An amended Bill for an Act to enable the National Agriculture Seed Council (NASC) sanction seed fraudsters and erring seed companies in Nigeria has scaled through the second reading at the House of Representatives.
The Bill is expected to criminalise sales or production of substandard seeds to farmers and end the practice where seed companies packaged junks and distribute as seeds to local farmers.
The Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture, Hon. Mohammed Monguno disclosed this Tuesday during national seed fair organised by the NASC in partnership with the Seed Entrepreneurs Association of Nigeria (SEEDAN) and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), in Abuja, said the National Assembly Committees will sit over the legislation as soon as the House resume sitting.
He said the NASS commitment to making legislations that will grow the sector and develop the seed sub sector.
“Considering the importance of seed bean, once you are able to solve the problem of seed bean, you have solved 50 per cent of the problems in agriculture. It is also with a view to stamped quackery in the industry and encourage genuine entrepreneurs, there is need to pass the bill into law,” he said.
“Already it has gone through second reading. It is coming up for consideration in the committee immediately we resume and there are rules that could ensure the bill is passed into law in case it is rejected by the President.”
In his remarks, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, pleaded with the lawmakers to intensify efforts on the amended seed regulation bill.
He stressed that passage of the bill will criminalise sales or production of substandard seeds to farmers.
According to him, the expectation of achieving food sufficiency lies on productions and distributions of good quality seeds.
Ogbeh lamented over N63 billion debt profile of the ministry, arising from cost seeds distributed during the Growth Enhancement Support scheme (GES), initiated by past government.
He noted that even though the debt was padded by criminal minded agro-dealers who claimed to have supplied such amount of seeds, the ministry lacked the resources to immediately pay the debt.
According to him, the ministry did not authorise seed distribution for the 2017 wet season under the GES, but agro-dealers claimed they distributed the farm inputs to farmers in selected places in the northern part of the country.
He condemned situations where seed companies packaged junks and distribute as seeds to local farmers.
“Without good seeds, agriculture is impossible. There is no point borrowing from the bank when you have poor seeds,” Ogbeh added.
The Director General, NASC Dr. Philip Ojo, vowed to clampdown unauthorised groups or individuals involved in illegal seed business.
He advised seed companies and agro-dealers to ensure sales and distribution of certified seeds approved by the Council.
The DG said without such certification, organisations involved in such criminal act will be prosecuted.
“Let me reiterate that seed business is highly regulated and there are procedures and guidleines for engaging in seed production and marketing.
All intending groups and organisations going into seed business are hereby reminded that they must be duly accredited and licensed by the council,” he said.