By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA- PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari yesterday said a new basic chemicals platform worth $1.3b that will produce ammonia and fertilizers in Nigeria will be ready for commissioning in the coming months.
Speaking at an audience with Fertilizer Producers and Suppliers Association of Nigeria, FEPSAN, President Buhari said the new plant will be built in partnership with the Kingdom of Morocco.
The President in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina in Abuja quoted the President as saying, ‘‘His Majesty, the King of Morocco and I, have agreed to extend the current Phosphate supply agreement between the Kingdom of Morocco and Nigeria.
‘‘We both believe that to consolidate and expand on the successes recorded thus far, we must secure raw material supplies to our blenders.
‘‘Furthermore, to improve the balance of trade between Nigeria and Morocco, the two countries have signed an agreement to develop a $1.3 billion Basic Chemicals Platform in Nigeria that will produce Ammonia, Phosphoric Acid, Sulphuric Acid and various Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (NPK) and Diammonium Phosphate (DAP) fertilisers using Nigeria’s gas reserves.”
President Buhari further said that the new plant when completed would complement the existing Dangote and Indorama Chemicals facilities which produce urea, ammonia and other industrial raw materials.
‘‘When we combine these projects with the existing 44 blending plants, Nigeria will indeed become a regional and global fertiliser power house,’’ he said.
On the activities of the FEPSAN, the President expressed delight on the progress they have made over the past five years, saying that despite the country going through recessions during the period, investments in the fertiliser and agricultural inputs sector continued to grow.
He said, ‘‘Though many investors chose to take their monies out of Nigeria, you continued to invest. Today, we are seeing the fruits of your smart, long term and patriotic decisions.
‘‘This is why all Nigerians should be proud of the personal commitments and sacrifices you all made in getting us to where we are today.
‘‘Another commendable trait worth mentioning is that all your investments have been balanced between urban and rural Nigeria. These are the types of investments needed to address the unemployment and security challenges our nation is facing today.”
He assured them that the Federal Government would continue to ensure a conducive business environment for these investments to flourish.
On the issue of security, the President expressed concern that the lack of employment prospects and opportunities in most rural communities had remained a major contributor to insecurity.
He noted that for decades, previous Government policies have focused on urban development at the expense of rural inclusion.
‘‘In the last four years, we have worked hard to bridge some of these economic imbalances through our various agricultural and financial policies to attract employment opportunities to rural areas.
‘‘As we continue to expand our security operations to bring an end to these challenges, it is important to note that peace and prosperity can only be sustained if we collectively and actively support investments that take opportunities to our rural citizens.
‘‘I therefore urge our governors, bankers, investors and entrepreneurs to look beyond our cities when it comes to investments.
‘‘As we have seen from Nigeria’s 5-year fertiliser revolution, if investors are willing to endure the short term ‘start-up’ pains, they will surely benefit from long term sustainable and substantial gains,’’ he said.
The President commended Governor Muhammad Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa State, Mr Thomas Etuh and his FEPSAN team, the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, security and intelligence agencies and all Federal and State Government agencies for their collaboration in making the project possible.
‘‘I will also use this opportunity, on behalf of Nigerians, to thank my brother and friend, His Majesty, the King of Morocco for being with us during this difficult but exciting journey.
‘‘This mutually beneficial partnership between our two countries is a true example of how intra-Africa trade and partnership should work,’’ he said.
In his remarks, Mr Thomas Etuh, FEPSAN President recounted that in their first meeting with the President five years ago, he gave the association a mission to reduce Nigeria’s reliance on import, enhance fertiliser availability and affordability and create jobs over a 4-year period.
‘‘Today, 4 years later Mr President, I am proud to inform Your Excellency, and indeed all Nigerians, that mission is accomplished,’’ he said.
Etuh told the President that from 3 blending plants operating at 40 per cent capacity in 2016, today Nigeria has 44 blending plants most of which are operating at full capacity.
‘‘From focusing on one fertiliser blend (NPK20:10:10) in 2017, today, we have countless numbers of crop specific blends coming up across the country.
‘‘From being reliant on imports, today over 60 per cent of raw materials used in fertiliser production are locally sourced.
‘‘From having fertiliser scarcity which led to rationing, today any farmer can buy as many bags as he or she wants.
‘‘As a matter of fact, some farmer associations even give customised orders for their specific crops. On behalf of the Nigerian farmers we wish to thank Mr President for empowering them,’’ he said.
The FEPSAN leader added that from being an unbankable sector that was on the verge of bankruptcy, the members of the association in the last 3 months alone have been able to raise bank guarantees and funding of close to N100 billion.
‘‘Mr President, just 4 years ago, FEPSAN used to beg for money. Today Sir, the banks are begging us to take their money,’’ he said.