Farmers across the country have been urged to embrace Federal Government’s whistle blowing policy in agriculture by exposing any agro dealer trying to sell government’s fertiliser above the approved price of N5,500. Taiwo Hassan reports
When the Federal Government announced the whistle blowing policy as part of its arrangement to track the country’s stolen wealth, many Nigerians doubted its success.
However, months after the policy was put in place, stunning revelations have emerged over discoveries of large amount of monies both in local and foreign currencies in some parts of the country.
The policy, so far, has also divided Nigerians, who are still doubtful over the intention of the current administration under President Muhammadu Buhari. Particularly, there is a school of thought that sees the policyas being politically motivated to score some cheap political points, while others laud government for introducing the policy. However, the wave of whistle blowing is fast spreading across other sectors of the economy, including agriculture.
When the Federal Government announced a slash in the prices of fertiliser nationwide early this year, the idea was targeted at boosting food production and food security in the country. Recall that in the past, the country’s quest for food security was under threat following numerous challenges in the fertiliser industry despite the fact that Nigeria consumes below 30kg per hectare of fertiliser.
However, the renewed effort by government to boost agriculture with the hope of achieving self-sufficiency in food production necessitated the prices slash for farmers in a bid to increase farm outputs and productivity.
In addition, it would also guarantee an improvement in the use of fertiliser in Nigeria. The Federal Government said that it had reduced the price of Nitrogen Phosphorus and Potassium (NPK) fertiliser from N7,500 and N9,000 to N5,000 per bag.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, while addressing journalists in Abuja at an event, said that the exercise was aimed at making food production easier and enhanced profit for farmers in the country.
He explained that the government had taken delivery of the first shipment of 800,000 tonnes of NPK fertiliser from Morocco on January 27, adding that the blending would take place in all parts of the country to enable farmers have access to fertiliser at a very low cost.
“We expect the first shipment of phosphate from Morocco to arrive on Friday (January 27) in Lagos and then the blending will be done here. We want to ensure that every blender in the country who has the capacity will blend and even those that their machines are not in order are going to be supported in this exercise,’’ Ogbeh had said.
Indeed, the minister expressed concerns about neighbouring countries that depend on Nigeria for fertilisers and gave assurance to Nigerian farmers that government would ensure that the fertilisers go round, despite demands from these countries. Just as the Federal Government was trying to ensure prompt security of fertiliser for farmers in the country, hoarders and some middlemen in the sector struck to hijack the fertiliser sales for their selfish interest.
However, in order to forestall and stop this unwholesome practice, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Fertiliser Producers and Suppliers Association of Nigeria (FEPSAN), Ibrahim Shehu Birma, said in an interview, that a bag of government’s fertiliser now had an inscription ‘FGN’, price tag of N5,500 on it as well as telephone numbers with which the farmers can blow the whistle.
Birma, who is also the chairman of Superphosphate Fertiliser and Chemical Limited in Kaduna, said the market would soon be flooded with the commodity as his association had received enough raw materials such as phosphate shipped from Morocco, urea, DAP and MOP from the Federal Government to blend enough of the commodity.
He said the association was targeting one million metric tonnes to be produced as against about 700,000 metric tonnes of the nation’s current demand, adding that with the massive supply, issues of adulterated fertiliser in circulation would be checked as it would no longer be attractive.
On concerns raised by the agro dealers over transportation of the commodity nationwide, Birma said the dealers were to buy a bag of the commodity at N5,000 and resell at N5,500 to cover the transportation fare as well as their marginal gain.
He said there was nothing less than nine blending centres evenly spread across the country, where the authorised agro dealers can pick up the number of fertiliser they paid for.
Brima said FESPSAN was collaborating with the relevant security agencies, especially the office of the National Security Adviser, for easy movement of the urea fertiliser because of its security implication.
He commended the Federal Government for taking bold steps to address the long time issues surrounding fertiliser distribution in the country, noting that if the current tempo was sustained, by next year, problems associated with fertiliser distribution and affordability would be finally addressed.
Fertiliser remains one of the major agricultural inputs, which farmers depend on for increased yield, but sharp practices in the sector is a concern for government and stakeholders. So, the whistle blowing policy is necessary to standardise pricing.