Drama as Establishment of National Food Reserve Agency splits Senate

…As Bill scales final passage

By Ignatius Okorocha

There was drama in the Senate on Wednesday Over the passage of a bill for the establishment of the National Food Reserve Agency for the purposes of storing  food grains as Senator lawyers argued against it passage on legal ground.

According to the lawyers,approving the passage of the bill would negate the principles separation of power as inshrined in the section of the constitution on concurrent list which allows state Assemblies to also legislate on such issues.

This was sequel to the presentation and consideration of the report of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development by the Chairman, Sen. Abdullahi Adamu during Wednesday’s plenary.

Presenting the report, Adamu said that the Bill sought to establish the agency for the purposes of storing food grains and other food commodities for strategic purposes.

According to Adamu, the Bill was read for the first and second time on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019 and Tuesday, May 19, 2020.

He said that the agency would implement the overall National Food Reserve Policy to ensure reliable supply of designated commodities in the country.

“The recent mandate of President Muhammadu Buhari during the COVID-19 pandemic to distribute 70, 000 metric tons of grains from the Strategic Grains Reserves shows clearly how important  it is for a country to have a food reserve agency.”

The chairman said that with the existence of the agency, emergency food crisis would be taken care of especially during the period of pandemic.

He further said that a well-managed strategic grains reserve would stabilise staple food prices for the benefit of consumers and farmers.

Contributing Deputy Chief Whip Sen. Sabi Abdullahi said that the essence of the bill was to have a framework that would ensure that citizens would not be affected during food crisis.

So the essence of the bill is definitely in line with our mandate and I urge our colleagues to go ahead and pass it.

Apparently not satisfied with the position of both the presenter of the report and the deputy Whip, chairman Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs Sen. Ajibola Basiru argued that the apex legislature lacks the legal powers to pass the such a Bill.

He raised a Constitutional Point of Order  to buttress his argument.

“The point of order is constitutional and it will be based on Section four of the Constitution and the Second Schedule to the Constitution.

“Section four of the Constitution provides for the powers of the National Assembly and it provided in Section 4(3) the power of the National Assembly to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of the federation in respect of any matter.

“There is no power that enables this National assembly to make laws in respect of food research agency that is proposed by this legislation,” he said.

In his remarks, President of the Senate Ahmad Lawan said “From a Constitutional point of order our colleague raised that we don’t have such power. 

“I think  the National Assembly has such powers. I think the emergency in this country requires that we do everything possible to rescue, protect the lives and security of the people of this country.

“I believe we should go ahead to do our legislation. If anyone outside feels that the legislation is wrong, that person can go to the court so that the legislation is nullified and that is one thing with the practice of democracy.

“But I believe that Nigerians at the moment need this kind of legislation.”

Sen. James Manager (PDP-Delta) said “I listened to the argument of my learned friend (Sen. Basiru) who seems to be very prepared to go against this Bill in the very fundamental Constitutional issues. 

“There is no doubt about the fact  that this agency is needed at the national level.

You can neither fault the argument of Sen. Ajibola if you also raise the constitution, provisions of the constitution to counter him, not about sentiments.

Because of the way the preparedness of Sen. 

Ajibola on this matter raising bigger issues, I will rather advice that. 

I don’t think it will be too late the establishment of this agency is so urgent, between now and Tuesday if it is not passed then there will be  food crisis in this country. My humble advice.

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