House sets up committee to probe cassava bread fund
• NCAPMA, Master Bakers, Cassava Farmers Hail Move
Sequel to The Guardian’s exclusive report on the implementation of the Cassava Bread Fund titled “Cassava Bread Fund Going The Way Of Failed Interventions,” published last year, the House of Representatives Committees on Agricultural Production & Services and Banking & Currency have begun moves to carry out an investigative audit of the releases, cumulative contributions, owings and the level of implementation of the fund.
They are also expected to examine the losses suffered by Cassava Growers Association and the value chain therein, with a view to compensating/encouraging them; and determining modalities for rejuvenating the Cassava Bread Growers Programme. They will report back within weeks for further legislative action.
Recall the disbursement of the major portion of the N10billion first tranche released from the Cassava Bread Fund by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Bank of Industry (BoI) and other stakeholders involved in the project. But five years down the lane, they are yet to fulfill their promise on full disbursement.
The fund, initiated in 2012 and released in principle in 2013, was meant for farmers, bakers, processors and others in the cassava value chain, to enhance productivity. According to a report, the disbursement to individuals would be need-specific.The house resolution followed a motion sponsored by Ibrahim Ayokunle Isiaka titled: “Need to Investigate the Level of Implementation of Cassava Bread Fund (CBF). He disclosed that the fund was estimated to have accumulated over half a trillion naira as at date, for building a robust and fresh roots supply chain for small, medium and large cassava processing plants, support to Large/Medium High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) mills, support to SMEs producing HQCF, to master bakers on 20 per cent (HQCF) Cassava Bread, production and social marketing of 20 per cent cassava bread.
He added that it would also serve as pre-emptive measures against cassava brown streak disease to up-scale about 5,000 bakers, training and support for at least six bakers per Local Council Area across the 774 council areas in the country and to engage professional advertising companies or consultants on branding cassava bread under the social marketing component.Isiaka informed the house that cassava farmers had lost investments in excess of N360 million due to breakdown in the value chain necessitated by the non-implementation of the programme within a year.
He expressed his concern that N536.54 million worth of jobs for youths and women, which hitherto were exported to Europe and USA would have been made available at 20 per cent inclusion of cassava flour daily, thereby reducing the rate of unemployment in Nigeria;
“We should know that with the 20 per cent inclusion level, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Nigeria would have been enhanced by N195.84 billion annually with the transformation of the lives of the rural poor who will form the bedrock of formation of new crop of wealthy Nigerians;
“I am also concerned about the loss of investment of over N10 billion in the past five years across the value chain and 10 million additional job opportunities across the entire CBF Stakeholders, yet the annual wheat importation into Nigeria is $3.2 billion yearly (N979.2 billion at N306/USD), while Nigeria spends over $8.7 million (N2.6 billion) daily totaling about N3.886 trillion for the past four years on wheat importation which is not sustainable in the face of dwindling revenue.”
Isiaka, who stressed that the role of cassava in the agricultural sector in Nigeria cannot be over-emphasised, as it is easy to cultivate and friendly with soil nationwide, highly affordable, with varying uses and a staple Nigerian food, said since the funds earmarked for this programme are on the verge of being diverted, the House of Representatives should not be seen to let such happen without adequately investigating the development.
Following this, the National Cassava Processors and Marketers Association (NCAPMA); Master Bakers and Caterers Association; and National Cassava Growers Association, have saluted the courage of the lawmakers on the move.They, however, appealed to them to do a thorough investigation so that the fund would not be diverted as “the Minister of Agriculture already said they are using the fund under approval of Mr. President for other purposes different from Cassava Bread Development.”
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