distributed such food interventions for IDP camps and disasters in states where necessary. On the query that the disbursement is not simultaneous, there was the need to carry out the disbursement in Lagos first and learn form the process when carrying out subsequently in other states. The food were certified for safe consumption through the relevant agencies. The engagement between the Customs and communities in the border areas is dicey and it seeks the understanding of Nigerians in the region as all is being done to regularize socioeconomic activities in the regions and the border closure is not discriminatory, but within specific directives by the federal government. He ascertained that the Customs is not against legitimate market activities in border communities and assured that regularity will come back to the engagements in the region. The Customs is also working to ensure Nigerian exports meet high standards of preservation so Nigerians do not have to take their exports through other routes. The Customs is making efforts to ensure Nigeria remains a hub for economic activities and that forex in trading is favorable to Nigerian businesses even though Customs does not manage forex exclusively. There are reviews being done on some policies that have been perceived to be burdensome and restrictive to exporters.

The Deputy Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Kalu asked the Customs to get to the bottom of the palliative sharing so that Nigerians who are the constituents of Honorable members will know how to access what is due to them.

(d) Managing–Director NISARL;

The Managing Director stated that NISARL is dedicated to providing assistance in providing synergy between private sector funds for investment in agricultural development. It also provides technical training to maintain value chain of participants in agriculture so that funds and amenities can be applied for optimal profitability. So far NISARL has raised enormous funds through these means and is fully committed to ensure more thriving partnership with key stakeholders for further agricultural development. NISARL he stated is patriotically committed to the agenda of President Tinubu for ensuring food security.

Q: Hon. Bamidele Salam sought to know how small farmers can get more access to funds?

A: There is high collaboration to ensure farmers have better access to funds by standing in the middle through quality mediation.

Q: Hon. Leke Abejide sought to know how NISARL ensured dispersed loans are returned so that it can also be accessed by other interested Nigerians?

A: NISARL is not directly involved in fund disbursement, but just helps as an intermediate for acquisition of funds for farmers .


The Chief Whip of the House, Hon. Bello Kumo commended the leadership of the House for setting up the sectoral debate so that Nigerians can be better informed. He thanked Honorable members for conducting themselves with decorum and for fully participating in the debate. Hon. Kumo also commended the invited guest who came to shed light on the pressing issues as true representatives of the Executive Arm of government who showed exemplary example of good partnership with the Legislature.


Adjournment:

The House at 15:19 PM adjourned plenary to Wednesday, March 6th, 2024 by 11:00 A.M following a motion for adjournment moved by the Chief Whip of the House, Hon. Bello Kumo and seconded by the Minority Leader, Hon. Kingsley Chinda

Courtesy: LightRay! Media and Media Unit, Office of the Speaker, House of Representatives.

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