12 October 2017

Nigeria: House Probes Ogbeh Over Violation of Law Prohibiting Yam Tuber Exports

Abuja — The House of Representatives wednesday passed a motion mandating its Committees on Agricultural Production and Services and Customs and Excise to investigate the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh on why the law prohibiting the exportation of yam tubers was flagrantly disregarded, thereby causing immense embarrassment to the country.

Also the Comptroller-General of Customs, the Executive Director of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, the Director General of the Standards Organization of Nigeria and Head of the Nigerian Quarantine Service and heads of all other relevant agencies are requested to give reasons why they granted export license for food products prohibited from exportation.

The resolution of the House followed a motion moved by Hon. Gaza Jonathan Gbefwi (APC, Kogi) on the need to determine why food products prohibited from exportation are being exported and also do not meet international standards.

Also, the lower chamber approved a motion urging the Federal Ministry of Health to declare a state of emergency on the menace of malnutrition as a matter of urgency.

The lawmakers, in a motion sponsored by Hon. Abubakar Amuda-Kannike (APC, Kwara) on the need to address the effects of malnutrition in the country further mandated the Committee on Healthcare Services to invite the Minister of Health to intimate the committee on the ministry's efforts towards combating the spread of the menace as well as the challenges in doing so, with a view to effectively tackling the menace and report back in three weeks for further legislative action.

Also yesterday, the green chamber backed a motion mandating the Committees on Agricultural Production and Services, and Customs and Excise to investigate the circumstances that led to the importation of the genetically modified maize without clearance from the National Biosafety Management Agency and recommend appropriate measures to protect the nation from importation of such products in future and report back within eight weeks for further legislative action.

The motion on the need to investigate the alleged importation of genetically modified maize into Nigeria was sponsored by Hon. Kingsley Obinna Onwubuariri and Hon. Munir Babba Dan Agundi.

On the violation of the law prohibiting yam tuber export, the House expressed concern that the federal government had in the bid to increase agricultural products exportation, disregarded a subsisting law and carried on the exportation of yam tubers, maize among others which are expressly prohibited from exportation.

The Schedule of the Export (Prohibition) Act, Cap. E22, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 lists beans, cassava tuber, maize, rice, yam tuber and their product derivatives as goods absolutely prohibited from exportation from the country.

In addition, a bill for an Act to repeal the provisions of the Export Prohibition Act had recently passed second reading in the House.

Gbefwi noted that a recent report that 72 tonnes of yam tubers that were exported sometime in June 2017 were rejected by the United States of America as they were found to have rotted upon arrival, causing the nation great embarrassment as it is now obvious that produce approved for export by the government do not meet with world standards for exportation.

Nevertheless, Kannike in his lead debate, described malnutrition as a public health emergency, stressing that despite its devastating effects, the required attention had not being given to it by the federal government, particularly in the area of funding.

He expressed concern over the high prevalence of malnutrition in the North-east which has continued to rise and now almost evenly spread across the country.

He said the country's ranking among countries with the highest malnutrition cases in the world with statistics by the United Nations (UN) suggesting that 37 per cent of Nigerian children are stunted by acute malnutrition and that 20 percent of them could die if urgent steps are not taken to address the issue.

He said: "It's even the economics statistics that further underpins the urgent need to take steps towards addressing the morbid and devastating effects of malnutrition in the country.

"We shall be failing in our duty if we read or hear all of these devastating statistics and continue to feign ignorance, first, in view of our status as representatives of the people and secondly as an arm of government exercising legislative powers which saddles us with advancing the fundamental objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in Chapter 2 of our constitution."

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