The House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture has emphasised the need to amend the Procurement Act and remove Agriculture from the tedious procurement process in order to fast track the procurement process in the Agricultural sector which is known to be time- bound.
The Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture, Mohammed Monguno made the call when he led his members on an oversight visit to the ministry.
The Chairman who said his team was in the ministry to see the level of execution of the 2016 budget and the constraints faced so as to give necessary supports in the year 2017 stated that for government to achieve its policy of economic diversification through Agriculture, the National Assembly and the executive must work together to review the budgetary system and remove agricultural sector from the normal budgetary process.
Monguno stated that “There is need for paradigm shift to see Agricultural sector as business especially to encourage youths to go into Agriculture.”
He noted that as part of efforts to develop the country’s agriculture, the National Assembly had passed laws such as the Fertilizer Regulatory Act among others and would continue to enact and amend relevant laws to sustainably develop agriculture in Nigeria.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh in his presentation of the ministry’s implementation of the 2016 budget, has identified inadequate funding and bureaucratic bottleneck in the handling of the procurement process as bane to the implementation of the 2016 budget.
Ogbeh put the level of budget release to the Ministry at sixty one percent and said the sector had continuously experienced decline of budgetary allocations that fall short of Maputo Declaration of 10 percent of National Budget allocation to the Agricultural sector.
“The procurement process has slowed down the implementation of budget, we began implementation about a month ago because the processes were not fast,” he said.
Despite the challenges faced by the ministry, the minister highlighted critical projects and programmes implemented under the 2016 capital budget, he said the Ministry had acquired 110 various capacities of rice mills of 10 tonnes, 20 tonnes, 50 tonnes and 50 tonnes per day for distribution to cluster farmers to boost rice production in the country.
He said Agro dealers, seed companies and fertilizer suppliers had resumed redemption of seeds, fertilizers and other agricultural inputsto small holder farmers under the Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES) programme.
Ogbeh also allayed the fear that the country would experience famine in 2017 and disclosed that the Ministry had engaged in the buying- back of assorted grains under the Guarantee Minimum Price Programme for restocking of strategic silo complexes while farmers in some states of the federation had already commenced preparation for the dry season farming to ensure adequate food security across the country.
He hinted that the Federal Government was poised to reform the Bank of Agriculture for operation as a quasi commercial bank to bring the interest rate to a single digit for accessibility to farmers.
The Minister also informed the House Committee on Agriculture that 30,000 slots allocated to the Ministry under the N- power scheme of the Federal Government would be trained through the Agricultural Development Programmes (ADPs) as Agric extension workers and distributed to local government areas of the country.
He told the House Committee on Agriculture that “Funding in Agriculture has to be outside the budget and it is something we should look at extensively” and sought for more legislative supports from the National Assembly in order to have a sustainable agricultural development in the country.
The Deputy Chairman,House Committee on Agriculture, Mukari Chiromawa who demanded more efforts from the Ministry said government needs to holistically look at the country’s agricultural policies.