By Jimoh Babatunde & Gabriel Ewepu
Fertilizer suppliers who participated under the Federal ministry of Agriculture’s Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (GESS) are appealing to the government to redeem the N52 billion (Fifty Two Billion Naira) being the subsidy portion they are being owed by both the Federal and State Governments. The Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (GESS) is a Federal government initiative to actualise the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA). It is also aimed at subsidising the costs of major agricultural inputs, such as fertiliser and seedlings for farmers.
Based on the GESS policy, the Federal and State Governments equally contribute the balance of 50 per cent being the approved subsidy amount for onward payment to participating inputs (fertilizer) suppliers.
All participating states gave a irrevocable Standing Order for their portion (25%) of the Subsidy amount to be deducted directly from their Statutory Monthly Allocation from the Federation Account as due.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development (FMARD), as the Agency in-charge of the administration of the program has the responsibility of coordinating, managing and effecting the payment of the subsidy to all participating inputs supplier companies.
GES soon became the flagship of the out-going government as it became the barometer to gauge the policy achievements of the government as the program had within the first two seasons succeeded in deploying a massive fertilizer distribution network which effectively delivered the product to the door steps of Nigerian farmers, irrespective of their location in Nigeria.
But, those who contributed to the programme’ s success, Farm Inputs Suppliers Association of Nigeria (FUISAN ), said this is not the best of time for them as their businesses are completely prostrate due to non payment of their outstanding by the government . Speaking on behalf of the group, Barrister. Moses Itie said there is no redemption in sight as all entreaties to the relevant authorities for the payment of the government’s portion of the subsidy has fallen on deaf ears.
“The Wet season, 2014 GES program ended in August /September & the Dry season, 2014/2015 has ended since January 2015. The amount outstanding to date, being the subsidy portion of Federal and State Governments for which payment is yet to be paid to fertilizer suppliers is about N52 billion (Fifty Two Billion Naira).
“The past nine months have witnessed series of meetings and promises of payment by the appropriate officials of the FMARD, ranging from the Minister of Agriculture, the Permanent Secretary and up to Directors in the Ministry; all to no avail. The harrowing experiences of these fertilizer suppliers in the hands of their financier (bankers) are better imagined and coupled with the devaluation of the Naira.”
Itie said that the fertilizer stock inventory for the suppliers is bad as their lines for importation transactions have been blocked or completely de-listed by their banks. “Our members do not have hope or resources to replenish their stocks of fertilizer for sale to farmers for the 2015 planting season.”
He added “now the rains are here and it should signal the beginning of the planting season. Farmers have begun to request for fertilizer which are nowhere in stock. Fraudulent elements have cashed in on this situation to scuttle this laudable programme. The Secretary of FUISAN noted that the government is not emboldened to flag off the 2015 Wet Season GESS program because it has not paid for fertilizer supplied more than a year ago.
While noting that the supplier companies feel terribly short-changed and left in the cold by the government, Itie said they see an undeserved ill-treatment by the government which not only catches cold whenever Petroleum Products Marketers sneeze, but has continued to pay hundreds of billions of Naira as fuel subsidy to the latter body almost every other week.
With the winding down of the present administration and its refusal and failure to pay their portion (50%) of the subsidy (N52 Billion), there is apprehension if the nation will survive the looming food (shortage)crisis which will result from non availability, unwillingness and lack of capacity to supply the farmers with farm inputs.
President Goodluck Jonathan administration’s refusal to pay for fertilizer supplied since 2014 for the GESS program, is an act which has rendered it impracticable for operators in the sub sector to continue in business. Meanwhile, the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Architect Sonny Echono, who attributed the delay in payment to the dwindling revenue of the government, has assured payment to agro-allied contractors .
While Echono explained the process of payment, he noted that it was the first time the government has defaulted in paying contractors under the scheme adding it was not deliberate as government was making all effort to pay them before May 29 pending when funds will be made available.
“We have been following up on sourcing this funds and we are expecting that a breakthrough in terms of approval, because the President has been gracious by granting approval but the source of the funds and the accumulation of revenue that have delayed the disbursement. But God willing within the next few days we will commence, though in a graduated scale.
“We made them undergo a revalidation exercise and we have completed the process, and what we are waiting is the release of funds. Government is committed to it and we have a breakthrough now which will allow us commence payment very quickly.”