The Senate, yesterday, passed a bill seeking to establish the National Food Reserve Agency for food security, despite disagreement over its powers by senators.
Before the bill was passed, senators engaged in a heated debate over the powers of the National Assembly to legislate on the establishment of the agency.
However, the bill saw the light of day when the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, ruled in favour of the proponents. The bill was passed after the red chamber considered the report of its committee on Agriculture and Rural Development chaired by Abdullahi Adamu.
In his presentation, Adamu said when established, the agency would implement the overall national food reserve policy to ensure a reliable supply of designated commodities in the country.
He said with the existence of the agency, emergency food crises would be taken care of, especially during pandemics.
“There will also be a reduction in post-harvest losses, as silos, warehouses, equipment, ancillary facilities and other suitable storage facilities will be installed and maintained,” he added.
Senator Ajibola Basiru (APC, Osun Central) had raised a constitutional matter that the National Assembly did not have the power to legislate on the establishment of the agency, citing Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution to back up his argument.
But Senator Aliyu Abdullahi (Niger North), Ibrahim Gobir (Sokoto East) and Adamu Aliero (Kebbi Central) countered his submission, arguing that the federal parliament was constitutionally empowered to legislate on matters of security and welfare of the people.
They said the agency was needed, owing to the acute insecurity across the country, which affected food production. Senator James Manager (PDP, Delta South) said though there was need for the agency due to the situation in the country, sentiments could not counter effectively the constitutional matter raised by Basiru.
He asked his colleagues to step down the consideration of the report to another legislative day. But Lawan disagreed and ruled that the red chamber should go ahead with the legislation.
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 property 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. That is one thing with the practice of democracy.”