…..As House of Reps Mandates relevant Authorities to ensure resuscitation
By Aluu Vincent
Hope has finally come the way of Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research, Oruk Anam Substation as House of Representatives at Thursday’s plenary directed the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research NIFOR Headquarters to come out with a blue print to reactivate the NIFOR substation at Oruk Anam local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
This followed a motion brought before the House by the Member Representing Ukanafun/ Oruk Anam federal Constituency, Hon. Unyime Idem on the urgent need to revamp the NIFOR sub station.
Hon. Idem in the motion stressed the importance of the resuscitation of NIFOR sub station, arguing that apart from guaranteeing food security, it will create job and wealth for the youths, generate foreign exchange for Nigeria and provide raw materials for industries.
The National Assembly Man drew the attention of his colleagues to the plight of the 72 year old sub-station that was the cynosure of all eyes in the late 40s but has been left to rot away owing to neglect, poor funding and vandalism. The sub-station which is second only to the NIFOR headquarters in Benin, Edo State, played host to Malaysian delegates who collected palm seedlings from the sub-station to their home country. While Malaysia today is the second world largest producer of palm oil, NIFOR Oruk Anam is a shadow of its former self.
Presenting the motion, Hon. Idem said, “Mr. Speaker, Honourable Colleagues, my Federal Constituency was blessed with a NIFOR substation in 1946 and it started operations in 1947, as a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The massive money-spinning facility houses an oil palm processing mill, palm wine bottling mill and a host of plantations. It was sited in my area due to its advantageous terrain and prevalence of palm and coconut plantations. The substation which spans across seven communities sits on a 286 hectares of land donated by these communities to the federal government so as to attract development to the area. Interestingly, Mr. Speaker and distinguished colleagues, it is on record that in 1960, visiting Malaysian agricultural experts collected and cross pollinated oil palm seedlings in Ikot Okpong, one of the host communities of the substation in my constituency before transporting them to their country. Regrettably, while Malaysia is today the world’s second biggest producer and exporter of oil palm in the world after Indonesia, the Oruk Anam substation, the trail blazer has not only become a shadow of its former self but is also, is in a sorry and retrogressive state”
Hon. Idem further said Nigeria was the largest producer of palm oil in the world accounting for 40% of global output of the production. At independence in 1960, Nigeria controlled 43% of the global output and raked in 82% of its national export revenue from palm oil.
The telecoms mogul turned parliamentarian revealed that from the number one position, Nigeria’s production level took a dive to 7% in the 1990s. He also said currently the country has a world share of 1.57%, approximately 970,000 metric tonnes with Indonesia leading with 33 million metric tonnes with Malaysia as second with 19.8 million metric tonnes.
He regretted that from the world exporter, Nigeria has become a major importer of the product with yearly demand put at 2.7 million metric tonnes stating that according to Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) 2017 Report, Nigeria imported 450,000 tonnes of palm oil worth 116.3 billion Naira which has grossly affected local production, negatively impacted local oil palm industry and depleted the nation’s foreign reserve.
Mr Idem while presenting the dilapidated state of infrastructure at the Akwa Ibom NIFOR sub-station at Oruk Anam on the floor of the house said that in spite of consistent budgetary allocation, his constituents who currently work at the sub-station earn a paltry sum of 4,000 naira monthly.
Thursday’s plenary presided over by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila unanimously mandated the Ministry of Rural Development and Federal Roads Maintenance Agency FERMA to carry out remedial works on the access road to the NIFOR sub-station at Oruk Anam. The House also urged the Nigerian Customs Authority and other relevant agencies of government to strictly enforce the law on the importation of Palm Oil to boost local production and protect local industries. The Representatives called on the government to adhere to federal character principle and appoint an indigene on the Board and management of NIFOR.
Recall that a fortnight ago, Mr Unyime Idem had undertaken an unscheduled inspection to the NIFOR Sub-station at Oruk Anam where he promised to present the matter on the floor of the National Assembly for necessary actions. This is one of the ways Hon. Idem plans to ensure that his people are given adequate and robust representation. There is no doubt that this is the right step in the right direction as motions and bills of this magnitude are underway.