Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), Mr Uche Orji has said that the careful and committed implementation of the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI) by the Federal Government of Nigeria, in partnership with the Fertilizer Producers and Suppliers Association of Nigeria (FEPSAN) has totally eliminated the conduits in fertilizer subsidy programmes through which previous governments was defrauded of billions of naira annually.
Orji, who spoke in Abuja over the weekend, also noted that the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative has also significantly improved the quality of fertilizer available for Nigerian farmers, a development, he said, has also helped improve yield, thereby increasing the income of agro businesses.
He said that the PFI programme has been the biggest single investment of the Sovereign Wealth Fund adding that if sustained, the country was on a sure path towards food security.
“This is single biggest investment the NSIA has ever made, but I am glad to report that it has been successful. In one singular action, the fraud in the fertilizer distribution programme of the government has been eliminated from the system because, eliminating subsidy along the line. There is no subsidy in the current programme. In the past, the subsidy was a conduit where someone would sweep all the money and pretended to have imported fertilizer, when there was really nothing but this PFI programme has changed it all,” he stated.
He revealed that through the PFI scheme, fertilizer has become available and affordable, saying that with increased capacity utilization and opening of new blending plants in different parts of the country, the Federal Government was sure to achieve its target of food security, thereby saving billions of naira that would have gone into importation and its associated leakages.
“Fertilizer was available at less than 50% of the price a year before. It was N11000 a bag and we were selling to the end market N5,000. So, we have already cut the price for almost 50%. Secondly, we have sold the highest quantity of fertilizer ever distributed through a government programme. The year before was less than two hundred thousand tones sold but we did five hundred thousand metric tons for 2017. There is abundance and it is cheap,” the NSIA CEO said.
He observed that with the programme, price of staples like rice and maize had dropped while hitherto moribund blending plants are working at full capacity, a development he said, has also helped create employment opportunities along various layers of the value chain.
“These 11 blending plants were shutdown or moribund before this programme but now, they are working and employing people. Over 50,000 direct jobs and over 200,000 indirect jobs have been created in this country and these are significant values to the economy. But the most important thing is we are able to deliver good quality fertilizer because quality control is taken very seriously and directly supervised and monitored by us,” he continued.
Orji said President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to ensuring the development of the agricultural sector as a critical plant for employment generation and food security, expressing the hope that with the quick successes recorded in the PFI programme, a new vista for successful public-private partnerships for national development may have been dawned in the country.
“We started with 12 blending plants but we want to get to 20 blending plants and from there to 30 blending plants, in which case it now becomes an industry of its own. My hope is that public private partnership should get to a point whereby the private sector is also strong in itself, growing towards becoming self-sustaining,” he said.