The Senate on Wednesday mandated its Committee on Agriculture to investigate alleged importation of maize while it has banned the importation of more than 41 items from getting foreign exchange. This decision, which was unanimously adopted by the lawmakers, followed a motion by the Chairman Senate Committee on Aviation, Senator Adamu Aliero, and co-sponsored by Senator Abdullahi Adamu and Senator Andy Uba at plenary. Leading the debate on the motion, Aliero said the Nigerian market had become flooded with imported maize from Ukraine, Brazil and South Africa. He added that records from June to August showed that about 10 ships loaded with maize had berthed in Lagos and Port Harcourt ports. He said more ships of imported maize might likely arrive the country by December, adding that that it would put Nigerian farmers at a great disadvantage. Aliero said: “The imported maize sells at much lower prices than the locally grown maize. “Meanwhile, the beneficiaries of the importation are mostly foreigners whose interests are mainly profiteering at the expense of the federal government’s policy on food security, self-sufficiency and job creation. “The importation of food items into the country is encouraging unemployment and poverty in Nigeria as can be perceived by majority of us who are in touch with our constituents who are mainly farmers. “In this era of diversification of our economy, agriculture provides the best complement if not alternative to oil.” Supporting the motion, Adamu said Nigerians had started embracing government’s advice to go back to farming. He, however, expressed concern over the importation of maize, adding that any move in that direction was an act of sabotage. According to him, if not urgently addressed, the development would discourage local farmers. Aliero stated: “Nigerians are aggressively embarking on farming, why should Nigeria then abandon the farmers at the point where they deserve the help and protection of government. “I urge senate to investigate how maize suddenly disappeared from the list of the goods banned in foreign exchange policy of the federal government, and the rationale behind it.” The Spokesperson of the Senate, Senator Aliyu Sabi, said the subject matter of the motion was saddening. According to him, for government to want to diversify the economy to put agriculture in the front burner, it would be a setback for such a policy to be allowed. Sabi said: “This policy is a threat to national food security because the massive importation would allow the importation of disease conditions such as maize blight and they are known to devastate maize production. “If allowed to happen it would defeat the effort to encourage Nigerians to go back to farm.” In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, said the development was worrisome. Saraki said Nigerians who had invested in farming as a result of government’s push would be discouraged. He said the alleged importation was not illegal but as a result of government policy. Saraki said such would cripple the productivity of Nigerians and economic diversification.
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