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October 17, 2011

Nigeria: government probes alleged fertilizer scam



Nigeria’s ministry of agriculture is under fire over what a source in the presidency described as "inappropriate procedure" in the award of contract for the supply of fertiliser and other development programmes.

In a recent communication to the ministry, President Goodluck Jonathan expressed serious concern that "the over N98 billion expended in fertilizer" to boost agriculture this year was not properly utilized.

An insider in the presidency said the president became worried when he ordered the ministry recently to give him an update performance of this year's budget, He was shocked that the ministry may not be able to meet 70 per cent of the fertilizer requirement of the farmers this year.

According to the source, " President Jonathan had promised Nigerians that he would focus on agriculture to increase food production and storage in the country. And billions of naira was allocated to the ministry of agriculture and its parastatals in the 2011 budget. In fertilizer alone, over N98 billion was allocated for its supply to farmers; but from the ministry of agriculture's records, it is obvious that the ministry will only meet 30 per cent of the fertilizer which the federal government ordered. So, what happens to 70 percent of it?"

The source added the presidency became more worried when it discovered that,  "The pre-qualification, bidding, due process and the final award to all the successful bidders or contractors that has always been the tradition in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture was not followed. There are clear records that the ministry decided to select three companies namely, Nortore Chemicals Industries Limited, Federal Supper Phosphate Fertiliser Company and TAK Continental Limited for the supply of fertilisers", the source added.

These same companies were also given fertilizer contracts in the previous year but failed to deliver in accordance with the contract agreement.

For example, it has been gathered that Nortore Chemicals Industries Limited, as a new entrant into the business of fertiliser supply was last year awarded the contract to supply 120,000 metric tonnes of fertilizer. But the company could only supply 29,000 tonnes.

In the case of Federal Supper-Phosphate Fertiliser Company Ltd, it was awarded a contract to supply 30,000 tonnes and they could not deliver even one grain. Tak Continental limited was awarded 80,000 tonnes and the company could not also complete the supply.

The source added: "The president is not interested in who gets the contract if due process is followed, but he is deeply concerned on the issue of the commodity not reaching the farmers it is meant for. The problem is traceable to the states that use the products to satisfy political friends."   

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