Why Buhari rejected minister’s fertiliser waiver request
Femi Ibirogba, Lagos and Joke Falaju, Abuja
Feb. 15, 2020
• Claimed Nigeria’s Deficit Was 1.5dm Tonnes • FEPSAN Says Nigeria Produces More Than Enough
President Muhammadu Buhari rejected a request by the Minister of Agriculture, Sabo Nanono, to grant an importation waiver to some fertiliser companies to import about 1.5 million metric tonnes to bridge the purported demand and supply gap because Nigeria can meet its demand, The Guardian investigation has revealed.
The minister’s claim of a deficit of 1.5million tonnes was deflated by the National Coordinator and Project Manager, TAK Continental Limited and Executive Secretary of the Fertiliser Producers and Suppliers Association of Nigeria (FEPSAN), Mr. Gideon Negedu, who told The Guardian that Nigeria has over 30 fertilizer-blending plants, with production capacity of four to five million metric tonnes yearly, adding that Nigerian farmers need about 1.0 million tonnes of NPK and 400,000 tonnes urea yearly.
He explained that five basic components of Urea, Di-ammonium Phosphate (DAP), Muriate of Potash (MOP), LSG and micro-nutrients are essential raw materials in blending fertilizer, saying of these, Nigeria has urea and LSG in abundance; hence does not need to import them, while DAP and MOP are raw materials imported for fertiliser blending from Morocco.
Negedu pointed out that there was no reason to import blended fertiliser into the country, as Nigeria is even in a position to supply fertilizer to other African countries at the moment.
The import substitution industrialisation policy of the government since the Dr. Goodluck Jonathan-led administration has de-emphasised importation of finished fertiliser into the country and the current administration has taken the policy further by encouraging more investments in blending facilities.
Similarly, National President of the Inorganic Fertiliser Manufacturers and Dealers Association, Mr. Felix Okonti, debunked the claim that the country does not have enough fertiliser to serve farmers for this year’s farming season, wondering: “How do you run a country like a mafia organisation, where selected companies are given level playing field, contrary to the Senate 2017 resolution that prohibited a selective discriminatory waiver for companies?”
He insisted on all players being given a level playing ground, adding: “If they want to give waiver or concession, it should be industry-wise and all participants must have equal opportunities.
“That claim is wrong. It is falsehood and it is a cover-up for how they want to make quick money and we don’t subscribe to it. When the Presidential Initiative on Fertilizer started, we canvassed on the need to make the whole scheme public, but they did not listen.
“These are part of the things we face. How do you plan for the practitioners without carrying them along?”
Meanwhile, a source in Abuja, who pleaded anonymity, told The Guardian that the minister never granted a waiver, because he did not have the power to do so.
“What happened was that the minister wrote to the President to grant a waiver to about seven fertiliser companies to import 1.5 million tonnes of fertiliser to bridge the demand gap, but unfortunately, the request was turned down by the President,” the source explained.
The minister was said to have been invited by the Chief of Staff to the President, Abbah Kyari, to explain why he made the request, where he explained that it was important for the country to import, pending when local production would be able to meet up with the demand.
The minister was said to have argued that the spate of insurgency in the northeast had made it difficult for farmers to have access to the farm input, as some of the components used for fertiliser production had been hijacked by the terrorist groups, who use them for explosives.
The source added: “I can confirm that there is no fertiliser in the country and raining season is coming. How will the farmers cope? The insurgency in the northeast has made it difficult for farmers in that region to have access to the farm input.”
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