The House of Representatives wednesday passed a motion mandating its Committees on Agricultural Production and Services and Water Resources to collaborate with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Central Bank of Nigeria (CNB), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and other stakeholders to develop a policy framework for the implementation of a phased ban on the importation of fish and fish products to create an enabling environment for increased private sector investments in the fisheries sub-sector.
It said the proposed policy should make the country self-sufficient in fish production within a two-year period.
The committee is expected to conclude work and report back within four weeks for further legislative action.
The resolution of the lower chamber followed a motion by Hon. Tasir Olawale Raji, on the call for a phased ban on the importation of fish and fish products into Nigeria.
He noted that the diversification of the economy away from crude oil through key sectors such as agriculture remains pivotal to the realisation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan of the present administration.
This came as the Chairman on House Committee on IDPs, Refugees and Initiatives on North-east, Hon. Sani Zorro, yesterday summoned the Executive Director, Victims Support Fund (VSF), Mr. Sunday Abogonye Ochoche, over the utilisation the N5billion disbursed to his outfit to support victims of the Boko Haram insurgency.
Also summoned was the head of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrant and the Internally Displaced ((NCFRMI) , Hajia Sadiya Umar over her refusal render accounts of how monies appropriated to her office was spent.
He said the House reserved the right to scrutinize both invitees based on the power conferred on the National Assembly by Section 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, stressing that it was unfortunate that Umar deliberately refused to honour the committee invitation to defend the 2018 budgetary proposal to her outfit, an action which could affect the timely passage of the 2018 budget.
He described her action as an affront to the powers conferred on the national assembly to appropriate and probe into how monies appropriated to the ministries, parastatals and agencies (MDAs) are expended.
On the N5 billion insurgency victims funds, Zorro said it beats his imagination that Ochoche had been hiding under the cover of the chairman of the VSF, Gen T.Y Danjuma (rtd) to avoid the scrutiny of the National Assembly.
He, faulted Ochoche’s claim that the VSF which is a privately registered out cannot be forced to render account on the utilisation of public funds.
He said: “They have been making all sort of claims that they bought goats, rams and empowered several victims of terror with the money.
All we are saying is come and tell us the efforts you have made and when we write them, they would claim that they have been directed not to come and render accounts. Each time we give them the opportunity, all they do is to show us disrespect. “
Nevertheless, Raji observed that the fisheries sub-sector, which is a vital component of the country’s agriculture and the national economy, accounting for about four per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has remained largely under-developed despite having the potential to provide cheap sources of protein, income, employment and foreign exchange.
He said the escalating demand for foreign exchange for fish importation is not sustainable in the light of the huge pressure on the country’s foreign reserves and fluctuating earnings from crude oil.
He expressed concern that the country had now become a dumping ground for all manners of frozen fish, most of which are unwholesome in quality and highly detrimental to the health of consumers.
Raji said:”With the abundant marine and inland fisheries resources comprising 923,768 kms land area, 47,934 kms continental shelf, 853 kms of coastline, network of rivers, flood plain, natural and man-made lakes, Nigeria has all it takes to become self-sufficient in fish production and also become a major hub of fish exportation in the West African sub-region.”
He said the federal government needed to vigorously pursue the goal of self-sufficiency in fish production so as to ensure food security and reserve for export.
Hon. Sergius Ogun (PDP, Edo) said the policy would enhance self sufficiency in fish production and address youth unemployment, adding that regulatory agencies had been failing in their duties to pay attention to issues in the sector.
Hon. Aminu Shagari (APC, Sokoto) said a ban of fish import was critical to the federal government’s diversification agenda.
On his part, Hon. Femi Gbajabilamila said the motion is a step towards the diversification of economy. He said importing fish when the country has it in abundance doesn’t make sense.
He said the move would address unemployment and conserve foreign exchange.
He said: “We can even bring a bill and place fish on the list of banned imports.”