BY GABRIEL EWEPU
ABUJA—THE Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development yesterday denied any involvement in the alleged N2.4 billion fertiliser scam, following recent invitation of the Permanent Secretary, Ibukun Odusote, and three directors by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Addressing journalists in Abuja, Odusote said there was no basis for the claims made to tarnish the image of the ministry as far as transparency was concerned.
She maintained that since the current leadership of the ministry came on board, the fertiliser mess was cleared in less than 90 days, culminating in the electronic registration of 10 million farmers across the country.
Odusote said: “We are not involved at any point at all in fertiliser purchase and sale because government officials are not in the process.
“It is important to clear this that the Ministry of Agriculture is no longer involved in the business of fertiliser, and it cannot be true that we have any business with the alleged N2. 4 billion fertiliser scam.
“I was at EFCC last week and was to make clear about the alleged N2.4 billion. What the EFCC wanted was to confirm whether we have actually paid them and we confirmed that we have not paid them.
“We have not paid because we needed to clear all that needs to be cleared. We are clear with our system and have received advice on how we will pay but only on the basis of what we have.
“The EFCC said we should pay what we are owing the agro-dealers, which is the N844, 700 million and it has been agreed that is what we will pay, and we have started paying them the money.
“I don’t know any agro-dealer because there are so many of them, like this ones they are in Taraba State, and they are at the states’ various redemption centres, and I don’t go there, and how could I have connived with them.
“There are people who have ribbed the government in the past are not happy with the transparency mechanism put in placein the process of fertiliser distribution, and are fighting it.”
However, Ibukun said there was an intended fraud by three agro-dealers, who borrowed money from their banks, with whom they had issues.
“On the side of the three companies, Madalla Enterprises, Ani B. Barak Nigeria Limited and Al Iman Agro Ventures Limited who are agro-dealers presented their claims for what I said will be the 50 per cent of government subsidy we discovered that the quantity of fertiliser they gave out to farmers did not match what our system tells us they presented.
“They presented a certificate to Enterprise Bank which indicated that N1, 320, 228, 375 billion and purportedly they wanted us to pay them, but based on what we supplied discovered that what they are to be paid is N844, 700 million worth of fertiliser.
“We say we are not going to pay N490, 684, 675, which was the difference and they wanted to defraud the government.
“We decided that we will not pay until they confirm to us on how they came about this figure, and we don’t know anything happening in the bank. We trust our system because it gives the right information you require.
“As a result of that we stepped down their payments, and also raised an alarm that something fishy was happening here that these people are claiming this but this is what our system says. In raising the alarm the bank also raised the alarm and probably raised with EFCC,” Ibukun stated.