By Kennedy Dimaku, Abuja:
Recently, stakeholders met to deliberate on the Cassava Bread Executive Bill in Abuja. Our correspondent ran into Dr Glory Elemo, The Director General, Federal Institute for Industrial Research, Oshodi. In an exclusive interview she pointed out that cassava bread will produce three million jobs.Excerpt:
What is the significance of this cassava bread executive bill?
The significance of this is to be able to legislate into law the draft bill that is seeking for legislation into law so that we can enforce cassava inclusion in our bread. This means optimal utilization of the raw material in which Nigeria has relative advantage. We have not been able to maximally utilize it for maximum industrial development. And so, this is a very major step towards making sure that we optimally utilize our industrial raw material.
Nigeria today is not an industrialized nation, and we are not classified under industrialized nation because of the level of industrialization and innovation we have not been able to translate into commercial value.
So this is a major step in achieving vision 20:20:20 and also transformation agenda of Mr. President. Not only will we have food security, improvement in economy but is going to create jobs. You know the issue of employment and job creation is a problem to the economy right now because we have large number of graduates that are churned out into the job market on a yearly basis. So with this been legislated, you find out that the cassava value chain alone, from investigation can yield about three million jobs. So if we check each of that stuff in the value chain basis and commodity and product basis, and we set up small and medium enterprises as we are trying to do, we will be solving a major problem.
Would one be right to say that much has been said about cassava bread without commensurate physical effect on the economy?
What we have done is a major step to help see the physical effect of cassava bread on the economy. You must have policy direction and you must have strategy. We have been doing all that. We have done the R and D, we have done the total packaging and we have done all the work. All we need is the legal backing. We need policy direction and it will be a thing of the past. You will see everything taking shape immediately this bill is legislated into law. It will be straight at the milling point that the cassava will be included into the flour. And it is at this point you will see that the flour millers will now need the high quality cassava flour. And these are going to pull the processors, those who are going to produce the high quality cassava flour. And this is going to put a demand on the farmers to produce more cassava. And if you have the market, there will be a market pull. This is what we call a demand driven programme. So it is going to pull the value chain.
Do you think the lawmakers are willing to give this bill a speedy passage to enable you achieve this aim?
It is a national programme. It is a national objective that is going to move this country to another level because of its transformative effect on the nation: job creation, foreign exchange savings. So, I do not doubt the integrity of members of the National Assembly to legislate this bill into law because it is for posterity. And posterity will judge all of us. We have seen the benefits. I do not have any doubts or anxiety that this time around, with all the work we have done, that the honourable members will passé it into law.
Don’t you envisage any sabotage on the process?
I do not envisage that. Once it has kick started and there will be market, even we Nigerians are very dynamic. Just give us the direction and you will be amazed what it can turn around, and I believe very much in Nigerians. If the market is there, it is going to pull the value chain automatically. When there is a market and there is supply link, the rest of the chain will fit in.
Your advice for Nigerians on Cassava bread?
I want to appeal to Nigerians that they should leave sentiment out of a laudable programme such as this. They should all buy into this programme especially as it begins to assist the country in terms of job creation and employment for our teeming graduates and we should be prod of our country. We should be proud of what we are endowed with. We should be able to use all our local materials that God has given us to project the country into an industrialized nation. We should be proud of Nigeria and patronize made in Nigeria products.