It was a bill that would have led to the local production of cassava on a massive scale. We are talking of the Executive Bill on cassava that met a cold reception in the House of Representatives last week. The bill had sought for the mandatory inclusion of cassava in the production of all kinds of flour in Nigeria. It comes on the heel of recent publicity given to the promotion of cassava bread. Not a few had seen President Goodluck Jonathan and some of his aides in newspapers and television footage as they take a bite of the new bread produced by the UTC. Thus it is not surprising that the presidency is pushing for a law that will further boost this local initiative. However, in pushing this law, did the government consult the owners of the flourmills? The implementation of such a project will require the retooling of their plants.
Furthermore, how many tonnes of cassava will be needed yearly to meet the needs of these mills? Do not forget that cassava products are common staples locally. Anyway, this is not the first time moves would be made by the federal government to encourage the local production of cassava bread. Why did it fail to fly earlier? And what killed the effort made by President Olusegun Obasanjo to encourage the mass cultivation of cassava for the export market? There is no doubt that if cassava bread becomes a national staple, its ripple effect will create new jobs in the agriculture sector. What is not too clear in the latest effort is whether enough consultation has been done to ensure that this time around this effort is for real. For an Executive Bill, it is amusing that it was a member of the ruling party that riddled it with holes before it was rejected by the House. Although Peter Edeh’s claim that 30 to 40 per cent of Nigerians are diabetic, a condition which will be further complicated if they are forced to eat cassava bread, is alarming. If that percentage of Nigerians is diabetic, then the minister of health is not doing his job. Beyond that, however, a bill from the Executive in the national interest should carry some real weight. Thus ever before it gets to the National Assembly, the heavyweights of the two chambers should have been given advance notice and lobbied to ensure its passage. This bill on cassava bread has been treated with levity on all sides. Though it is labelled as coming from the Executive, it has no presidential weight behind it. That is why it ended up in the trash bin.