The Nigerian Senate has urged the government to accelerate its policies on the diversification of the economy to improve foreign exchange earnings.
The call was made in resolutions reached by the Senate following consideration of a motion entitled ‘Urgent Need to Revive the Palm Oil Industry in Nigeria’.
Sponsored by Sen. Francis Onyewuchi, the motion was co-sponsored by 15 other senators.
The Senate, which resumed plenary on Tuesday, September 24, urged the Federal Government to support an improved oil palm production to meet the domestic needs of the market, as well as revive the moribund Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research in Benin City, 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 resulted in the neglect of agriculture by successive governments.
“Nigeria spends $500m on palm oil importation annually despite being the largest producer and exporter of the product in the 1950s and 60s.
“The country is now the net importer of palm oil, importing 400,000 to 600,000 metric tonnes to meet local demand,” Onyewuchi revealed.
Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, bemoaned the lack of discipline and implementation in the agriculture sector, and charged stakeholders to change the narrative.
Abdullahi said, “Until this is done, there can be no meaningful development to be achieved economically from the sector.”
In his remarks, Senate President Ahmed Lawan underscored the need to fund the agriculture 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 agriculture sector. Our committee should engage with the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, so that at the end of the day, we can contribute meaningfully to take agriculture to the next level,” Lawan said.