BY Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
LAGOS—Alarmed by the furore over a N2.4 billion fertiliser scam currently rocking the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, yesterday, invited top officials of the ministry for questioning over their role in the controversial deal.
Those invited to the headquarters of the EFCC in Abuja for questioning were: The Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Mrs. Ibikun Odusote and other top officials of the ministry.
A top source in the commission told Vanguard that the permanent secretary and her officials were quizzed for some hours in a bid by their interrogators to unravel their roles in the fertilizer racketeering now rocking the ministry.
Though the source did not disclose the details of the interrogation, he, however, said that the ministry bigwigs “made statements before they were allowed to go.”
The source explained that the affected officials could be recalled for regular interrogation since the investigation had just begun in a bid to track down all those who aided and abetted the multi-million naira sting.
“The investigation is ongoing and if they are needed, they will definitely be invited,” an EFCC source said yesterday.
The fertiliser fraud was blown open by a petition fired by the lawyer to the Enterprise Bank Limited, Ade Okeaya-Inneh, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, against one Abubakar Musa, who is the bank’s Agric Desk Officer and three other companies: Messrs Madalla Enterprises, Ani B. Barak Nigeria Limited and Al Iman Agro Ventures Limited.
Trouble reportedly started when the bank granted loans to the three firms in April last year to purchase fertiliser for the Ministry of Agriculture and they never paid back the loan in full despite having secured the products and sold same.
The three companies are said to have received products from the Growth Enhancement Scheme that was far in excess of what they paid for.
MBS Merchant Limited, the supplier of the fertilizer allegedly claimed to have supplied the three companies with fertilizers worth N2,437,050.000 for which it only received payment of N844,700,000.00
The petitioner alleged that although the fertiliser were procured at the Federal Government subsidised rate and meant to be sold to Nigerian farmers, they were diverted to neighbouring country and sold at exorbitant rates for pecuniary reasons.
A source said that some unnamed ministry officials connived with the firms to cheat the government, which had given waivers to enable the products to be brought into the country at subsidised rate so that farmers could get them at cheaper prices and grow more food.
The EFCC operatives, it was learnt last night, are trying to establish the roles played by each of the officials of the ministry and the bank in the rip-off with a view to prosecuting the culprits.
When contacted, Wilson Uwujaren, EFCC spokesperson, confirmed the interrogation of the ministry officials but declined to give further details.
“It is true that some officials of the ministry were questioned over fertiliser-related matter but I don’t have the details,” Uwujaren said.