President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the deployment of operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to check fraudulent activities undermining the implementation of the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI).
This directive was communicated via an internal memo by the chief of staff to the president, Ibrahim Gambari, on Tuesday.
“Kindly note that Mr president has directed the deployment of EFCC operatives to work with the Fertilizer Producers and Suppliers Association of Nigeria (FEPSAN) monitoring team to control all criminal activities undermining the implementation of the PFI,” Mr Gambari said, according to the letter exclusively obtained by PREMIUM TIMES said.
He warned that the president has also “approved the removal of any participating blending plant from the PFI if found to be in contravention of the guidelines governing the program.”
Following reports of fertilizer diversion by two major blending plants under the PFI programme, a source familiar with the president’s sudden move said it is a necessary measure needed to curb such dubious acts.
Diversion of fertilizers
Nigeria’s drive to boost agriculture and food production has in part been undermined by the lack of fertiliser. A government effort to increase the supply and reduce cost of fertilisers has in some cases been hijacked by middlemen whose activities ensure farmers do not have the products or pay the government-approved rates for them.
According to the 2019 financial statements of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), despite the best efforts by all parties concerned to forestall stock loss and ensure raw material inputs translate to output for domestic production of NPK 20:10:10, a brand of fertilizer, some incidents of unauthorised lifting of the product was discovered at Bauchi Fertilizer Company and Bejafta Group Nigeria Limited.
The NSIA said the development was escalated to the security agencies for investigation, and that the blending plants involved in the fraud were delisted from participating in the 2020 PFI until the amounts owed, in the sum of ₦600 million and ₦1.031 billion by Bauchi Fertilizer Company and Bejafta Group Nigeria Limited respectively, were fully settled.
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The NSIA in the statement noted that in line with the relevant accounting standards, the full amount of ₦1.6 billion has been recorded as inventory loss in the financial statements and charged to the income statement.
The investment institution, which is saddled with the mandate of managing Nigeria’s sovereign wealth fund, said it was able to detect diverted stock because its system is being audited intermittently.
The Bauchi Fertilizer Company was said to have completed payment for all the diverted products, while Bejafta Group Nigeria Limited have not completed their payment.