By Johnbosco Agbakwuru

President Muhammadu Buhari, Friday stated that the era of diversion of fertilizer was over, lamenting that in previous administrations, trucks conveying fertilizer miraculously disappeared in transit.

President Muhammadu Buhari

He also directed security agencies to protect the movement of all agricultural goods to avoid diversion.

This is as the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative, PFI, has promised to increase its production to one million tons this year from the five hundred thousand tons produced in 2017

President Buhari stated this on Friday when he received members of the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative at the presidential Villa, Abuja.

According to him, “Unlike in previous Governments where trucks conveying fertiliser would miraculously disappear in transit, in 2017, none of the three thousand, three hundred and thirty three (3,333) trucks that participated in this program went missing.

“I want to assure all participants of the PFI that, we will continue to provide adequate security so that this program, and its positive impact on Nigeria, is sustained.”

He said that he had been monitoring closely the progress made by the PFI and had heard stories of sacrifices, where all the stake holders agreed that collective progress superseded personal interest.

President Buhari commended Governor Abubarka Badaru of Jigawa State who he said, “virtually relocated to Abuja to oversee the successful take off of this project.”

He said he was impressed by the commitment of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) to the project especially as they moved away from their comfort zone and pushed their capital into the rural economy.

He said, “I always talk about the endless opportunities in the rural economy if only people would look with an open mind. I will urge you to continue on this track. Unless we create an inclusive and diversified economy, the progress of our country, and its future generations, will always be held hostage by external factors such as global oil prices.”

He further thanked three commercial banks, adding, “I was told by my Chief of Staff that when this project started, over 15 banks were asked to participate. But only three of you answered this call. I want to ask you to continue to support the PFI expansion plans presented today. Government will continue to work and provide the enabling environment.

“We are all aware of the great partnership between the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and State Governors to ensure Nigeria feeds itself. I want to encourage you to continue on this track.

“Specifically, you must all support programs like the PFI and work together to ensure we never return to the dark days of import dependence. I am pleased to hear that already, the CBN is working with the commercial banks on programs that will further expand and enhance the PFI.”

He said that the PFI should do everything possible to ensure that fertilizer was readily available especially as rains were around and farmers in the Southern part of the country will be planting soon.

He also directed the Ministry of Finance and NSIA to immediately engage the Governors Forum to conclude their orders, while the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development should conclude the planning for all Government programs for the 2018 season to ensure synergy.

Besides, he told the CBN working with the commercial banks to ensure affordable capital was available to the farmers and agro dealers and also told the NPA to provide all the necessary support required to expedite the offloading and evacuation of the imported materials.

President Buhari advised NSIA and FEPSAN, to ensure quality and affordable fertilizer was available to farmers at the right time.

Speaking to the State House correspondents after the meeting, Governor Badaru said that in the expansion started, they were intending to build one million tons this year in addition to the 500,000 tonnes they had last year, and that they were bring eleven more blending plants into production.

But he said that it was not going to crash the price of the product, stressing, “It is going to be the same price specifically like last year. Unfortunately the price of potash increased this year at this material time but we are working with international prices and see how it will affect our prices. As of today, it will remain N5000 to the dealers and N5,500 to the farmers of a bag 50kg.”

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