Saturday, January 2, 2016

Nigeria needs to stop destroying hemp – Experts

By Afeez Hanafi

Destroyed cannabis farm

The public destruction of hemp plant by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency is denying the country the opportunity to make billions of naira annually from the plant, experts have said.
The NDLEA puts the street value of hemp plant and ‘dried’ cannabis destroyed in the last four years at over N1.5trn.
While the burnt cannabis farms are estimated at N987bn, dried weeds stand at N546bn during the years.
Industrial and renewable energy experts in Nigeria, however, say that rather than setting the drug of such whopping value and volume ablaze, the authorities should explore ways of using the plant for other purposes that can contribute to the country’s revenue.
For instance, it has been said that an acre of hemp will produce as much paper as two to three acres of paper making trees and that all types of paper products can be produced from hemp (
 “The quality of hemp paper is superior to tree-based paper. Hemp paper will last hundreds of years without degrading, can be recycled many more times than tree-based paper, and requires less toxic chemicals in the manufacturing process than does paper made from trees,” the website adds.
Professor Oluwadare Olufemi of the Department of Forestry Resources Management, University of Ibadan, says the government is losing billions of naira to the non-utilisation of cannabis for pulp, which is used in paper production, including currency paper.
He says Nigeria imports about N600bn worth of paper annually, material which can be produced in the country with necessary technologies on the ground.
He urges the government to tap into the economic benefits of the plant, with particular focus on regulatory measures.
He says, “Cannabis is a very good fibre for paper making, but because of the abuse of the plant, it is not encouraged here in Nigeria for commercial plantation. If such is going to be done, it means the government must have control over the plantation and those who are planting it. In fact, cannabis is one of the specialty plants that could be used for non-wood fibre material. Its fibre is very good and it could be used to produce specialty paper like currency paper.
“With the current cost of pulp in the global market, Nigeria will earn a lot. If we look at it holistically, a metric tonne (1,000 kilogrammes) of pulp from cannabis is worth as much as $500 in the global market. We have the resources to make Nigeria a net exporter of pulp. So, it is left for the government to develop the sector. And if Nigeria paper industries are well developed, they can compete favourably well with the oil and gas sector. It can generate over 500,000 jobs.
“When we look at it downstream, paper making is a money spinning sector that Nigeria is actually yet to go into. It is unfortunate that we have to be importing papers from smaller countries. Nigeria paper industry is one of the largest in Africa, but presently is not working.
“The major thing is, as big as Nigeria is with over 150 million people, we don’t have any viable centre for research. We need a research centre and from there, we can take off and explore materials that we have. Tentatively, Nigeria imports N600bn paper yearly because 95 per cent of various papers – including currency, cardboard papers and the one used in our schools are all imported. The paper mill at Jebba is making use of secondary fibre – recycled waste papers.”
Also, a Professor of Economics in University of Ibadan and Director Centre for Petroleum Energy, Economics and Law, Adeola Adenikinju, says it is time the government looked beyond the destruction of the plant.
Adenikinju says the need to explore cannabis was incumbent as farmers continued to grow it despite the clampdown on the drug by government agencies.
“The first issue is the purpose of the current production of cannabis. Basically, it is for consumption of those who want to abuse it for some personal reasons and I think that is why the government is trying to curtail that. Again, studies have shown a link between drug and anti-social behaviours which we cannot be ignored,” he says.
“The second issue is in what ways can government intervene to ensure that it is, used for economic benefits? There are some countries that have been able to positively utilise this drug for other purposes that are beneficial to the society. We need to look at how they are doing it so that it can be used to provide jobs for farmers growing it in Nigeria, while at the same time keeping close watch on those who may want to use it for anti-social behaviour.
“In US, they use cannabis for medicine. In Europe, some countries have relaxed seizure of marijuana. In Colarado for instance, doctors prescribe it for patients who are suffering from pains. As a country, there must be a strategy because when there is a demand for a product, it means there is law of demand and supply at work.
“There is a demand for it and that is why people are growing it and as long as that demand is there, people will continue to grow it no matter what government tries to do. Therefore, a more positive approach will be to see how social benefits can be derived from it.
“The crop can be used as feedstock in the energy sector. It will be a very good source to solve part of the energy problems in the country.”
Energy and environmental expert, Lawal Gada, who is the Director, Greenado International Limited, also decries the burning of the plant, saying it translated into destruction of what could have been a source of revenue for the country.
He says, “Obviously cannabis is an organic product. It is a biodegradable material which can be dried and converted into briquette. It can also be processed into bio ethanol and used for biofuel or converted to manual for road construction instead of burning it and polluting the environment. The government is not using a suitable approach.
“In fact, as an organic material, it can be ground to produce chips and sawdust in making tables and cabinets. It can be used to produce anything that wood can be used for. If you look at some tables, inside them are chips while some other material is used to cover them. Alternatively, the government can reach out to the countries that legalise it and be exporting it to earn income. It can be traded with those countries.”

No comments:

Post a Comment