The Minister of State for Agriculture, Heineken Lokpobri, has said that there was no law banning importation of maize into the country.
He made this known when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development in Abuja.
While responding to questions on why maize importation was being allowed into the country, Mr. Lokpobri said it might not be unconnected with three million metric tonnes deficit the nation suffered from its local production last year.
He noted that importation of the food item was not among the 41 others banned.
On his part, the representative of the Comptroller General of Customs, Aminu Dan Galadima, informed the committee that maize importation was not illegal.
According to him N500 million was realised as import duties from it in Port Harcourt alone this year.
Also speaking a Deputy Director in the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Olukayode Oluwole, while answering questions from the chairman of the committee, said:
“I am not competent to give reasons on how importers of maize get foreign exchange from CBN to import millions of metric tonnes of maize into the country at the detriment of local farmers.”
Upset by his response, the chairman of the committee, Abdullahi Adamu asked whether his declaration of incompetence be put on record since he was appearing as a representative of the governor of the bank, he said, “yes”.
“I know that my submissions before this committee are on record since you have already put me on oath.
“I can give you sufficient answers to any question raised on Anchor Borrowers Program on rice which has covered 31 States of the federation with its attendant gains and benefits,” Mr. Oluwole said.
Apparently annoyed with his submission, the committee chairman and members told him to withdraw from making any presentation on behalf of the bank since he had declared himself incompetent.
“In the first place you were not the one officially invited by this committee for this investigative hearing but the CBN Governor whom you have not in any way represented well here on account of being incompetent as owned up by you.
“On account of this, this committee advises you to withdraw completely from any form of representation on behalf of the apex bank”, said the committee chairman.
In a related development, the President, Maize Association of Nigeria (MAN), Alhaji Bello Abubakar-Funtua, has called on the Federal Government to ban importation of maize into the country to boost local production.
Abubakar-Funtua made the call while addressing a news conference in Kano on Wednesday
He said the call was necessary in order to encourage farmers to produce the commodity locally and boost food production in the country.
“There is urgent need to effect measures aimed at stopping importation of maize into the country for local production of the commodity to be realistic,” he said.
According to him, if the Federal Government allows the importation of the commodity to continue, it will discourage farmers from the business.
He said massive importation of the commodity would crash its price at the detriment of local producers which at the end could send them out of business.
“The present administration under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has stressed the need for Nigerians to go back to farming to ensure massive food production. “This will also reduce poverty among unemployed youths and improve the living standard of the people.”
He said the priority attention accorded to local production by farmers would be counterproductive if the Federal Government allowed the importation of the commodity to continue.
“Farmers producing maize locally will find it difficult to make any profit out of the business.’’
He noted that the only way local producers could be encouraged to sustain the tempo of producing maize locally was to allow them decide the fate of the commodity at local markets.
“When this happens, the Federal Government is at liberty to introduce a price regime that will be acceptable to both the farmers and consumers.“