In the course of his Democracy Day address to the nation on Monday, Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo talked about the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative which he described as the “product of an unprecedented bilateral cooperation with the Government of Morocco that has resulted in the revitalisation of 11 blending plants across the country, the creation of 50,000 direct and indirect jobs so far, and in the production of 300,000 metric tonnes of NPK fertilizer, which is being sold to farmers at prices significantly lower than what they paid last year” and I didn’t know what he was talking about.
It says so much about this administration that prominent All Progressives Congress (APC) politicians, on both the executive and the legislative sides, whose opinions I sought also had no clue.
Only my friend, Waziri Adio, the NEITI Executive Secretary, had a vague idea because, as he explained, he met one of the beneficiaries two weeks ago while adding that the National Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) is involved.
Out of curiousity, I called the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) Managing Director, Mr Uche Orji, who then explained to me what could actually be a catalyst for the much-talked-about diversification of our economy from oil to agriculture.
The Fertilizer Initiative, I understand from my interaction with Orji, started with a question posed by President Buhari at a meeting where he asked if there were methods that could be adopted to make farmers receive Fertilizer on time and at a reasonable price.
To address this question, the Fertilizer Producers and Suppliers Association of Nigeria (FEPSAN) provided a concept which invoked a partnership with Office Cherifiendes Phosphates (OCP) of Morocco and when Buhari visited the country early last year, he started the discussion that culminated in a final agreement last December.
With the design and finance driven by the NSIA, a presidential committee chaired by the governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Mohammed Badaru Abubakar worked on the final details.
The basic idea is to import 35 percent of the raw materials for Fertilizer which is di-ammonium phosphate from Morocco’s OCP and Potash from European traders while using 65 percent local content which are Urea from Indorama and limestone granules produced in Okpella, Edo state to blend.
The fertilizer initiative not only provides a sure
pathway for ensuring food security & economic
diversification for our country, it is perhaps our
best bet for massive job creation
Since most of the domestic blending plants had over the years become moribund, the NSIA entered into agreements with them for blending at a fixed margin on behalf of the agro-allied dealers with the state governments expected to pick up from the plants and sell to the people.
It was from this arrangement that 10 hitherto comatose blending plants were revived to participate in the programme. That was what Osinbajo was talking about in his speech.
Meanwhile, the NSIA also entered into a contract with logistics and transport companies to move the materials from Lagos port for the imported materials and from Port Harcourt and Edo for the local content.
Yet, the factory price is N5000 and the retail price is N5500, making fertilizer, essentially produced in Nigeria, very competitive and affordable with all the multiplier effects for the economy and social order.
What this means is that we will do away with subsidy and the corruption associated with it in the fertilizer regime.
And this is a solid achievement that should be well-projected by a government that only thrives in hollow propaganda.
Beyond that, if there is any lesson to learn from a country like Netherlands, with a land mass of 41,543 sq. km (far smaller in size than Niger State which is 76,363 sq. km) and a population of 16 million people, it is that we should take agriculture much more seriously.
In the year just ended (2016) for instance, the country earned US$105 billion from agriculture exports whereas, the best we have ever realised from oil sales in any year remains US$99 billion, and that was at the peak of the oil boom in 2011.
Therefore, the fertilizer initiative not only provides a sure pathway for ensuring food security and economic diversification for our country, it is perhaps our best bet for massive job creation–from drivers to blenders to bagging staff to labourers to technical staff etc.
Against the background that the same programme can be used in grain and silo management as well as in petroleum products, the NSIA has provided a good platform for the Buhari administration in its efforts to revive and reposition the economy.
It is commendable.