The president launched the cassava bread campaign early this year at the State House, publicly announcing his choice for the bread and encouraging Nigerians and administration officials to adopt the variety as a boost for cassava production and a comatose agricultural sector.
Broad production of the flour would save Nigeria N250 billion in foreign exchange from reduced import of wheat and wheat flour, Agric minister, Adewunmi Adesina, said recently.
The bill “for an act to provide for the mandatory inclusion of cassava in the production of all flour in Nigeria and for other matters connected therewith”, introduced by the Ministry of Agriculture, if approved by the lawmakers, would have represented the biggest gain yet for the presidential initiative.
Lawmakers rose against the passage and defeated attempts to allow the bill a second reading.
Sponsors of the bill had argued that cassava was produced in large quantities in the country and with the President Jonathan's initiative on cassava bread; it was necessary the National Assembly enacted a law to criminalize its exclusion from flour products.
Peter Edeh (PDP, Edo) who led the opposition against the bill argued that compelling manufacturers of flour to include cassava would amount to compelling Nigerians to eat products that may be injurious to their health.
“Thirty to 40 Nigerians are diabetic and it will be unfair to compel them to eat cassava products since most diabetic patients are barred from consuming foods such as cassava,” he said.
“It will be impinging on people’s rights and endangering their lives to compulsorily include cassava in what they eat.”
Majority of members on the floor kicked against the proposal and advised the government to rather find ways of enhancing the exportation of cassava instead of forcing people to consume it.