The House of Representatives is to investigate all licenses granted for fish importation within the last one year, it emerged on Tuesday.
The lawmakers expressed concern over incessant issuance of fish importation licence by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, regretting that the situation is turning Nigeria into a dumping ground for fish products to the detriment of local fish farmers and economy.
This followed the adoption of a motion of urgent national importance by Jonathan Gaza (PDP, Nasarawa), who noted that there have been calls by various sections, including the National Assembly, to ban the importation of fish into the country as it has a negative effect on the economy.
The ban becomes imperative because the effect of the imported fish on the health of the Nigerian consumers cannot ascertained, since the total health status of all the fish imported into the country all the time could also not be determined, he noted.
He said the Minister of State for Agriculture during a meeting with the Ijebu Initiative on Poverty Reduction (IDIPR) in Abuja sometime in August 2017, stated the Federal Government will stop issuing fish importation quota to importers because the venture was no longer sustainable.
Deputy Speaker Lasun Yusuf (APC, Osun), who noted the importation is meant to fill the gap as a result of inability of local farmers to meet the demand of consumers, said: “We have production capacity of 1.2 million tonnes, but our need is about 4million tonnes.
“That is the gap those given licences are supposed to fill.
“As legislatives, all we can do is to talk, in the area where bills are being returned with speed of light. The executive must show the commitment”.
He called on the Federal government to subsidize the agricultural sector by a minimum of 50 percent.
On his part, Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta) said: “Is there a shortage of fish in this country? Do we have a national plan to fill this gap? This is an investigative matter.
“If demand is greater than supply, there is a shortfall and we need to investigate. When you suggest ban, it’s for local industry to thrive. This motion will unravel a lot. Policy formulation should start from the House.”
Muhammed Monguno (APC, Borno), the Chairman Committee on Agriculture, recalled that there was plan by Federal government to end importation of fish.
He said: “It is true that there is deficit in our production, hence importation. Over the years the fishery sector has been neglected by successive governments.
“It is true that licences have been given by Ministry of Agriculture, steps are being taken, as steps are taken to fill in the gap and stop importation in the next few years”.
In its resolution, the House also requested the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the Bank of Agriculture to provide incentives to local fish farmers that would boost up production.
The ad hoc Committee was given two weeks to carry out the assignment and report back for further legislative action.