Senate calls for improved palm oil production, revamp of NIFOR
The Senate on Tuesday called on Federal Government to support improved production of palm oil to meet domestic need of the market and increase exports for forex exchange earnings.
It also called on the Federal Government to revive the moribund Nigeria Institute of Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) in Benin to improve investment in research and production of quality oil palm seeds in the country.
This followed a motion sponsored by Sen. Onyewuchi Ezenwa, (Imo East) and co-sponsored by other 15 senators on the urgent need to revive the palm oil industry in Nigeria at the plenary.
Moving the motion, Ezenwa said it was worrisome that Nigeria spent 500 million dollars on oil palm importation annually in spite of being the largest producer and exporter of the product in the 50s and 60s.
He said that Nigeria was now the net importer of palm oil, importing between 400,000 to 600,000 metric tonnes to meet its local demand.
He stressed that it was indefensible for Nigeria to be importing, given the presence of a suitable weather and good soil conditions for the growth of palm oil.
Ezenwa said that the neglect of palm oil produce and other cash crops had made it difficult for the country to achieve its set targets of diversifying the economy from crude oil reliance.
“If Nigeria refuses to harness the full potential of the oil palm industry as an economic opportunity, it will continue to fall behind other global economies,” he said.
He expressed worry that NIFOR, which had the mandate to conduct research on improved varieties of oil palm seedlings for commercial production, had been limited due to poor funding and obsolete infrastructure.
Ezenwa said the oil palm industry in Imo state established in the 50s, 60s and in the 70s were comatose in spite of their huge potential to the state and the country.
He said that stakeholders and agricultural experts had identified development of palm oil as veritable means to diversify the economy and generate foreign exchange.
According to him, the commodity continues to be in very high demand in Nigeria and beyond, while the current domestic production stood at 970,000 metric tonnes per annum.
He, however, said the demand was put at 2.7 million metric tonnes yearly.
Also, the senate also passed a resolution to summon Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami and officers of Ministry of Petroleum to brief it on details of the 9.6 billion dollars P&ID judgement delivered against Nigeria by a British court.
The resolution followed a point of order brought by Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Bamidele Opeyemi, (APC Ekiti).
They are to brief the senate on efforts being made to ensure the interest of Nigeria was protected in the matter.
Lawan also read out members of the 69 standing committees of the senate.
He urged the committees to conduct its oversight function in the interest of the nation.
He also urged the committee to present reports of oversight functions conducted to the Senate.
Also, bills for the Nigeria Transportation Accident Investigation Bureau 2019 and the Criminal Code Act 2019 amendment bill were presented for first reading in the senate.