The Senate has condemned the reduction of import duty on powdered milk by the Federal Government from 10 to five percent.
The upper legislative chamber therefore mandate its Committees on Agriculture; Finance; and Customs, Excise and Tariff to investigate the ministries, departments and agencies involved in the downward review.
Lawmakers took the resolution on Wednesday following a motion moved by Sabo Mohammed (APC, Jigawa State).
Sabo who spoke on the motion, titled ‘Urgent Need to Halt the Implementation of a New Import Duty Tariff on Powdered Milk Imported into the Country,’ wondered how the economic diversification efforts by the government could succeed if its policies were not favourable to the agricultural sector.
The Senate unanimously granted prayers of the motion to “call on the Federal Government to suspend the new tariff policy and mandate the Senate Committees on Agriculture, Finance, and Customs to invite the MDAs and all relevant stakeholders in the industry to investigate and provide a lasting solution to this important issue.”
Seconding the motion, Adamu Aliero pointed out that the motion was to protect the local industries and farmers.
He said, “Perhaps, Nigeria is the only country where this kind of recklessness is allowed. What you can produce, you stop producing it and start importing it. You lay off thousands, perhaps millions of workers, deprive yourself of foreign exchange that you should have earned by promoting what you can produce locally and export the excess.”
Also, Senate Spokesperson Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi alleged that the current administration had committed errors through its policies.
He said: “I recall that in this chamber we were worried and concerned about the flip-flop in the policies by the Federal Government. A situation where we are setting performance targets; where we are saying we want to reduce importation and be consuming what we produce and produce what we consume, I think it is counter-productive for us to now encourage massive importation of powdered milk.
“Apart from the fact that it will affect the efforts being made to develop the dairy sector, there is also the issue of the health implications because some of these powdered milk are stored for a long period and expired by the time they are brought here.
“Let us use this opportunity to look at the issue of policy summersault. I think we have had so many policy summersaults – too much to make progress in this country.”
In his remarks, Senate President Bukola Saraki, expressed concern over the policy summersault of the present administration.
“The summersault of some of these policies and their inconsistence need to be addressed. The key issue is that we must ensure that we create an enabling environment for the agricultural sector to succeed, particularly now that we are looking at the issue of the clashes between herdsmen.
“When I was chairman of a technical committee on this, we tried to increase it (the tariff) then from 10 per cent to 15 per cent. So, it comes as a shock that instead of going up, we are going down.
“I remember that then as chairman of the committee, all these foreign importers were lobbying us to suspend it. So, I know that this downward review of the tariff was due to lobbying. There is no other thing. It does not make sense. Some people would have gone to (Ministry of) Finance and the Customs and lobby this nonsense. I don’t know why we do things like this.”
OWEDE AGBAJILEKE, Abuja